“Mom, please can I have it?” “All my friends have one!” “I saw it on TV.” Any parent, whether of a school-age child, or younger, has most certainly heard these words at some point in their child’s life. I know mine have uttered just such phrases when they were little. So as parents we feel the pressure to give our child the newest toy, video game, sports star-sponsored apparel, or latest, coolest mp3 music player. We do this because society tells us we must, to provide all these gadgets, toys, etc. so our children will not feel deprived (or unloved, ugly, an outcast, disadvantaged).
How do we provide all this-we work, we toil, often so many long hours that time actually spent with our children is now the rarest of treasures. Our children will understand, we tell ourselves. “I am working so hard, to labor to provide you with a comfortable, happy home.” Is the message we send our children, as we dash off to yet another long day at work. Yes, there are those of us who must work long hours, even in a two-parent house, when both parents must work, just to put food on the table, roof over our childrens’ head.
But what about those who work to acquire wealth, so they can buy the latest gadget, toy, video game, bigger home or car, just for themselves? Shouldn’t we applaud their tenacity, their strong work ethic? Aren’t they setting an example for us all, in their acquisition of wordly goods? In Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14, 2:18-23, we are told this is Vanity.
“ Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. I, the Teacher, when king over Israel in Jerusalem, applied my mind to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven; it is an unhappy business that God has given to human beings to be busy with. I saw all the deeds that are done under the sun; and see, all is vanity and a chasing after wind. I hated all my toil in which I had toiled under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to those who come after me–and who knows whether they will be wise or foolish? Yet they will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. So I turned and gave my heart up to despair concerning all the toil of my labors under the sun, because sometimes one who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave all to be enjoyed by another who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. What do mortals get from all the toil and strain with which they toil under the sun? For all their days are full of pain, and their work is a vexation; even at night their minds do not rest. This also is vanity.”
Here we are cautioned against working, toiling, just for the sake of acquiring things. We cannot take anything with us when our earthly bodies are no more. Even those who work to leave their belongings to others, thinking they are saving a great treasure for those left behind, are reminded of this “great evil”-Vanity.
In Psalm 49:5-12, We are once again reminded of that trite phrase-”You can’t take it with you.”
“Why should I fear in times of trouble, when the iniquity of my persecutors surrounds me, those who trust in their wealth and boast of the abundance of their riches? Truly, no ransom avails for one’s life, there is no price one can give to God for it. For the ransom of life is costly, and can never suffice that one should live on forever and never see the grave. When we look at the wise, they die; fool and dolt perish together and leave their wealth to others. Their graves are their homes forever, their dwelling places to all generations, though they named lands their own. Mortals cannot abide in their pomp; they are like the animals that perish.”
So we have learned we can’t buy our way in to heaven. That working all of our lives, just to acquire wealth, is seen as vanity in the eyes of our Lord. So what do we do? Sit around moaning about the things we don’t have (but think we should), expecting a handout from others? This is not what God is commanding His children to do, but rather first look to Him for your needs, putting aside your old self, and “things that are on earth.” As stated in Colossians 3:1-11:
“ So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life. But now you must get rid of all such things–anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all
In Luke 12:13-21, a parable is used to teach the lesson that “one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”:
“ Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.””
Instead of spending our days toiling, striving to acquire material wealth, we should spend that time cloaking ourselves in God’s love and mercy, casting our eyes on Him. We really cannot take our possessions with us, nor should we strive to leave an over-abundance of material wealth for those left behind. All this is Vanity, considered a great evil in the eyes of our Lord. Time spent praising and serving Him, by helping those less fortunate (and not with just a monthly donation), is time very well spent.
So what are we to do the next time our children ask for those things we are sure they can do without? Instead of spending dollars ON your children, spend time WITH your children. Yes, I know this is not always so easy when you are struggling to just put food on the table, or trying to provide a safe, comfortable place to live, but even a few minutes, or an hour, is time well spent. Will they always want the newest toy or gadget on the market? Maybe, but toys break, music and fashion always go out of style, and all earthly possessions are temporary. But love, a parents love for a child, our heavenly Father’s love for His children, will never break or lose its luster. This treasure will be with us always.