There is more to life than what you have. Jesus explained that to the man who came to him with the request that he speak to his
brother about their inheritance. “Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Luke12:15). What one owns is in his power to use for good or ill (Acts 5:4), but his attitude toward it determines whether he owns it or it owns him.
The Ambition To Be Rich
Money, or what it represents, has no character of its own. It takes the character of the owner. You could use it to gamble or buy whiskey, or to help the needy or preach the gospel. Paul warned, “But they that will be (desire to be, NKJV) rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition” (1 Tim. 6:9). The problem here is not money itself but the driving ambition to have it. That is what consumes a person. He becomes a slave to his ambition. It owns him. The counter-balance to that is in the same context. “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content” (1 Tim. 6:6-8). It is the “love of money” that is the root of all kinds of evil (v. 10).
Things Do Not Satisfy
The Preacher in Ecclesiastes 5 laid it out for us. “He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth substance with increase: for this is vanity. when goods increase, they are increased that eat them: and what good is there to the owners thereof, saving the beholding of them with their eyes” (vv. 10-11)? The more silver the lover of it has, the more he wants. But he has a problem. As his goods increase, so does his staff. It takes more people on the payroll to take care of his enlarged holdings. He needs cooks, housekeepers, grounds keepers, tax consultants and money managers. Someone is always trying to get his hand in the rich man’s pocket. While the laboring man finds sweet sleep at night, “the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep” (v. 12). Oh, for the good old days!
Families can be torn apart over “things.” Keepsakes and heirlooms become bones of contention. Jealousies and envyings are not far behind when estates are to be settled. Objects with sentimental value loom larger than family solidarity and closeness. Things change, never to be the same again.
Some are into collectibles. After a while they just about take over the space in a house. We have a collection of souvenir plates from different states and some countries we have visited. While we enjoy remembering, we are going to have a problem when we move to smaller quarters and don’t have room to display them. What would our children want with them? Some of the grand- children would use them for frisbees! Antiques which have come down through a family for generations are good conversation pieces but we have to take care that they do not become objects of veneration.
Have you noticed that the more toys children have, the less they play with any of them? Sometimes they have more fun with the box than with the toy itself. The pleasure is momentary. Equipment for sporting interests must be justified and so it is off to the lake, or the woods or the golf course to use our things. Never mind that Sunday is the Lord’s day and that there are divine appointments to be kept.
The financial means to buy season tickets to sporting events creates a spiritual problem for many. What if that event conflicts with a gospel meeting or Bible study or worship on the Lord’s day? Some are so possessed by this possession that the Lord and what concerns his work takes second place.
Rich in Good Works
It is not wrong to own property. It is not wrong to eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of our labor. “Here is what I have seen: It is good and fitting for one to eat and drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor in which he toils under the sun all the days of his life which God gives him; for it is his heritage” (Eccl. 5:18). Is one to be blamed because he worked hard and prospered? The Lord taught, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might . . .” (Eccl. 9:10). There are a few who are rich from inheritance. Others before them labored and they reap the benefits. But many have prospered because they were diligent. One successful business man said, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” Work is honorable and has its own reward. But when we use the health and strength given by the Lord and take advantage of opportunities opened to us in congenial circumstances, and prosper accordingly, then what are we to do with what we have?
It is proper to provide for our own needs and to give to those in need (Eph. 4:28). It is right to provide for our children. “For the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children” (2 Cor. 12:14). It is also right for children to “requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God” (1 Tim. 5:4). We are to “maintain good works for necessary uses” (Tit. 3:14). It is right to sacrifice property to meet the urgent needs of our beloved brethren. “Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need” (Acts 4:34-35). Here were people whose possessions did not possess them.
Paul summarized all of this for all time to come. “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life” (1 Tim. 6:17-18). You see, what we do with our possessions has to do with laying hold on eternal life. If we are possessed by our possessions then we will lose our souls. Things are just not worth that much.
P.O. Box 69, Brooks, Kentucky 40109
February 3, 2000