“In the West, you measure a man’s wealth by his possessions. Here, we measure a man’s wealth by his friends.” ~An unknown Ethiopian man living in dire poverty
I have two people living inside my head. One wants to go to The Gap tomorrow and buy all new summer shorts while the babysitter is here. The other wants to purge my closet of everything except the absolute essentials and clothe the poor with my excess. One wants to update the kitchen with granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances, replace our carpet with gorgeous hardwood floors and build an addition so I can have a home office (preferably by this Friday when I’ll be hosting a dinner party for my friends.) The other wants to sell our current house and downsize so we can be completely debt-free and feed the homeless. One wants to buy the children a new $3500 wooden play set to replace the one that’s falling apart in our yard, endangering the lives of neighborhood children everywhere. The other considers how many orphans overseas (who will never see what a $3500 play set even looks like) could be fed with that same $3500.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:18-20
I am forever striving to strike a balance between “the temporary” and “the forever.” I tend to forget that all my possessions, my resume, my physical body, my money and my health will not enter heaven with me. My soul is forever. God’s word is forever. God’s love is forever. People are forever. Only what I do in love for God and others will last forever.
John Ortberg in his book When the Game is Over it all Goes Back in the Box suggests that we go through a little exercise to remind us where to store our treasures. Take a pad of post-it-notes and write “temporary” on each one. Then go around your house and place the notes on everything with no eternal value: Put one on the car. One on the house. One on the not-granite countertops and the puke-stained carpet. One on the checkbook and the debit card. One on the Gap shorts and the cute flip flops. One on the computer. One on the elliptical. One on the new high-efficiency washer and dryer. One on the I-Pod.
Then take another stack of post-it notes and write “forever” on each one. This time, place one on your spouse. Your children. Your boss. Your friends. The barista serving up your latte and the greeter at Wal-mart. Your next-door neighbor. Your child’s teacher. The person you dislike most in the world.
Can you imagine how differently we’d behave if everything with temporary and eternal value was labeled as such?
When I consider how much of my life is spent just maintaining our stuff—cleaning our stuff, fixing our stuff, organizing our stuff, replacing our stuff, eating our stuff, stuffing more stuff into our already-stuffed drawers and closets—it makes my heart hurt. Even as I write this, I want to go hug the greeter at Wal-mart. Though, I suppose if I went to Wal-mart, I’d just end up buying more stuff.
Why is it we always seem to build our lives around what is temporary and try to squeeze in time for what is eternal? Why do we spend hours and hours maintaining all our stuff and complain that we have no time to feed our souls? Why do we waste hours playing Farmville or watching Dancing with the Stars but cannot find time to sit at the dinner table with our children?
Wise and balanced people build their lives around what is eternal and squeeze in time for the temporary, not the other way around.
I’m feeling God stirring something deep in my spirit. Maybe it’s just for me. Maybe it’s for you, too. But it’s something that says, “Don’t waste today. Invest your resources wisely. Your time, your money, your energy. I didn’t give all this to you so you could buy more stuff. I gave it all to you for an eternal purpose. Sow it there. Live richly toward God.”
And by the way, to everyone reading today…I’ve mentally placed a “forever” post-it on your head.