The Other Path
Many of the characteristics of those on the wrong path involve the misuse of finances; self-love, love of money, ingratitude, lack of self-control, lack of love for what is good and love of pleasure (instead of love of God and his pleasures). The Greco-Roman culture of Paul and Timothy's day was infected by self-love and by love of money, possessions and comfort. Some things never change. Christian ethicist David P. Gushee has this to say about the pursuit of that which doesn't last:
Many of the goals that people pursue as the destination of their lives are completely inadequate for the task. What a tragedy, really - to think of so many people scurrying around from day to day pursuing something that just doesn't matter!
Many astute observers have noticed that as the religious and moral heritage of the West faded in the twentieth century, the worship of materialism spread. Human beings have become consumers, soulless and manipulated by market forces, spending their Sundays shopping in secular temples of commerce rather that worshiping in the sacred cathedrals left over from a more religious age.
Gushee reminds us that this kind of thinking is not new, that authors as early as Aristotle in the fourth century B.C. and Solomon in Ecclesiastes decried the folly of accumulating possessions, wealth and pleasure. Gushee says that this folly is a result of misdirected love.
If we place our fondest hopes in money and he pleasures and treasures that money can buy, our love is misdirected. One need not embrace an ascetic ethic of simplicity to ultimately recognize the futility of such a life. 'He who dies with the most toys wins' is one of the most cynical philosophies of life ever articulated - and one of the most foolish. That some people articulate such hopes, and that more live accordingly speaks volumes concerning the true shape of human nature. It shows that we are fully capable of blinding our eyes to the highest possibilities of our nature, even though in every generation and every culture, voices of wisdom point out the folly of choosing a lesser good when a greater one is available. However often the philosopher points out the vanity and folly of a life that seeks nothing more than physical and material pleasures, there will always be some among us who choose such a life anyway. The Christian account to this aspect of life - and here our tradition is not unique - acknowledges the value of the treasures and pleasures that a good God made available to human beings, as well as the basic human need for a decent minimum of material well-being. But the tradition has also been consistent in claiming that the relentless quest for more and more material and physical pleasures is a great trap and folly and falls short of what we should hope for if we seek wholeness in life's journey.
As you read through today's Scripture try reflecting on the following questions: What goals are you pursuing; by looking at your lifestyle, what would someone deduce is your greatest love; and how might you protect yourself from folly?