By Chris WittsWednesday 27 Feb 2019Morning Devotions with Chris WittsDevotionsReading Time: 5 minutes
The board game Monopoly has been very popular around the world. I think it’s still played, and it’s quite an enjoyable game about buying, winning and losing. Maybe in today’s new technology and digital world, it’s become a bit old-fashioned. But millions of people have played it, and become fascinated with the idea of winning big money or buying stocks and assets.
People want a good return on their money. We are all looking for a solid investment. But with Monopoly, the board pieces go back in the box. They are packed away for another day. When the game’s over, it gets put away for another day. When you and I come to the end of our days, all the things we’ve purchased, all the trips we’ve taken, all the material possessions which have dominated our time and attention to buy and maintain and repair—it all goes back in the box. We will take none of it with us.
Anne Lamott writes that we all want God, but left to our own devices, we seek all the worldly things—possessions, money, good looks, power—because we think they will bring us fulfilment. She writes, “But it turns out to be a joke, because they are all just props, and when we check out of this life, we have to give them all back to the great prop master in the sky. They are just on loan. They’re not ours.” They all go back in the box.
Bill Hybels is the founding and former senior pastor of the Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois. He wrote a book in which he described a meeting he attended, at which a speaker stood up in front of a large group of people with a roll of stickers in his hand. Behind him on the platform were tables filled with props that represented the stuff of our lives: a Matchbox car, a dollhouse, a tiny desk that stood for our jobs.
The speaker roamed the stage and placed a red sticker on each item. He explained to the crowd that they may not be able to see it from where they were sitting, but each sticker contained the same word: TEMPORARY. He said:
Everything that I’m putting a sticker on is temporary. It will not last. It will fade away. We invest our emotions in them because when we acquire these things, they give us a little thrill. And we think the thrill will last, but it doesn’t. It fades. And eventually so will what we acquire. If you are living for what you see up here, then you are living for what is temporary. Temporary satisfaction, temporary fulfilment, temporary meaning. It will come to an end, but you never will. And it will leave you with a terrible emptiness.
Bill watched as the speaker plastered red stickers on everything sitting on the stage. He walked before the now silent room, pronouncing with his hands the ultimate fate of the greatest goods this world has to offer.
It’s the word that never appears on the ads on TV or the temptations that play in our soul: Temporary, temporary, temporary. Then the man said, “There is only one thing in this room that is not temporary. There is only one item that you will be allowed to take with you from this life into the next.”
He had a little girl stand up on the stage with him, and he put a blue sticker on the collar of her dress. On it was written the word ‘FOREVER’. Then he said, “When you get to the end of your life and take your last breath, what do you want your life to be about? That which is temporary or that which will last forever? What will make you rich in the eyes of God?”
When Loss Becomes Profit
We were talking before about Monopoly, and if you follow the real world of finance, we are very keen on investing for the future, but when it comes to spiritual matters we have a hard time looking past tomorrow. Did you know that Jesus talked more about money in his parables than any other subject?
I think it’s because he knew that how we handle money is really a spiritual matter, and he understood that where our treasure is, there also lie our hearts. It’s about loss and profit. But the amazing thing that with Jesus loss actually becomes profit—big time. The Bible tells us that quite often and one day Jesus said:
If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? (Mark 8:34-36).
These words explain the path of discipleship and the implications of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ: self-denial, cross-bearing, and following Christ wherever he leads. They are hard words to hear; they are even harder words to live out. And yet these words provide the path for abundant living here on this earth and in the world to come. They are the key to discovering the truth that loss is actually profit.
Jesus’ purpose in these radical statements was not that we throw our lives away but that we actually find the true and ultimate fulfilment for our lives in him. As long as we cling tightly to the things of this world that we hold near and dear, we will never have hands empty enough to receive the gift of salvation and the good gifts of God’s love and grace we most need. Jesus asked,
What will you gain if you own the whole world but destroy yourself? What would you give to get back your soul? (Mark 8:36-37)
The fact of the matter is that all the stuff we accumulate in this world will never satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts. All the possessions we can buy and all the experiences we can purchase will never fill the God-shaped vacuum that resides in every person’s soul.