By Bill Hall
The tragic error of materialism lies in its failure to recognize the Christian’s true citizenship. Materialism focuses attention on the life that now is while the teaching of Christ focuses attention on that which is to come.
The Hall family once left the land of their citizenship to spend three years in Australia. Their three years in that country were pleasant. They made many friends. They enjoyed beautiful scenery along the way. They looked for opportunities to do good and lived in hope that the country would be a better place because they had lived there. When they left, there was sadness. They were leaving behind friends afid brethren, a work in which they had become emotionally involved, and a way of life that they had come to appreciate. But none of this dampened their enthusiasm for going home, for throughout their brief sojourn in Australia, they had kept in mind that the United States was their true home.
The house in Australia had been small and simple, but it had been more than adequate for three years. The furniture had been secondhand (or possibly third or fourth hand), but it really hadn’t mattered too much. Temporary conditions don’t require the very best.
Meanwhile, back at home, more permanent furniture had been carefully stored. Bank accounts had been kept open. Friendships had been continually nurtured and thought had been given to the family’s welfare when the time would come to return home. This is just the way it is with temporary residency.
How badly Christians in our generation need to recognize the temporary nature of their residency upon earth! “For our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20). When we look at the emphasis Christians place upon things. houses, cars, campers, boats, lawns, clothing, summer cottages, bank accounts, investments, etc., we get the impression that they think this earth is their home, that they will be here forever. When we see their obvious definition of success: fame, wealth, education, athletic prowess, etc., we see how enamored they are of the things of this world.
The kind of car we drive in is of no great importance; neither is the kind of house we live in, the clothing we wear, or the athletic abilities we possess. What is of great importance is the treasure we have in heaven. The number of friends we have on this earth is really of no great consequence. What is of great consequence are the friends we have in heaven who
will receive us into everlasting habitations. We are here for only a brief time; we can “make do” on little. Our riches must be stored in heaven, our permanent home.
We are not saying that this life must be miserable. It is good to enjoy the scenery along the way and to be thankful for the material possessions that make us comfortable in this life. It is good to cultivate friendships and to share the joys and sorrows of others. There is no inherent virtue in poverty or misery. But when we allow the material things of this earth to take our eyes off of heaven; when we become so engrossed with this world that we have no enthusiasm for going home; when we value our friendships here above those in heaven, we make a sad mistake and are in danger of losing our heavenly home.
When the time comes to depart, there will be sadness in leaving loved ones behind and a way of life that we have come to appreciate. To others we will have to say, “Preach the word … for the time of my departure is at hand” (2 Tim. 4:1-48). But while sadly saying good-bye to the life we have known here, we must “die in faith,” looking with genuine excitement to home over there. We paraphrase the words of one brother who said, “I am growing old and I know it won’t be long till I will be leaving this world; it won’t be long till I see God, see my Lord, and hear the angels sing, and I can hardly wait.” Our citizenship is in heaven!
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 16, p. 481
August 15, 1985