By Ong Eng Boon
I want to start off with this article by asking you to agree with me that we live in an era where we enjoy many conveniences as compared to the struggles our ancestor faced 30 to 50 years ago. Do you agree with me that right now we live in an era where we enjoy higher standard of living due to higher income? Do you agree with me that right now we live in an environment where transportation is so convenient, things can be done in a high-tech manner with just a click of the computer or by just using your smartphone?
During our ancestors’ time, they worry about the daily necessities “柴,米,油,盐,酱,醋,茶”(firewood, rice, oil, salt, sauce, vinegar and tea). In our time, besides our basic needs “衣,食,住,行” (clothing, food, shelter, transport), we are into “recreation, entertainment, holidays etc”. So, do you agree that right now we are not only busy with our basic needs but we are also too preoccupied with our many wants in life and we pursue them relentlessly?
I remember during my younger days I was deprived of many things in life. I was very happy then as far as I can remember. I recall that I went into the swamps where the water is still to catch fighting fish, trekked into rubber estates to collect rubber seeds, made myself a catapult from the branches of a guava tree and started shooting at the birds, made my own kites from bamboo trees and so on. Life was very much simpler then. Even though I was deprived of many things in life, I remember I was happy then. It was a carefree life.
I also remember life was a STRUGGLE – My father was struggling to bring up six children. Income wasn’t enough to meet the needs, let alone the wants. I stayed in a house with nine rooms. We are not the only family in the house, my uncles and their families also lived in the same house which we call our ancestral home. Before the month end, I saw my father borrowing money from my grandmother to buy the basic necessities. My mother had to cycle to work in a shoe factory to supplement the household income. Life was a constant struggle from day to day. For some reasons not known to me, my father started to work hard when he was 40 years old.
We need to work hard to provide for our family. “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Tim. 5:8)
At that stage of life, we managed to SURVIVE better.
My late father was a very skillful carpenter at making door frames. With higher pay, life became more STABLE. He bought a motorbike and I remember he started to save money because he wanted to build his own home to house all of us as we were in the growing stage of our life – we were in our teens and we wanted to have our own rooms and some privacy. My father did not make “big bucks” but he was successful in bringing us up. But as far as SUCCESS is concerned, the world measure success by what you have – your house, car, possessions and the position you hold. We look at someone’s material accumulation to measure success. Sometimes you may find someone have reached the level of SIGNIFICANCE and earn great respects from people around them and also praises from society. These people have reached the pinnacle in their life! The question we need to ask ourselves is – is your life only accumulating all the wants in life and praises from others?
“For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (Jn. 12:43).
I am a Chinese, so I can only speak as a Chinese speaks. Those of the old Chinese culture always wanted five blessings in life. The wants of the Chinese consist of :-
(d) Peace and;
(e) Good death.
The Chinese just stop here. It is no difference from the various stages of life as described above. What about pursuing spiritual life?
“ If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting on the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” (Col. 3:1-2)
But today, when we talk about living, what do we want? We talk about the many wants in our lives because we have a higher disposable income. All of us or should I say, many of us in fact, now live in a consumer culture. Just imagine with me for a moment, today, if you were to walk into a shopping mall, what would you like to see? SALE! GRAND SALE!!
We frequent the malls often maybe because it is a place where we can buy almost anything we want, or maybe it is a convenient place to meet up with friends to have a cup of coffee or we just merely stroll around to enjoy the comfort of the free air-conditioning, and probably do some window shopping. We may not be willing to spend on anything, we just want to glance around BUT then we come across signs in the departmental store that read something like this : Save up to 70%, last 2 days!
Those advertising guys are real professionals, they make you believe that you are actually SAVING your money by spending it. A lot of times you actually gave in and bought something you don’t really need but you wanted to buy because you thought it was cheap.
If you were to pay close enough attention to the commercials on television and observe what they’re advertising and how virtually every word, picture, and sound is designed to pull you in, to make you dissatisfied with what you have and what you look like and who you are. Their ultimate aim is to make you want whatever is being sold.
What are our basic NEEDS?
“And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.”(1 Tim. 6:8)
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.” (Eccles.3:11)
We are made for eternity but we live in time. We are made for heaven but meanwhile our residence is on earth.
All the wants which you have accumulated would dupe you into believing this world is the ultimate destination. What we do is that when we are earthly minded we earn, collect, accumulate, take and consume, as if that is all there is to life. We are constantly in pursuit of our endless wants that we put eternity in a corner.
Scripture tells us several things as far as our identity and roles on this earth.
First, our citizenship is in heaven, not earth.
‘For our citizenship is in heaven; from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Phil. 3:20)
Second, we are aliens, strangers and pilgrims on this earth. “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the souls.” (1 Pet. 2:11)
Thirdly, all of us have a soul and the soul is more valuable than anything in the world.
“For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt. 16:26)
On a huge scale which measures value has the whole world on one side and a lost soul at the other end. The scale will tip to the side of the lost soul.
Jesus Christ sounded a sober warning against accumulating of only the wants in life in Luke 12:15 “Take heed and beware of coveteousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of things he possesses.” This was followed by the parable of the rich fool which we are all familiar with in verses 16-21.
This account depicts a very successful farmer but he wasn’t significant enough for you to heap praises over him when he dies. Why? Because he was rich and all he wanted is to enjoy self-gratification with the things he accumulated in life.
“Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. “And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?” “So he said, ‘I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I store all my crops and my goods. ‘And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This night your soul shall be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich towards God.” Note the pronouns : “I do”, “I have”, “I will”, “I store”, “my crops”, “my goods.”
You also note that this rich farmer did very well, had a great crop one year, and didn’t know where to put it all. He was so caught up with what he had accumulated and wanted to do so many things for himself.
Jesus was trying to tell the crowd not to get caught up in accumulating things for themselves and is not rich toward God. What happens? You forget about eternal life. If you live your life just to build a larger house, buy a bigger car, wear fancier clothes and forget God, you’ll end up with NOTHING, because you are committing your life to fulfill your own wants and desires.
You will be like the rich farmer in the bible because he thought he was the captain of his fate. He made plans without taking into account God’s plan. He failed to come to grip with three fundamental facts:-
(a) The mortality of present life (Heb. 9:27)
(b) The eternality of future life (Jn. 5:24), and
(c) The fact that the future life is being forged by the present life (Phil. 2:12)
The rich farmer is so engrossed with all his wants that he acted irrationally. I wanted to draw your attention that he knows he got a soul inside him yet he was not “rich toward God”; that is, he did not earn and spend and give his money in a God-centered but self-centered way. He hoarded and stockpiled his money, wants and possessions instead of freely releasing them to serve God and meet human needs. All the wants he accumulated made him too self-sufficient to seek God in prayer (pray right), too independent to ask God’s counsel (think right) on how much to keep and how much to give, too preoccupied with the business of “success” to do good (do right) to meet the needs of those around him. Though he knows he has a soul, he lived as if there was no God (Ps. 14:1; 53:1). The rich farmer treasured the wants in his life more than anything else.
Are you satisfied with just accumulating all the wants in life? I know some people are satisfied with their current status in life; others recognize a void in their existence, hence, they earnestly ‘seek” the missing dimension- eternal life when this earthly life is over and which can be found in Jesus only.
“And this is the promise that He has promised us – eternal life” (I John 2:25).
“And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God” (1 John 5:11-13).
Friends, have you found the real wants and needs in life? Will you want to consider the life and heavenly inheritance which Jesus has promised you?
“…I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (Jn.10:10)
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an incorruptible and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.” (1 Pet. 1:3-4)