We live in a very materialistic society and it’s hard not to be influenced by such a society. Therefore, we sometimes declare our needs to be nothing more than creature comforts. For instance, we might “need” a new car because our current one is approaching five years old. It runs just great but it is “old.” To someone in a third world country, a car may not even be a dream. A bicycle would be. A car would be unthinkable. Yet we would complain about our old car. And so it is very easy to mix up wants and needs.
If we’re seeking after God’s ways, if we’re trying to have our heart be like His, then we should catch ourselves as we start to fall into this line of thinking. But what would happen if we didn’t? Could we get so caught up in our materialism that we don’t think about anything else? It can happen, as this parable describes:
And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. 17He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ‘
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
“This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”
– Matthew 12:16-21, NIV
In today’s economy it’s not unusual to hear folks complain about their 401K, about pension plans, about retirement and how the sudden downturn has really hurt them. There is no doubt that they have lost monetarily. A particular friend talks about how long it would take to recover if we had a sudden turn around based on how much he has lost over the past year. His numbers are right on the mark. But one of the points Jesus is making with this parable is that we’re not supposed to get caught up in those things. They shouldn’t have a level of importance in our lives where they are taking away from our relationship with God. After all, a 401K isn’t eternal. But our relationship (or lack thereof) with God is. And therefore we must focus on what’s truly lasting. Otherwise we obsess and we prepare and we scheme and we plan for that which does not last. The more time we spend on those things, the less time we spend with God. And that’s a big mistake.
Now I’m not saying to neglect thinking about the future and I’m not saying we should ignore proper planning. What I am saying, or more appropriately what Christ is saying, is that we must put such things in their proper place. We can be rich in the world and be a fool. Or we can be rich in God and be truly blessed. The things of this world aren’t going to last. They aren’t going to be important in eternity. So we need to put them in the proper perspective. Spiritual things, the things of God, are most important. And that’s where our focus should be. We should be diligent in all areas of our lives, but especially when it comes to God. We’ve got to be careful to want the right things, for the right reasons, as we’ve looked at the past few days. If we do that, we’ll grow in our faith and love for Jesus Christ. And we’ll grow in our reliance on Him. And what we’ll start to see is a lot of the “needs” of our world are really wants masquerading as something important. There’s a lot of freedom in seeing things for what they really are. And then we can focus even more intensely on the right all.