- Eldon Peterson
Something Bigger than Me
I recently read a book by Paul David Tripp called, “A Quest for More – Living for something bigger than you.” His thesis is that God has “constructed us to live for more than ourselves.” We are likely to agree with this but we can become uncomfortable when we consider its implications.
Tripp says, “God designed us to want meaning, purpose, and consequence. We were not wired to be fully satisfied with self-survival and self-pleasure. God purposed that the borders of our vision would be much, much larger than the boundaries of our lives. We were meant to see more than our physical eyes can see, and it is that greater vision that was meant to engage, excite, connect, and satisfy us.” (p. 16)
He illustrates his point by asking the question, “If you had it all, what would “all” look like?” A provocative question that yields revealing answers. For most, to have it all would mean having all the stuff – as the bumper sticker says, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” However, when we make stuff our purpose in life we are thinking too small.
We know Jesus’ words, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21) We know the words, but are we living as if we believe them?
We struggle here having failed to understand what it means for us to “store up our treasures in heaven.” Maybe you have heard how people have twisted this to mean that we are to strive for bigger crowns or larger rooms in our mansion in heaven. Such thinking not only misunderstands Jesus’ point but also preaches the opposite.
Here Jesus is drawing a tension between two opposites. On the one side, we have all that we can achieve, the things we can gain, the wage that we can earn. On the other side, we see the treasures of heaven that are the lasting things. Paul says, “Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13) On which side of the tug of war are we falling?
What Jesus is teaching is that the eternal things, the things that last, are not the stuff of this life. Jesus tells a parable of a farmer who has such an exceptional harvest one year that he decides to tear down his old barns and build new ones reasoning, “Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!”’ (Luke 12:18-19)
However, Jesus warns, “But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’ Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.” (12:20-21) The “all” that matters is our relationship with God.
Does this mean that nothing else matters? No, but it does mean that we will be wise to not place our hope in the stuff of this life. Real hope, eternal hope, can only come from an eternal source. Have you ever thought, “I just want what I deserve!” However, we are unlikely to realize what we are asking for.
When we get what we deserve we call it a wage; something owed to us because of the work that we have done. When we get something that we have not worked for we call it a gift. In our relationship with God, it is the gift and not the wage that we should desire. What we have earned because of our sin is judgment, but the gift that Jesus purchased for us by his death on the cross is the grace that saves us as Romans 6:23 reminds us, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Rather than defining the “all” that you are striving for by stuff, define it by the faith that saves sinners. Then we can live for something bigger than ourselves by looking to Jesus for hope and resting in His finished work on the cross