Readings for August 4, 2019
Ecclesiastes 1:2, 2:21-23
Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11
Once, while on vacation, one of our daughters got sick in the back of the car. While my wife was frantically emptying a plastic bag to pass to the back of the car to catch what could be caught, I was distracted and panicked about finding a spot to pull over and clean the mess. In that distraction, I turned the wrong way down a one-way street. After much honking and yelling, I pulled into a parking lot so we could take care of the business at hand. I was upset to find that the car seat and a previously brand new shirt were now both stained, and ruined.
I see this as a tale of how we can lose our way when we’re distracted by the things around us. My overreaction to my car sick child is what Jesus was cautioning against when he says, “Take care to guard against all greed.” Selfishly, I wanted my daughter to stop being sick so we could continue our vacation without incident. I wanted her to not ruin the car seat or her brand new shirt that I had just paid for. I wanted us all to go on enjoying the vacation that I had also paid for. In short, I let my greed take the wheel.
Of course, I didn’t think of it as greed at the time. Because when I think of greed, it is easy to turn to those with large fancy homes and their own private collection of sports cars and think righteously about how at least I am not “one of them.” But greed is defined as an intense, selfish desire for more of something than what is needed. Or in the words of Ecclesiastes, “Vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!” I didn’t need those 15 minutes of our vacation, I didn’t need my daughter’s brand new shirt, and I didn’t even need to not have to replace her car seat. And what’s more, my daughter didn’t need those things. I was storing up these treasures for myself and being greedy, forgetting my calling to be rich in what matters most to God instead.
And in less mundane things, it is just as easy for me to make a wrong turn. Doing so in matters of faith, allowing myself to be distracted by shiny and new things–to be greedy about what else I could experience or own or do if I just put my earthly values ahead of my heavenly ones–allows me to turn away from what I know is right, giving me cause to turn away from God. To keep from taking this wrong turn, I must “think of what is above, not of what is on earth.” I must throw away all the selfishness that is within me and “put on the new self … in the image of [my] Creator.” When I turn away from greed, and turn towards a loving generosity, I am turning down the correct road, going the correct way towards Jesus.
Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart.