Digging deeper into grace (02/28/2018)

Some treasures we pursue in our lives turn out to be lasting; some do not.  Some treasures fill our souls with contentment; some deplete our souls.

Jesus puts it this way: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Buddy Post provides evidence of the wisdom of Jesus’ words.  On September 1, 1996, the Chicago Tribune told his story, describing Buddy Post as “living proof that money can’t buy happiness.”  In 1988, Post won 16.2 million dollars in the Pennsylvania Lottery.  During the eight years following that win, Post was convicted of assault, his sixth wife left him, his brother was convicted of trying to kill him, and his landlady successfully sued him for one-third of the jackpot.  When the article was written, Post was trying to auction off 17 future payments, valued at nearly $5 million, in order to pay off taxes, legal fees, and a number of failed business ventures.  He was also pursuing lawsuits he had filed against police, judges, and lawyers whom he claims had conspired to take his money.  He said, “Money draws flies.”

Money may have drawn flies, but it did not bring contentment.

Morrie Schwartz would agree.  In the book Tuesdays with Morrie, Mitch Albom shares lessons he learned from his old college professor, Morrie Schwartz, as Morrie was dying from ALS.  One day Morrie shared with Mitch, “We’ve got a form of brainwashing going on in our country…. Do you know how they brainwash people?  They repeat something over and over.  And that’s what we do in this country.  Owning things is good.  More money is good. More property is good.  More commercialism is good.  More is good.  More is good.  We repeat it—and have it repeated to us—over and over until nobody bothers to even think otherwise.  The average person is so fogged up by all this, he has no perspective on what’s really important anymore.

“Wherever I went in my life, I met people wanting to gobble up something new.  Gobble up a new car.  Gobble up a new piece of property.  Gobble up the latest toy.  And then they wanted to tell you about it.  ‘Guess what I got?  Guess what I got?’

“You know how I always interpreted that?  These were people so hungry for love that they were accepting substitutes.  They were embracing material things and expecting a sort of hug back.  But it never works.  You can’t substitute material things for love or for gentleness or for tenderness or for a sense of comradeship.” (pp. 124-125)

But there is a treasure that is lasting and that fills your soul with contentment.

The story is told of a tax auditor who came to the home of a poor man to assess what the man would have to pay in taxes.

“What property do you possess?” asked the auditor.

“I am quite wealthy,” the man replied.

“List your possessions, please,” the auditor instructed.

The man answered, “I have everlasting life (John 3:16) and a mansion in heaven waiting for me (John 14:2).  I have a peace that surpasses understanding (Philippians 4:7).  I have songs in the night (Psalm 42:8).  I have a crown of life (James 1:12).  I have the certainty that I am forgiven (1 John 1:9).  I have a Savior who supplies all my needs (Philippians 4:19), who causes all things to work together for good (Romans 8:28), who has plans to prosper me and not to harm me, plans to give me hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).  I have the company of One who will never leave me or forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:8) and who will walk with me even through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4).”

The auditor closed his book and said, “Truly you are a very rich man, but such property is not subject to taxation.”■

—Tom Tripp is the Pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of Colusa. 

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Tom Tripp is the Pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of Colusa. Pastor Tripp can be reached by e-mail at: tomtripp@frontiernet.net