As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes
on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.
They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to
share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so
that they may take hold of that which is truly life.
--1 Timothy 6:17-19 ESV
Each morning my email inbox is filled with emails from news sources offering lists of articles. I browse through them over breakfast checking the headlines and occasionally clicking on them for more information. I usually avoid “listicles” in favor of actual journalism. “Listicles,” in case you’ve been ignoring the internet for the last decade, pretend to be a news article (hence the -icle in the word) but really are only a list someone has arbitrarily compiled, for example “The 10 Greatest Celebrity Breakups of All-Time!”). Sites love them, because listicles get people to click on their site (they charge advertisers per click) and they don’t have to pay for an actual journalist. Like I said, I try to avoid them, but sometimes I can’t resist.
This morning I gave in to temptation and clicked on a listicle titled “7 of the Weirdest Things People are Buying During the Pandemic.” Don’t ask me why. I just did. It turns out the 7 Weirdest Things weren’t very surprising—well, one of them was—roller skates. That one surprised me, but the other six weren’t very “weird” at all: RV’s, yeast (for breadmaking), bidets (remember the toilet paper shortage?), sweat pants, scented candles and guns.
Look, I’m doing my best to make it through this monotonous pandemic just like everybody else. Who am I to judge anybody for doing whatever it takes to deal with this crazy time? Things like sweat pants, bidets, yeast and scented candles sound like coping mechanisms for people stuck at home. RV sales have been in the news because fewer people want to risk getting COVID-19 traveling by plane or staying in a hotel. Even guns don’t surprise me; this is America after all. I have lots of questions, such as, “don’t most people who are into guns already have plenty of guns and ammo already?” “Exactly how many more guns and how much more ammo do you need?” “COVID-19 is bad, but are we really talking about total societal collapse?” Wait, don’t answer that.
I shouldn’t make too much of a listicle like this. Somebody being paid by the word probably generated it in a random manner. This isn’t hard journalism. Yet, it did make me think about what am I spending my money on right now? If folks are fortunate enough to still have jobs during this economic crisis, what are they spending their money on. As I said, far be it from me to judge folks for seeking some material comforts/coping mechanisms during this stressful time, but the Amazon vans and FedEx trucks racing up and down my street seem to imply there is a lot of purchasing going on these days. I think it’s fair to assume much of what’s being bought aren’t necessities.
I’m wondering if in my own life I’ve relied too much on the endorphin rush that comes with hitting “Buy Now” and neglected the joy which comes from giving to others in need? There’s a lot of need right now. Maybe they exist out there on the interwebs, but I haven’t seen many listicles of the top things people are giving away or the top charities people are giving to during the pandemic.
A crisis like the one we are going through can reveal a lot about our own character, values and beliefs. It is perhaps when we most feel like circling the wagons that we most need to reach out with generosity. Maybe this time offers us the opportunity to reassess our whole approach to buying more and more stuff, what the writer of 2 Timothy calls setting our “hopes on the uncertainty of riches.” Maybe the uncertainty of these times can inspire us to turn our focus to God “who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.” After all, often when we give in to the constant itch to buy more stuff we don’t need, we are merely using a materialistic solution to address a spiritual need. Deep down what we want is to “take hold of that which is truly life.”
The paradox of following Jesus is that the more we give away the more we end up with that truly matters. The more we give up the stuff that masquerades as “life” the more we discover what true life really feels like.
Grace and Peace,
P.S. If you are looking for an opportunity to be generous, check out the Facebook Group PHCC’s own Carrie Stewart has started called “Operation Teacher’s Toolbox KC.” It allows you to see wishlists by area school teachers who are stocking their classrooms for the first day of the school year. We all know how difficult this year will be, and most of these items are ones teachers pay for out of their own pocket. It’s a great way to support and encourage your children’s and grandchildren’s teachers.
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