Everything in Its Place

Earlier this month my family and I were in a Goodwill store shopping for costumes that my wife could wear for an upcoming play production.  Although the performing arts building has a decent enough wardrobe from which the cast may choose, she felt that a visit to the store for some quick and inexpensive costume updates was warranted.  The theatre has been a great joy to my family, especially my daughter.  It is a chance to dress up and become someone completely different for a few hours.  And what better way to celebrate that fact than a trip to buy new clothes?  Both of them were in the play; there was much shopping to do.

It didn't take long as we were looking through the racks of clothes before my wife came across something familiar.  It appears that some of her grandmother's dresses were hanging up for sale.  Shannon's grandmother had passed away a few years back, and some of her Sunday church clothes had made it to this particular second hand store.  What a strange and wonderful feeling to see these dresses again.  Her grandmother had adored going to church and dressing up.  How neat to know that others would now have the chance to wear what she once cherished, maybe even wear them to church again.


Truth be told, it also made us a little sad.  It was such a clear reminder that everything we have, everything we own, will someday stay behind as we slip away into eternity.  But why should this make us sad?  Shouldn't this be a testament to remind us that we are to stay focused on the eternal and not just the temporal?  


1 Timothy 6:6-7 says this, "Now godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out."  The apostle Paul's words ring true even 2,000 years later.  No matter how much you have or how large your bank account - it is not destined to make its way with you after death.  No, I'm afraid the most you can hope for is to have that much more of a lavish funeral perhaps, or to extend your life a bit longer by way of being able to afford better medical care.  Save that, we are all in the same boat.  Wealth only takes you so far, and then you must face God the same as anyone else.  We are all ultimately made equal.


So why do we run after wealth with so much vigor?  Doesn't Jesus tell us in the Gospel of Matthew that we ought not worry so much about what we will eat, drink, or wear?  Is not life itself much more important than these things? (Matt 6:25-34).  If we are being honest, I think much of the time - at least for Americans - we seek after riches because we are surrounded by excess.  Black Friday after Thanksgiving yields irresistible bargains, and anything we've ever wanted is only a few clicks away on the Internet.  The world contains mountains, so climbers must climb them.  Stores contain goods, so shoppers must shop.  It is our favorite distraction.  It is keeping up with the Jones'.  


And so life goes on. We find ourselves sometimes shopping at the local Goodwill store, coming face to face with the concept of mortality.  So what is the solution to this problem of leaving what we own behind?  Is it really a problem at all?  As it turns out, Paul has some additional advice on the matter.  2 Corinthians 4:18 says, "while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.  For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal."  What is unseen?  I believe this to be God, and those eternal things which act to reflect His glory.  It has to do with where we place our hope.  It is helping a small child who is lost, or cheering on a runner who is in last place when everyone else has gone home.





What then do we do with all our wealth in the meantime?  I suppose we should give it away to those who need it more than we do.  Slowly perhaps, but also carefully.  A neighbor in need or someone in the church who has been praying in earnest for financial help.  I must be careful, however, not to give the impression that I am any better at this than others.  I love having a new smart phone or piece of electronics just as much as the next guy.  No, I would rather talk about what it's like to realize that we cannot take it with us, and money just happens to be the vehicle by which we see this most clearly.


One last story, if patience permits.  My mother also passed away not long ago.  She was a gracious and caring person, and I enjoyed her ability to see the world for what it is.  I was with her toward the end, sitting in the Hospice room and watching the nurses go in and out.  At one point as she lay down quietly in her simple little bed next to the window, she opened her wallet and handed my sister and I all the cash she had.  She told us that she had no use for it anymore.  You could hear a pin drop in the room at that moment.  What else was there to say?  After all, you can't take it with you.  Everything in its place, and that place equates to where you focus your hope.  It can (and should) be a place of eternal joy and peace with the Father I think.  And it doesn't matter if you have to give away money or dresses that grandmother used to wear, in order to realize it.  




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Comments

  1. Jon - I so enjoy your writings, if you were a minister I would want to join you church.

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