May 28, 2014

Walking in righteousness while buying more stuff?

. . .  He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. (Psalm 23:3)

We were driving out of a shopping center with a few purchases and spotted a man with a sign that said “Homeless and hungry.” The traffic pushed us out of the parking lot, but the sight of that man bothered my husband. He said that he might drive past many, but felt he needed to help this one. He said, “Here we are, able to buy whatever we want and he looks hungry.” So he drove around the block and re-entered the parking lot.

For many, the first thought when seeing someone like this man is, “get a job” or “is he for real?” I tend toward the latter, not really wanted to believe that people can be that destitute in a well-off country like this. But I have to admit that most of my thinking is pure selfishness.

Looking out for number one is part of this culture in which we live. It seems the right thing to do, but that is a poor excuse. The Bible says, There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” (Proverbs 14:12)

Taking care of our own assets and seeking to add more to the pile does seem right for those with the money to do it. How could buying things be so dangerous that it ends in death? It wouldn’t if a person has the right attitude toward God . . . 

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity; there is none who does good. God looks down from heaven on the children of man to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one. (Psalm 53:1–3)

Someone once said that people can go through life picking up all the baubles they want, but eventually they must go through the checkout. This isn’t very good theology in one sense, but I agree with the importance of thinking about the whole of life and what really matters at the end of it. Only fools refuse to seek after God and His righteousness. The worst of it is, unless He seeks us and changes our hearts, we are all fools.

God describes a fool as someone who refuses to be accountable to God concerning sin, but also concerning direction in life. He says, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” (Proverbs 12:15) I would add that the way of a fool is to look out for number one without considering others and without any considering the end of life and the truism that we can take none of it with us.

On one occasion, Jesus was speaking when someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” He answered, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?  . . . Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:13–15)

I often think about that story and Jesus’ response. The man wanted fairness or so it seemed, but Jesus looked deeper. He knew that this man was jealous of those who had more and thought that having more would somehow make him a better person or put him in a better position.

This man and the crowd around him had priorities like those of most people today. Bigger, better, more describes the normal value system, yet God turns that upside-down. Jesus described what is far more important in a parable . . .

The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” ’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God. (Luke 12:16–21)

Buying, buying and more buying is not necessarily wrong, but doing it with right motives is not only a challenge – it is practically impossible.

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