Many years ago, I went to the grocery store with my three kids to pick up some essential items for the week ahead. At the time, the kids ranged in age from about 3 to 8 years old. If you’ve ever tried to shop while also supervising small children, you know that time is of the essence. If you are in the store for more than 30 to 45 minutes, the kids can grow restless and start to cause trouble. I was in a hurry to get what we needed and get home.
However, a voice came over the intercom system and announced that there was a valuable free gift available to anybody willing to listen to a short presentation near the deli aisle. I immediately forgot that we were in a rush; the prospect of a mysterious free gift was just too much for me to ignore. I shepherded all of the children to the opposite side of the store, where we listened to a 45-minute presentation about the sharpest kitchen knives in the entire universe. The free gift was a small plastic orange juicer, probably worth approximately nothing.
However, I was so impressed with the knives that I spent $50 to buy a set. When we got home, my wife was not as impressed by the knives as I was. By the next day, they didn’t seem so amazing to me, either. They were basically ordinary kitchen knives. It occurred to me that I had been sidetracked from my mission (to get essential groceries for my family) by a persuasive display of shiny trinkets.
Wasting $50 buying mediocre knives isn’t the end of the world, and it makes for a funny story to tell later. But wasting our lives would be tragic. What if we are investing our time, energy, and money in things that won’t really matter in the long run? In Luke 12, Jesus tells a story about a wealthy man who finally achieves his dream of financial independence. He has enough money and food stored up to last for years. He plans to retire and live the good life, to “relax, eat, drink and be merry.” But his plans are foiled almost immediately, because God tells him that he will die that very night. Having spent his entire life accumulating earthly wealth, he hasn’t invested in anything that will last forever. Jesus concluded his story with the following warning: “So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
Jesus’ story doesn’t only apply to people who hoard money. There are many “treasures” that can distract us from what is truly important. We can build our own careers or our reputations at the expense of our relationships. We can chase after pleasure and leave emptiness and destruction in our wake. We can get so caught up in trying to create perfect lives for ourselves that we neglect the things that will last forever: God’s word and his people.
Psalm 19 tells us that the word of God is “more desirable than gold.” Jesus said that heaven and earth would pass away, but his words would last forever (Matthew 24:35). And over and over again, the everlasting word of God tells us that he made people to last forever, as well. In fact, the reason that Jesus came to earth was to make a way for us to have eternal life with God (John 3:16). He offers that life freely to everyone who believes in Jesus, and he calls us to help others to know Him also. When we are seeking to know God and helping others to know him, as well, then we are investing in the things that will last.
As 2021 begins, many of us are reflecting on our priorities and goals for the coming year. There are many things we could focus on this year, but only a few things that will endure forever. We don’t want to become distracted by shiny trinkets, pursuits that feel important in the moment, but that leave us empty in the end. As you set your priorities for the year, will you invest in knowing God and helping other people know him? Will you invest your time, money and energy in what will last for eternity?