What Really Matters
By Barbara B. Baker
One day every one of us will stand before God and give an account for our lives. What will we say? Where did we invest our lives? Was it in people or in the accumulation of “stuff” and the pursuit of self-indulgent activities? There are only two things in this world that are eternal: the Word of God and the souls of men. It only makes sense to spend our time, effort, and resources in what will really last.
In his letter to the Thessalonians, the apostle Paul says he delighted to share not only the gospel, but his very life (1 Thess. 2:8) and he dealt with them like a father would his children, encouraging comforting, and urging them to live lives worthy of God (2:11-12). He worked night and day so he would not be a burden to them (2:9). Then he says, “For what is our hope, our joy, or crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy” (1 Thess. 2:19-20). Oh, to have a heart for people like the apostle Paul!
When my husband, Frank, and I married, we moved into a little house close to the church. The same house we have now; although, we have added on to it. All of our furniture was somebody’s leftovers, except for a beautiful Queen Anne coffee table my mother had given me. Loving the table, I always protected it very carefully when high school students came over.
One night we hosted a Bible study and our house was packed with teenagers. To make room for everyone, I had pushed the furniture back against the wall, securing the coffee table in the corner where no one could get to it. While the speaker was speaking, I looked across the room and, to my horror, saw a young man sitting on my coffee table. In the back pocket of his blue jeans was a pen with a clip. Every time he wiggled, the clip dug a scratch into my beautiful Queen Anne table. He was way across the room so I could not get to him. Each time the pen gouged into my precious table, I felt it cutting through my heart as well.
When everyone left, I broke down and cried. “Frank, I can’t have anything that looks nice. It’s just not fair.”
He said, “Barbara, what is more important, the coffee table that is going to burn up or the kid sitting there whose soul is going on forever?” Unintentionally, he could make me feel so guilty! I had to give the right answer; even though it was far from how I felt at that moment. But God worked the truth in my heart and I eventually believed too. The lesson stays with me to this day. So when things get broken or lost or ruined, I think back to the boy on the coffee table and am instantly reminded of what is really important.
We must see everything from God’s eternal perspective and value what He values. What difference will a “trinket” make a hundred years from now? What will we wish we had done with our lives when we look back? I guarantee we will not wish we had accumulated more stuff.
Matthew 6:19-21 instructs us not to store up (invest in) treasure on earth because it does not last. Instead, we should store up true treasure in heaven. How do we do that? By investing in the spiritual welfare of others.
Paul expounds on this lesson of investing in eternal things: In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life” (1 Tim. 6:19). When we invest our resources in what really matters, we not only prepare for the future, but we learn what true life is all about. Scripture teaches us, and my experience has proven, that the sacrificial lifestyle is much fuller and more abundant than any kind of self-indulgent one.
Being faithful for the opportunities God brings our way is not always easy or pleasant. One day when you stand before the Lord He will ask, “What have you done with your life? Did you invest your time and resources in people or things?” How will you respond? I long to hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness” (Matt. 25:21)!