By: Dennis Bates
Have you ever felt like one of those television airline commercials that asks “Do you want to get away for a while?” I feel that way often. My wife and I used to say it’s time to move to the north woods and hide. As I get older we have changed that slightly to make it the south woods. I hate the cold and ice even though I have grown up with it. But the thought is the same: couldn’t life be simpler than we make it?
The question isn’t so much whether giving everything up and living like a Monk is nobler. The question is whether keeping what you have and not giving things up makes you any happier.
When Jesus sad it is easier for a rich man to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for him to obtain the kingdom of heaven, he was really saying that the worldly rich man has his priorities all wrong. Jesus is saying it is hard to know what is important when your life is cluttered with things, but he is also asking a fundamental question: why did you ever think you needed all those things in the first place. That’s why every now and then I feel the urge to just leave everything behind and get away. I realize I don’t need most of the things that clutter my life.
All the things that the media and society say we have to have are called progress by some people. How did we communicate without cell phones; how did we bank without debit cards and ATM’s; how did we do anything without the Internet? Maybe all those things are progress if we can keep them in perspective, but do any of them really get us ahead if they just separate us farther from the truth?
Is it better to go faster to get nowhere quicker? A motivational speaker I heard once put it this way: a thing not worth doing is not worth doing well. Yet we spend so much time every day concentrating on the minutia that isn’t important and trying to get better at doing it.
That’s what Jesus is talking about when it comes right down to it. He isn’t saying that being rich is evil, and he doesn’t say it is impossible for a rich man to get into heaven. He is saying that it’s hard and the more we have the harder it gets because our focus gets diverted to those things away from the simplicity of God’s love. That’s why we are commanded to think about the Kingdom of God first, and then all the other things we need will be added.
No matter how old we are, tomorrow we will be a day older. All the face lifts, magic drugs, exercise and fancy gadgets won’t change that. For that matter, neither will running off to the north or south woods. If all the things we seek are empty, why seek more of them. Why keep confusing our priorities when the answer always has been and always will be the simplicity of a God that loves us more than any thing we could ever obtain.