In their 1960’s hit “Can’t Buy Me Love,” the Beatles capitalized on a simple, well-worn truth. They could just as well have sung, “Can’t buy me truth” or “happiness” or “peace of mind.” Those things weren’t for sale either, and they’re still not. While this is a simple truth, it’s not an easy one to live.
Our true treasures are not money and possessions. Our true treasures are the kingdom of God, His love and interaction in our lives, our salvation, God’s provision and care for us, and our coming rewards. Understanding this puts our finances and their use in the right perspective.
I have spent the past several years caring for loved ones. I helped care for friends who had serious illnesses, and I became a full-time caregiver for my mother until she passed away from terminal cancer in 2009.
God recognizes our material needs, and His Word contains plenty of promises of supply, even in abundance.1 But Jesus also warned that a vain pursuit of wealth can be a stumbling block to a Christian life.2 Human nature also makes it difficult for us to correctly assess our needs. As Benjamin Franklin observed, “The more [money] a man has, the more he wants. Instead of filling a vacuum, it makes one.”
Christmas 1984 was our family’s third Christmas away from Europe, and the remote village in eastern India where we had moved to help as volunteers had become a second home. After some initial difficulty in adjusting to such a different climate and culture, we soon came to appreciate the wonderful people we lived around and to embrace the new sights, sounds, tastes, and fragrances. I began to especially look forward to shopping at our local market, which seemed to have a year-round selection of fabulous juicy fruits—mangos, bananas, lichees, papayas, jackfruits, limes, and others.
One thing that I enjoyed about the years I spent in Japan is how adept the Japanese are at turning everyday activities into art forms. Such routine tasks as making tea, arranging flowers, gardening, and raking rocks have been transformed into cultural and spiritual experiences. I admire how they hold on to and appreciate the beauty of the simple tasks of life.
The other day I was listening to a Christian radio program on the way to the gym. Each day they ask a question for their listeners to respond to, either via phone or their Facebook page, and the topic that day was: “What do you look forward to?”
The answers that listeners were sending in were simple, yet refreshing. For example, one woman said she looked forward to having a cup of tea at night once her children were in bed.
I was born in 1955, only ten years after World War II, when wartime hardships were still fresh in people’s minds. Grandfather used to tell us children of the extreme hunger and exhaustion of those days, and the struggle of staying alive during the long freezing winter months.
Our town was in the heart of Germany’s industrial center, and everything was covered with a seemingly permanent layer of gray-brown dust from the steel mills. In springtime, the grass and green shoots quickly turned brown, and so did the fresh snow in winter, making its white coat look worn after only a day.
When our volunteer work took my husband Andrew, our daughter Angelina, and me from Europe to Central America, we were blessed with the wonderful opportunity to visit a peaceful lake in Guatemala that had once been a local center of the rich Mayan culture. In this serene setting, the main event of the day for locals and visitors alike is watching the sun set behind three volcanoes that rim the west side of the lake. Here the pleasures of life are simple, like swimming where the volcanic hot springs rise up into the lake, creating a curious mixture of ice-cold, tepid, and very hot water.
Question: I’ve been happier than ever since finding Jesus, but I still have problems and sometimes get quite down. My friends try to cheer me up and tell me to “put on my happy face,” but how can I smile and look happy when I really don’t feel that way? Wouldn’t that be hypocritical?
Answer: It is not being hypocritical to put on a happy face even when you don’t feel happy. It’s a sign of inner strength and maturity. It shows you realize that whatever is dragging you down at the moment is relatively small in the grand scope of things, and that it will pass.