I once heard a Preacher share a very funny story about a community he had visited in a very remote place located in one of the poorest parts of the world. The Preacher had struck a conversation with one of the men in that village and asked him what he most desired in life. The poor man responded, “ I would like to own a cow”. In the context of our own world outside of our church in New York City, filled with a diversity of earthly treasures that are the pursuits of men’s hearts ranging from Broadway glory to Wall Street windfalls , it was amusing that one man’s life long desire was simply to own an animal. However, the story of this man has remained firmly stuck in my mind ever since as I have slowly come to realize that in the context of what God offers us, all of our earthly pursuits are not far off from that man’s desire to own one cow. In that man’s remote village which represented his entire world, the only people considered rich and powerful and therefore significant were those who owned cattle. No one owned anything more valuable than that. Therefore in his world, owning a cow was the highest attainable goal there was. Likewise, our desires and pursuits are moulded by what we think others around us possess and what our society labels as valuable. According to the Bible, all of man’s pursuits are simply due to the envy of his neighbor:
Then I observed that most people are motivated to success because they envy their neighbors… Ecclesiastes 4:4 (NLT).
One of my favourite things to do during my many trips on airplanes is to look out the window in great detail at the world below as the plane takes off from any major city. I marvel at how quickly houses considered to be worth millions look like nothing more than a cardboard box just a few hundred feet into the air. Seconds after take off, even the most expensive cars on the road look like plastic toys and our most impressive architectural works are quickly dwarfed by surrounding trees, oceans and mountains. Our many “treasures” look miniscule when seen in the context of God’s surrounding creation . Yet we spend our entire lives pursuing life in the best cardboard box, driving the coolest toy, discarding one fashion item for the next or maybe simply idolising those who seem to have these things. Like the man who desired owning a cow, we long to possess that which seems valuable to us in the context of all that we know and that our society holds to be valuable. Yet, from God’s perspective, our earthly pursuits amount to no more than the value of cattle in light of all He has to offer us. We are oblivious to the eternal treasures that God has prepared for us here and in the life to come. The angels must marvel at a creation that chooses to settle for so much less than it has been given access to. CS Lewis once said we are like children who have been invited to a luxurious holiday by the sea but who insist on playing in the mud instead.
You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.
Revelation 3:17 (NIV)
God has so much more for us than our cows and cardboard boxes and in Christ, He is constantly inviting us to give Him our rags in exchange for His true riches. In His infinite mercy, He does not deny us the pursuits of our heart but as the Creator of the heavens and the earth and all that is in them, He longs to transform and enrich us in ways that our finite minds cannot even begin to comprehend. If we would only draw near to Him and put our lives, our dreams and all of our pursuits in His loving hands.
Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love Him I Corinthians 2:9 (NKJV)