Thursday, April 19, 2018

Living Life in the Shadowlands

“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” (I Timothy 6:17-19 NIV)

This is the time of year when most students are stressed, with the semester nearing its end and papers, exams, and projects looming. For those about to complete their degrees, it is also a time of hope. After nearly a decade and a half of school, they are on the cusp of moving fully into adult life, which will include, they hope, a significant income and a certain amount of prestige and fulfillment in their careers of choice.

In a recent discussion with a student with whom I am studying I Timothy, we talked about this passage and how easy it is for people to frame life solely in terms of a career and making money. I have known many students over the years who have gone on to successful careers and made lots of money, but have done little in terms of laying up treasures for themselves for what Paul refers as “the coming age,” aside from going to church. Their focus, instead, is to make the most of their newfound careers and earning capabilities—for themselves. 

Of course, this is what they have been taught all their lives. Careers are to benefit just our families and us. We make money so we can buy things, fulfill our desires, whatever they may be, and to be financially secure. Granted, there are those who use their careers and the money they make from them to benefit others and bring glory to the Lord, but the norm is to seek to benefit in this life rather than sacrifice in order to benefit more in the next.

Paul makes an interesting statement: “In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”  Notice the last phrase. We tend to think of this life as the one that is real, but the truth is it is the one that follows that is true life. C.S. Lewis referred to this life as “the shadowlands.” A shadow has a certain reality to it, but it is not the real thing, and that was his point, and I believe it is Paul’s as well.  We will find real life in the coming age—in heaven—rather than here. 

But since this life is the only one we know, we tend to think it is the real one and we invest all of our time, energy, and resources in it. But as Paul warns, it is a colossal mistake and to be avoided, for the coming age is infinite, while this one is so very short by comparison. Like the college student who wastes a large portion of time on partying and comes to regret it later on, so will those who waste this life living for themselves.

Today, consider the priorities of your life. Are you living in such a way as to store up treasures that have lasting value? Are you grasping to hold onto shadows rather than pursuing what is real? Now is the time to figure that out because the shadows will fade sooner than you think.

© Jim Musser 2017

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