As we travel through life, we acquire things. It starts early in childhood with baskets and cabinets filled with toys throughout the house. Then, in our teenage years, the focus shifts to clothing and other items to feed our interests and hobbies. In young adulthood, our attention turns to cars and houses. As we age further, it is a never-ending cycle of upgrading everything we acquired previously. We get more expensive cars, more expensive homes, more expensive clothes, and more expensive toys. Then, at the end of life, we look around at everything we have acquired in our lifespan, and, for many, harsh realizations arrive. First, our children and grandchildren could not care less about most of the things we have cherished all those years. Secondly, we cannot take any of it with us. Ultimately, it all gets donated, thrown away, or otherwise disposed of when we aren’t looking.
It may be a cruel reality, but it is a true one. A life spent meditating on things of this world is a vain life. Not only can you not take anything with you, but whatever you leave behind will one day be destroyed by the Lord Himself. The Holy Spirit inspired Peter to say this in 2 Peter 3:10, “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.” When you think about your cars, houses, toys, or other possessions… do you possess them, or do they possess you? A life tethered to mortal possessions is a worldly life, not a spiritual one.
Jesus was clear in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” When our treasures are tied to corruptible things, we miss out on the greatest treasure of incorruptibility in the next life. Things in this world are susceptible to damage, thievery, or getting lost. The blessings and promises of the next life are eternally guaranteed.
Our mortal minds are so fixated on material things that even the Holy Spirit had no choice but to describe Heaven in physical terms we could picture. Most biblical scholars do not believe the streets of Heaven are made of gold, the city wall adorned with precious stones, and neither is the gate made of the finest pearl, as Revelation 21 suggests. However, to describe Heaven’s glory, the Holy Spirit employs such imagery so that we can envision a place beyond the furthest beauty imaginable according to human standards. In many ways, the only way to describe such a spiritual place is to use physical terms.
Jesus even used this type of imagery in an attempt to describe Heaven’s glory when He talked about mansions in John 14. The longer someone is a Christian, the easier it is for them to realize that the glory of Heaven is not tied to physical things like mansions, gold, or pearls. The true glory of Heaven is the blessing of dwelling with God Almighty for an eternity. If you need a mansion and golden streets to be happy when you think about the next life, you have completely missed the point of what Heaven is all about.
Solomon, in all his wisdom, recognized the vanity of life on earth. The Holy Spirit inspired him to write Ecclesiastes, which uses the word ‘vanity’ forty times in the relatively short book. After amassing all the material things imaginable, Solomon concluded how vain it all was. At the end of the day, Job said it best,“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there.” Job 1:21. I am afraid that in our American culture, we have forgotten the insanity of vanity. It makes no sense for a Christian to place such emphasis on this life when we are supposed to be living for the next one. When you look through the scope of eternity, what aspects of our lives really matter?
After Peter talks about the earth and all its contents being melted away, he tells us that this realization should produce something within us. “Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness?” 2 Peter 3:11. Everything you have ever seen or beheld with your eyes will one day be dissolved into nothingness. Every expensive and luxurious car or house will one day melt away. All that will remain are souls. Therefore, instead of obsessing over corruptible things, Peter challenges us today to focus on our conduct, our godliness, and our holiness. That is all that really matters in this life. When you examine your life and start to strip away all the vain pursuits of worldliness, life becomes so much easier.
-Ben Hogan, Minister of Evangelism