Of Riches and Desires for Other Things

Have you seen any of The Hobbit or Lord of the Ring movies? They are cinematographically beautiful and yet there were so many lost lives in the bloody battles. I wondered why those foot soldiers in the story signed up for it. Were they forced into it to avoid their families getting killed or did they sign up for fortune and glory? Was it worth it?

Being conscious of why we do what we do

Moving the camera our way and looking into our own lives, most of us may not be risking lives on daily basis, but most of us labour our guts out day in and day out to accomplish something. At work, some of us try to make it through to the year-end performance review so we can get a good rating and get a pay raise or even a promotion. Others work our hearts out just to earn enough to feed the family and survive from paycheck to paycheck. Those who stay at home have to work with little rest taking care of the family almost 24 x 7. And many other scenarios – too many to list, including those who actually risk their lives in the police or armed forces.

To what end are we doing this for? What are we trying to accomplish?

I am not asking about the purpose of life. I am asking about something much smaller than that: What is the purpose of our routine activities and habits?

Being in a Christian context, some of us may answer “to give glory to God” (or other Christian sounding purpose). Really?

“Well, indirectly yes.”

“How so?

“Yada yada yada…”

Okay, so you are referring to the purpose of life.

I am asking about the purpose of your buying that new smartphone, or big screen TV, or cheese burger, etc. Going on a summer vacation that is not a mission trip may indeed end up glorifying God, but when you planned that vacation, that purpose was not what was in your mind.

Each of us try to do the right things. With all due respect, if we examine ourselves closely, many of the things that we routinely do are for ourselves, not for God. This is not about right or wrong, this is about being conscious of why we do what we do, and not being delusional about our holiness.

Our Needs

In an increasingly more consuming society, we are bombarded with temptation after temptation to buy “better” and “best” things. Our activities creep up the pyramid of Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs” from meeting basic physiological needs to all the way up to self actualisation.

In contrast, the apostle Paul instructed us, “whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil. 4: 8).

The world keeps telling us that we “need” this and that. And to obtain these necessities, we need to pay for them. Thus, many of us work very hard to earn some income to be able to enjoy these “needs,” whatever they are. If we search the internet for “money can’t buy happiness but…”, we will find many humorous and not so humorous quotes or comments on it. You probably have seen one or two favourites forwarded from a friend. Whether you believe money can buy happiness or not, many of us spend most of our waking hours earning it.

To what end are we doing this for? What are we trying to accomplish?

Is the hard-earned money for ourselves / our families or for God first and foremost? Many Christians pay lip service to the fact that everything we own belongs to God. True. But what is our motivation for making the money: for us or for God?

The parable of the sower

“Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” (Mark 4:3-8)

“Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain.”

The parable listed three outcomes of the sown seeds:

(1) they did not become a plant,
(2) they became non-producing plants,
(3) they became producing plants.

The parable is a proxy for those who hear the Word of God. The first seeds are those who do not become followers. The second and the third seeds are those who become followers of Jesus, but the second seeds are the non-producing followers whereas the third seeds are the producing followers.

Why do those followers not produce?

Jesus explained, “…The ones sown among thorns…are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful” (Mk. 4:18-19).

The pursuit of “self actualisation” distracts us into the pursuit of money. And “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Matt. 6:24). The pursuit of “the riches and the desires of other things” can become idolatry and choke our faith and make us “unfruitful.”

We need to be like the seeds that fell into good soil by focusing on God and not letting our thoughts be distracted by the world’s advertisements of what we “need.” Only God can truly fulfill our needs. Riches and other things can’t.

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