religion, christianity, articles

Do We Need What We Want?

By Irene C. Taylor

religion, articles, christianity

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus declares, "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matt. 6:21). This immediately follows the admonition, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth? where moth and rust cloth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust cloth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal" (Matt. 6:19­20).

Jesus knew humankind has trouble keeping OUR hearts focused on our real purpose for being here. We see the material things about us and we wish to possess them. We hate to see that proverbial Jones family gets ahead of us! But, strange as it may be, acquiring things does not bring us satisfaction. We then merely focus on additional things.

While there is no inherent wrong in trying to better ourselves, we need to pause and ask, What is my primary focus in life? Is it the possession of material things? What do I really need? Jesus promises those who put the kingdom first that our needs will be met. "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matt. 6:33). Notice we are not promised that all our wants will be supplied. Our needs will not arrive miraculously. God expects us to earn them by the sweat of our brow (2 Thess. 3:10).

Man is not always able to distinguish between needs and wants. In our affluent society we have come to view as needs many things that are luxuries. Jesus reminds us that God has graciously provided the needed care for the birds of the air and the flowers of the field. And we are reminded that we are much better than are they (Matt. 6:26, 30). The focal point, then, is just what are our needs? Webster defines needs as "a condition requiring supply or relief; anything needed ... as, our daily needs; a necessity." Though want is often used as a synonym for need, there is a difference. Want means "to wish for something; to desire or crave."

Knowing that the acquisition of things does not bring happiness, the Christian must be careful for what he/she wishes. We need food and shelter. We need sunshine and rain and air. We need a right relationship with God, though this is sometimes absent from our list of needs.

Too many times our focus is upon pleasure and popularity. This in spite of the fact that the Hebrew writer reveals that the pleasures of the world (or sin) are but "for a season" (Heb. 11:25). The wise man declares, "Favor is deceitful and beauty is vein" (Prov. 31:30). Solomon had great wealth, possessions and power. Like many today, he sought fulfillment in worldly realms only to learn real satisfaction is not found there. The wise man observed in Ecclesiastes 12:8, "Vanity of vanities, ... all is vanity." He then gives the realm wherein true happiness and satisfaction is found. "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man" (Eccl. 12:13). Literally, this is the whole of man.

People, in general, like new and different things. We have a continual list of wants. We need to review that list often and ask some pertinent questions relative to each item.

  1. Will my acquiring this draw me closer to God or will it become a wedge between God and me?
  2. Will this demand time which takes away from Christian service?
  3. Will this weaken my Christian influence?
  4. Will this cause a financial burden for my family and/or rob God?
  5. Do I really need it? If not, will it make my life better?

We need to learn to be contented with what is good for us (James 4:3). We can learn contentment (Phil. 4:11; 1 Tim. 6:6). Let us mature past the stage of thinking every want is a need. Let us overcome our desire for pleasure and prestige. May we refocus on the good things of life. May we renew our commitment to serve God faithfully. What we go after here determines where we go hereafter!

Published August 1997