Word Magazine February 1967 Page 12
WHO IS THE PRACTICAL
“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt. and where thieves do not break through and steal,” (MATTHEW 6:19-20).
A man said to me recently. “I don’t take much interest in the church or in religion. It’s all too intangible and indefinite. I want something solid that I can see and feel and use like my Cadillac, my home, my country club and my investments. I can sell the latter anytime I choose and the money is very real and useful. These are the things that interest me. You see, I am a practical man and haven’t much use for religion.”
Before the scientists exploded the first atom bomb at the proving ground in New Mexico, they made exhaustive experiments to make sure that they were not touching off a chain reaction that might possibly destroy all the atoms in the world and put an end to the existence of everything.
It appears that tangible, material things are not so permanent and indestructible after all. Man might destroy his world at any time. What then would be the practical value of the cars, homes, country clubs and investments?
It may well be that the really permanent things in this universe are the spiritual values of beauty, goodness, truthfulness, kindness, generosity and love. These are the building blocks for the house not made with hands eternal in the heavens of which Paul spoke so eloquently. That is why Paul admonished us:
“Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report if there be any virtue and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (PHIL. 4:8).
These are the permanent elements of God’s world and He continually invites us to center our affections in and build our lives around them.
It is difficult to think of beauty in the abstract. He gives us the rose, the sunset, the mountains, the rainbow, great masterpieces of art and music and many beautiful things to attract our attention and point to Him.
We cannot imagine love in the abstract but we can see it and feel it in our close family relationships. Generosity, kindness and truthfulness are hardly imaginable other than as human actions.
Because these qualities require personality to make them clear to us, God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to give us a supreme, personal manifestation of them. Looking at His life and feeling the power of it, we have no difficulty in identifying and appreciating them. When we see them in Him, we have no doubt that they are the most real and permanent entities in all of God’s creation.
By contrast, property and material things seem fleeting and of little value. I would not underestimate them for they are useful and necessary but in the long, eternal view, they are not the building blocks with which we develop our sonship to God. They are not the qualities that caused our Creator to say that we are created in His own image.
Christ was the embodiment of eternal, spiritual values that will rule and reign after the earth shall pass away and the heavens be rolled up as a scroll.
We can appreciate this contrast the more, I think, if we will try to imagine a personality coming into the world who represented purely physical values as distinguished from Christ who was the embodiment of spiritual values. Such a person would be interested only in food, drink, sex, luxurious living, power and pomp. All these perish with the using and when one’s physical powers decline, leave nothing but ashes and regrets. If one is without spiritual qualities and values, he knows that as his powers decline with every passing year, his appetites grow weaker and the thrills which he enjoys, less frequent and less satisfying. By middle age, at the latest, he foresees a bitter end of weakening powers and the gradual decline to uselessness and nothingness. He soon begins to realize that those who sow to the flesh, reap nothing but extinction.
What satisfaction is there in a life like that? On the other hand, one who devotes his time to the accumulation of treasures in Heaven may look forward to everlasting growth and the enjoyment of satisfaction beyond his present powers to imagine.
“Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.” (I COR. 2:9).
Who then is the practical man? The one who gives his life to fleeting material values, sensations that will endure for a few years at most leaving him nothing but the ashes of a burned out and useless life? Or one who sets his heart upon spiritual values which continue to grow as the eternal purpose of God, in which he shares, rolls on and on forever?