Tuesday, July 18, 2017

all is vanity


St John Chrysostom talks to us about wealth today in A Year with the Church Fathers. He puts the phrase from Ecclesiastes, "Vanity, vanity... all is vanity" into a new light. I say new, but St John said this hundreds of years ago, we're just now finding it in our reading.

I've always taken the words of the writer of Ecclesiastes (Solomon is probably who it was) to be incredibly pessimistic. That the writer is saying, "It's all pointless. Our lives are without meaning." But St John puts a different spin on the phrase. He points out that all THINGS are vain. In other words, if we trust in STUFF to make us happy, we will always be unhappy.

There's a great story of Don Johnson, the actor who was famous for his roles in Miami Vice and in Nash Bridges, among other shows. He had it all... wealth, fame, power, boats, women, houses, every THING a man could want. But one day he was on his yacht in the middle of a giant party where everything he could want was in abundance, and he asked himself, "Why am I so unhappy??" The answer is that STUFF will never make us happy.

We really, truly need to take this to heart. Because there is part of us that still believes it will. Some of us believe that STUFF will make us happy entirely. Most of us have been taught that it won't, and we mostly believe it. But all of us are kind of hoping that we might win the lottery, because there's part of our brains that still think we'd be happy if we had STUFF.

Let's, for once, learn from those who've gone before us. Let's turn our backs on the promise of happiness from wealth and honor and power. Let's find our happiness where it truly lies: in Jesus, in our families, in our friends. Those are the things that will last forever. Let's invest our time and energy and money in those things... not in stuff that is vanity and will blow away in the wind.

God, thanks for teaching us the truth about stuff. Please help us to accept the truth and focus on what matters.