Do We Remember the Lessons Learned?
When asked to intervene in a family dispute over an inheritance, Jesus refused to become the judge or arbitrator of their case; instead, He used it as an opportunity to sound a warning. “And He said to them, ‘Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses (Luke 12:15).’ ” The Lord then spoke a parable to them about a rich man whose abundance prompted him to think he had it made for years to come, yet was sadly mistaken. “But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:20-21).
This parable and the verses following certainly emphasize how necessary it is for us to recognize that if even the necessities of life are less important than our faith in and obedience to God (Luke 12:22-34), we certainly should not allow the pursuit of “abundance” to control us. But with its “this night your soul will be required of you,” the parable should also drive home the same lesson taught in James 4:13-17 about the uncertainty of life and the need to recognize now as the time to seek God and do that which He expects of us.
“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’ But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:13-17).
Anyone who lived through the events of April 27, 2011 hopes and prays to never have to experience anything like that again, but having recently passed the fifth anniversary of that horrific day, do we remember it the way we should? Are the important spiritual lessons still ones we think about? Let’s think for a moment about two things which made a vivid impression on everyone during that difficult time—the same two lessons Jesus emphasized in Luke 12.
Though the damages were estimated at $11 billion, and some here accounted for a portion of that, most people who survived the storms would say at that moment about their houses, cars, and other possessions, “Those are only things. All that really matters is that we are all safe.” Life should never have been about the abundance of the things we possess and though many lost a lot, we really appreciate the truthfulness of Jesus’ words at a time when we easily could have been killed. However as the years move by that lesson can easily be forgotten because it’s only natural for time to “heal all wounds,” but let’s not allow the passing of time to make us forget what really matters. We may or may not see another event like that of five years ago, but even if we don’t it will remain true that the things which matter most are not things. “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt. 16:26)
Yes, survivors came through the storms with a greater appreciation for life and a realization, though for many it was only temporary, that material possessions can be replaced, but the harsh reality is that many families were not able to say, “At least we are all safe.” In our state the family and friends of 232 people were harshly reminded of the uncertainty of life. The loss of life came so suddenly, so unexpectedly that most people in this state were made to take seriously warnings like that of James 4 and Luke 12, but where are we five years later? Are we back to thinking along the lines of “I will go to such and such a city”? In other words, do we live our lives with the expectation we have plenty of time to do whatever needs to be done? Though it doesn’t happen on such a large scale every day, if we would but open our eyes we would see plenty of reminders of this every day with the sudden heart attack, the automobile accident, violent crime, etc. The point is not that we should live every day in fear—no, not at all. Enjoy the good things God has given us (1 Tim. 6:17), but live every day prepared for the uncertainties of life. Today or tomorrow may not be our last day, but shouldn’t we live so that if it is, all will be well with our souls?
Let’s pray we never have to live through another day like April 27, 2011, but let’s also pray that the spiritual lessons driven home to all of us that day will never be forgotten.
All quotations from the New King James Version, copyright 1995, Thomas Nelson Publishing, Inc.