Guest contributor: Ed Trego
And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man brought forth plentifully; and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And 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 goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:16-21)
Are you saving goods for yourself or are you saving to honor God in the use of the many blessings he has given you? The rich man in the scripture was obviously more concerned with worldly goods than with heavenly reward. The price he paid for his foolishness was great.
How would you live your life differently if you knew that your life would be taken tonight, or tomorrow, or next week? Are you prepared for the reality that one day it will be required of you? We all must die, and we do not know if that will be in an instant or many years from now. Is your focus on yourself and your earthly pleasures and desires or is it on your heavenly home? How we live today will decide how we will live in eternity.
If you were told that without doubt you will die in three days what would you do? There are essentially two choices; you can become depressed and wait in horror and dread as death approaches or you can thank God for the opportunity to perhaps correct some areas of your life in preparation for death. That choice is yours today just as much as it would be if you had a date certain for your death.
Would you reach out to those you may have hurt in the past and try to reconcile with them? There are always relationships that suffer due to our selfishness and desire to take care of ourselves first. But that isn’t the way it was meant to be. When asked what the greatest commandments were Jesus replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40) There is nothing in these commandments that mention love of things; only God and your neighbor.
We have a tendency to care more for our possessions than for our friends, family, and even God. How many times have you failed to take part in a family event because work got in the way? Have you ever skipped Mass on a Holy Day because you just didn’t have the time? If we won’t take the time to care for our family and God, of what value is our goods. Can they truly bring us happiness or just the temporary illusion of happiness? We sometimes act as if we don’t really know what true happiness is. When we depend on our money and our possessions for happiness we are proving that we have a misguided concept of happiness.
I’m certain Satan thoroughly enjoys and encourages our mistaken view of what constitutes happiness. If he can keep our focus on material sources of happiness we are less likely to pay attention to the true source of happiness. There is only one happiness that is worth striving for and that is the happiness of eternal life in the presence of God. Satan will try any trick available to shift our focus to ourselves rather than God or our neighbor.
In today’s society, Satan has developed his skills in this regard to nearly an irresistible force. Everywhere we turn we are told that the path to happiness is a new or bigger car; a bigger house; more “toys” such as televisions, telephones, computers, etc. In many cases our society teaches us that we can never be happy unless we are obtaining more and more and more stuff. Never mind that once we get it we may rarely use it and it will become obsolete in a very short time. Oh well, if it’s not the newest anymore we’ll just have to get the newest and discard what we thought we wanted last month.
Perhaps if we knew we were facing death we would reorder our priorities and consider those things that matter most. Maybe we would strive for those things that can bring us true happiness instead of just material satisfaction.
When a death occurs we always hear things like, “I wish I had told her how much I loved her”, or “I sure wish we could have gotten things right between us before he died”. Maybe taking care of these things right now would go a long way to making life better and more fulfilling rather than regretting that we didn’t do these things when it’s too late.
When you leave the house do you tell your spouse you love her or him? When you go to sleep do you remind them of your love? Perhaps hold them close for a minute or two just to feel the love between you? When we walk out the door we never know for certain whether or not we will ever return. People die in car wrecks, of heart attacks or from other causes every day with no warning. Wouldn’t you want the last words your loved one heard from you to be words of love”
Do you have children? So many times one hears mothers and fathers scolding their children about some infraction of a rule, sometimes quite harshly. While discipline is necessary and should be used to help the right development of children, it can be overdone. What if you send your child off to school after one of these events and they never return? Do you want the last words your child heard from you to be words of scolding or words of love. Even when correcting children it can be done in a loving manner. We should always ensure that our children know of our love more than of our dissatisfaction with their behavior.
If we only knew, we could make sure those we care for were reminded of our love. We could give that extra few dollars to the church or a charity. We could reach out to someone we have wronged to ask forgiveness. Perhaps give forgiveness to that someone whom we feel has wronged us and we’ve been unable or unwilling to forgive.
Death will take us all at some point. We will not normally know when. Oh, we may have some idea if we are diagnosed with a terminal illness, but even then we won’t usually know the day or the hour.
When death comes, all the “toys” we have will mean nothing, someone else will be playing with them tomorrow. The big bank accounts are of no use, someone else will be spending the money. That great summer home on the lake we worked all those extra hours to afford may have to be sold to take care of the ones we leave behind. If we could only get those extra hours of work back, maybe we could have used that time for those things that really matter rather than the material things that will pass away.
Most of all, maybe we could have taken some of the time we spent searching for the material happiness we thought we wanted and used it to better our relationship with our God. An extra hour at a bible study rather than watching the ball game on TV could make the difference between a mediocre relationship and a family relationship with our Lord and Savior. A few more dollars to support the poor of the church rather than buying that new car that wasn’t needed could go a long way to helping someone get their life back on track. While we may never know the good our contribution did, we can be sure that it had a beneficial effect.
Jesus gave up his glory for a while to join the human race. He felt pain, loss and suffering in his life. He ended his life on a cross alongside thieves. He didn’t work for a bigger home or nicer clothes. He devoted his humanity to providing a means for us to regain our proper relationship with our God. When it was done, he returned to the Father and still devotes his efforts to helping us along our way home to him.
We certainly can’t be like Jesus, but we can strive to imitate him as best we can. We can work more for eternal happiness than for material happiness. We can love better and forgive more and help more than we do. All of these things will eventually bring us far more happiness and satisfaction than a bigger house, newer car or fancier clothes.
If we can focus on those things that bring true happiness we can face death, whenever it comes, calmly and with a certain knowledge that we have lived our life in a manner worthy of one who has been adopted by God. We can go home and know we will be welcomed with open arms.
“Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was in prison and you came to me.” (Matthew 25:34-36)