It is almost certain, in anyone with a modicum of ambition and wherewithal, that in the fullness of a life, one will fail to do all the many things that one desires to do. The world is simply too full of opportunity, and our lives are too short of time. Day after day flies by, each one filling up quickly with the necessities of the day and the various and sundry tasks we give ourselves until at last the day draws to an end and we, looking back upon the hours realize that there was much we wanted to do that we simply did not have the time to do.
In such a situation, it is easy to lose sight of those things that really matter as we strive to meet goals and accomplish tasks. As we can’t do everything, we prioritize those things that seems most important to us, but men, in so doing, frequently focus on the wrong things, and thus, having misplaced their ambitions, they find themselves doubly frustrated: frustrated that they did not do all they wanted and then frustrated that they are unfulfilled by the things they did accomplish.
It is therefore useful, from time to time, to take a moment and remember the point of those things we do, and the true purpose for which we live. The Bible has some useful pointers in this regard: wisdom from our Creator which we would do well to heed.
Firstly, Jesus reminds us, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions (Luke 12:15; ESV).”
The purpose of life is not the accumulation of goods. God has blessed us richly with an abundance of material opportunities in this life, but those things we might acquire are only beneficial in and so far as they actually help us in other ways. To put it another way, material things are always a means, they should never be an end in and of themselves. This is why, as Jesus points out, covetousness is so wrong and misguided. Not only is it unloving, but it makes the gaining of a thing the purpose of one’s labors.
Money is only useful if you spend it. Food only has benefit when it is consumed. Vehicles only have true value when they are taking you somewhere. A bed is only a blessing if you actually sleep in it. A man alone on a desert island, with all the money in the world, is a pauper if there is nothing for him to actually do with that money. Yet men frequently lose sight of this and make the money (and related material possessions) the point of their existence.
Secondly, in the Bible we also read, “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need (Ephesians 4:28; ESV).” And then again, “Better is a dry morsel with quiet than a house full of feasting with strife (Proverbs 17:1; ESV).
These two verses might at first seem quite disparate but in fact they both point to a common truth: people are more important than things, and a good relationship with others is more to be desired than things. If money is a tool, then the best use of that tool is in building relationships and helping others. The poorest man with friends is better off than the richest man without. If we spend all our time focused on things, neglecting the people around us, we are wasting our time and will never be truly happy.
Finally, the Bible has this reminder: “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man (Ecclesiastes 12:13; ESV).”
If a relationship with other people is a good thing, greatly to be desired, how much more so is a right relationship with our God and our Creator? If we achieve all our life’s goals, and die wealthy, surrounded by friends and family who love us, we are still dead. And, being dead, we will stand before the great Judge of all men who will reward or condemn us, not on how well we pleased ourselves, but on how well we pleased Him. Thus, we are well reminded to heed the admonition of Christ, not to seek to be rich towards ourselves, but to be rich towards God, using what He has given us to His glory and according to His purpose (cf. Luke 12:13-21). It is in doing so that we will have best remembered what the point of it all truly is.
The church of Christ invites you to come worship and study with us at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis, Ohio. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to share them with us at 740-446-1494.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author.