The following piece of wisdom comes from The C.S. Lewis Bible and is directed at the scripture I preached on last week: James 4:13-17. But it can as easily apply to this week’s scripture, James 5:1-6, which takes aim at materialistic Christians. Like the proverbial stone gathering moss, our “riches have rotted” and our “gold and silver have rusted” from the lack of use. If we were busy putting our wealth to use for God’s kingdom, it wouldn’t have time to corrode.
A common problem between last week’s scripture and this week’s is that we take for granted that we have a future on this earth. We don’t. Just as we plan for (and worry about) a future that isn’t guaranteed and may never arrive, we buy and hoard for the same reasons. We forget about eternity. We forget about God.
Never, in peace or war, commit your virtue or your happiness to the future. Happy work is best done by the man who takes his long-term plans somewhat lightly and works from moment to moment “as to the Lord.” It is only our daily bread that we are encouraged to ask for. The present is the only time in which any duty can be done or any grace received.[†]
When I think of the things I’d like to possess right now—even small things, like an overpriced record at Record Store Day or a new book—I often wouldn’t enjoy them right away, even if I did possess them. After all, I have a few other books to read first. I haven’t finished sorting through that last box of records someone gave me. Yet I still feel this burning desire to possess them now. Such is the sickness of materialism.
† C.S. Lewis, “Living in the Present” in The C.S. Lewis Bible, NRSV (New York: HarperOne, 2010), 1399.