What Is Truly Valuable?
“Many of them lead lives of emptiness, cannot hold a job, have no lasting relationships and move aimlessly from place to place in an isolated orbit—and no one cares. The reason: They are extremely rich.”—The New York Times, May 15, 1984.
YOU well know that money is needed to obtain food, clothing, shelter, transportation, medical aid, and other essentials for life. In fact, you probably realize that in modern society it would be difficult to live without money, for, as the Bible says, “money is what meets a response in all things.”—Ecclesiastes 10:19.
Yet, the newspaper article quoted above dealt with the emotional problems of the rich. Clearly, there would be a danger in centering your life on acquiring money and possessions. Still, many people do it. At times, greedy ambition is fatal. We hear of hard-driving men in their 30’s and 40’s dying of a heart attack. Some of these risked their health, even their lives, to fulfill their ambitions involving money. We do not have to be deeply religious to agree that it would have been better if they had taken to heart Jesus Christ’s words: “What benefit will it be to a man if he gains the whole world but forfeits his soul? or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”—Matthew 16:26.
What Is of Real Value?
You certainly know that there is no end of things that we might be tempted to seek. A video tape recorder, a private home, expensive sports equipment—in some lands these are items to reach for. Elsewhere the goal may be of more limited value. A young woman in one land prostituted herself to get money for nicer clothes.
While we may realize that there are dangers associated with a purely materialistic approach to life, how can we protect ourselves? Must we turn our back on society, becoming recluses or hermits as some have done? Also, when considering what is truly valuable, we should ask, What will bring me genuine happiness and contentment in the long run?
As an aid, let us consider the example of a man who for centuries has been respected and admired as a role model. He was a rabbinical lawyer and part of a first-century Jewish sect noted for being “money lovers.” (Luke 16:14) His name was Paul, and he had the education and the needed drive to accumulate wealth and to gain ever greater status in the community.
However, through a shocking experience, he discerned that something quite different was actually of utmost value in life. Whether you presently are of the same mind or not, it is worth your while to reflect on what Paul concluded.
He determined that the primary thing of value in life was an approved standing with God as a disciple of Jesus. This was so valuable that Paul, as an apostle of Jesus, was able to endure hardships and persecutions. He was like an earlier man of renown, Moses, who “esteemed the reproach of the Christ as riches greater than the treasures of Egypt.”—Hebrews 11:26; 2 Corinthians 11:23-27.
You should also know that Paul never regretted that becoming a Christian apostle had resulted in loss of prominence in Jewish society. After having enjoyed about 25 years as a devoted Christian, he wrote: “What things were gains to me, these I have considered loss on account of the Christ. Why, for that matter, I do indeed also consider all things to be loss on account of the excelling value of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. On account of him I have taken the loss of all things and I consider them as a lot of refuse, that I may gain Christ and be found in union with him.” (Philippians 3:7-9) You will have to agree that Paul was convinced that he had gained something truly valuable.
Paul’s choice did not mean that he no longer had any material things. Reflect, for instance, on his words: “In everything and in all circumstances I have learned the secret of both how to be full and how to hunger, both how to have an abundance and how to suffer want.”—Philippians 4:12.
Whatever your situation is regarding Christianity, likely you can see how fine the outcome was for Paul. His choice as to what is valuable brought him a contentment that escapes the world’s richest men and women. Jean Paul Getty, the millionaire oilman, confessed: “Money doesn’t necessarily have any connection with happiness. Maybe with unhappiness.”
Yet, a person might claim to be a Christian and still fail to recognize what is most valuable. That was true in the first century, for Paul said of one associate: “Demas has forsaken me because he loved the present system of things.” (2 Timothy 4:10) At a time when he could have helped the imprisoned apostle, Demas gave up, preferring what the present system offered him.
Pointing to the grave danger into which a materialistic view could put a Christian, Paul stated: “Those who are determined to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and many senseless and hurtful desires, which plunge men into destruction and ruin. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things, and by reaching out for this love some have . . . stabbed themselves all over with many pains.”—1 Timothy 6:9, 10.
You might well ask, then, What role should money or possessions play in my life? Let us examine the matter further to see how you can possess what is truly valuable.