Embarrassment of Riches


My wife and I have been growing in our desire to minimalize. We want our lives to be neater, more orderly, less cluttered, and more freeing. We want this in terms of items in our house and in our time and schedules; really, we want it in our lives as a whole.

As I have been working on paring back my books (I’ve managed to avoid needing therapy for this so far), I cannot help but thinking about how many riches surround us. I am sure I have more books than I could read in my lifetime as it is. In terms of information, I am rich. Since books are my main struggle, I chose to use that as a picture for this post to represent the riches we have. But we have other riches as well.

I have thought the same thing about the clothes I have. I have clothes in my closet and drawers that I am sure I have never worn. If I have, I cannot remember it. Some people struggle to find clothing to wear, yet I have more than I actually wear. In terms of clothing, I am rich.

We are the same with anything I can think about. Food. Money. (My friends just returned from Uganda, and talking with them always reminds me just how rich we truly are in comparison to many parts of the world.) You name it.

This got me thinking in spiritual terms as well. Looking at books to get rid of, I realize just how many Bibles I actually own. Do I read them all? No. I have a select few that I return to time and again. But I keep the others just in case. But that got me thinking. What about my spiritual riches?

I have all these Bibles. Some people have none or only one or two to share in a village. I can read mine whenever I want. I am rich indeed. But am I wasting these riches? Do I neglect my Bible more than I should? Even when I read it, am I reading for information only, am I reading to check off some spiritual to-do list, or am I really reading to know the God of the universe through His Son Jesus Christ? Am I memorizing passages to know them, or so that they will sink down deep into my heart to enact lasting change by applying it to my life?

What about time? I have more than enough time (even though I may complain that I don’t). I don’t often work 12-hour days, much less working my entire waking moments. I have free time. Some people don’t have that free time. I am rich. But am I using that time wisely, making the most of the time? Or am I wasting what time I do have? John Piper has said that the greatest use of various forms of social media will be to prove on the last day that we really did have time for prayer.  Ouch.

I could go on. When we think of riches, most of us truly have an embarrassment of them. We will be held accountable as stewards of what God has given us. What will the outcome be for us in terms of rewards?

Let us realize the riches we have, and let us steward them wisely for God’s glory.


Time Flies

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Sometimes we need a reminder of how our time flies.  I had such a reminder the other day as I was reading the Scriptures.

Psalm 39:4-5 says, “O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! Behold you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you.  Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!” (ESV)

Somewhere along the way we get this idea that we have unlimited time.  We get the idea that we are immortal, and that there is always tomorrow.  James 4:13-15 warns us about this.

Perhaps it is a result of our desire to ignore death; if we ignore death’s reality, then certainly it will never come to us, right?  But the reality is that death comes whether we want it to or not.  Unless the Lord returns, we will all face death at some point, and we do not know when.

The psalmist asks God to “let me know how fleeting I am!”  He wisely wants God to remind Him of how quickly his life will pass.

He describes his days as “a few handbreadths.”  A handbreadth equaled about four inches.  The idea being that in the grand scheme of things, his life was not very long.  He then says that “all mankind stands as a mere breath.”  The word for “breath” is a word meaning “vapor.”  Think about going outside on a cold day and breathing out.  The breath that you see disappears quickly; it is a vapor.  That is the idea of how long (or short) our life is on earth.

In light of these things, we should consider how we are living.   How are we using the time that we have, fleeting as it is?  What things are we doing to ensure that we are “making the best use of the time”? (Ephesians 5:16, ESV)

Are we wasting it on things that won’t ultimately matter?  Are we investing it wisely in spiritual growth and time with family and friends?  Are we using our time to bless others?  Or are we selfishly hoarding it all, always waiting until later to use our time wisely?

There was an old saying that I remember hearing Leonard Ravenhill say, although I don’t think it was original to him.  It says, “Only one life; ’twill soon be past.  Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

How true that all is.  We only have one life on this earth, and as the psalmist reminds us, although in different words, “’twill soon be past.”  The only things that will last are those things done for Christ.

Now this doesn’t mean that we can do only “spiritual” things (like reading the Bible, praying, etc.).   But whatever we are doing needs to be done to God’s glory.  And we do need to think about how our time is being spent.  Perhaps there are some better ways we can be using our time.

This life is a gift from God, and we will never regret the things we have done for Christ. Let us be sure we are using our time wisely.  After all, it is “a mere breath.”