Taking Stock

In his memoirs, Nigel Slater recalled an occasion in his boyhood, when he attended the funeral of his uncle, thereby invoking the emotional sadness of the early loss of a beloved mother. It was harvest time and the church was richly decorated with local produce in an array of jewel colours. At some point in the service, the writer’s wandering gaze caught a little movement in a cottage loaf nestling beside the chancel steps. A tiny mouse emerged, its round belly replete and swaying precariously as it made its way back to a hiding place. The sight of it turned repressed weepiness to a broad smile of amusement. Unaware of the solemnity of the moment, this tiny creature had made the most of a glorious opportunity with total satisfaction. Here was treasure beyond its wildest dreams, a seemingly endless store of goodness provided for its pleasure.

The BBC is currently presenting a study of the super-rich and their pursuit of conspicuous consumption. One might pay as much for a luxury car as the average citizen would spend on a family home. Another will purchase a diamond studded watch or a work of art for an outlay that would discharge an entire street of mortgages. Are we to envy such a lifestyle? Are we to daydream of emulating extreme self-indulgence and feel miserable in comparative deprivation? Are we to be robbed of contentment and goaded into the excessive quests of Black Friday?

Acquisition is forever part of human nature. It drives the wheels of the consumer society and fuels the power bases of industry. The notion of betterment provides the happy ending for every memorable fairy tale. The treasure seekers discover a fortune that saves the day and eliminates anxiety. The hero sets sail to a land dazzling with golden citadels. The brave knight slays the dragon and is celebrated with rich reward. The vision is always of an opportunity that, once taken, will provide a fabulous sequel to the toil, the struggle, or the daring adventure.

Yet whilst we gladly acknowledge that the labourer is worthy of his hire, and diligence deserves recompense, there is a restless niggling in the mind about greed far in excess of necessity. At this time of year we tend to look around at the lack of cupboard space and ask ourselves if we really need so much padding around our ego. Is less actually more, and of what value is multiplied treasure on earth to the one who has not laid up treasure in heaven?

There is a challenging little passage in the Gospel of Luke ch. 12, where Jesus describes the folly of the rich man whose lands had yielded a spectacular crop. Such was his preoccupation with success that his entire focus was on building greater storage space for the accumulation of wealth and future security. He was caught unprepared for the sudden end to his plans and the final journey of humanity beyond the material pile. Jesus said, “This is how it will be for anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich towards God.”

Time to take stock!

The body and its emotions may be charmed by the display of devices and comfort items that the abundance of resources can provide, naturally so. As with the little mouse, there is temporary satisfaction in finding great opportunities close at hand. But what happens when harvest is over? There are no furniture vans driving towards heaven or cyber space transfers of stocks and shares. Heaven has no need of things that moth and rust will destroy, for in Christ there are eternal treasures beyond our comprehension. If our heart’s desire is with Him, there will our true and lasting treasure also be found. ( ref. Matt.ch6)

Iris Niven.

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