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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “A Dog and Pony Show”

This is one of my all-time favorite episodes in the series, especially the bit with Rarity and the Diamond Dogs. How they abduct Rarity thinking she’ll lead them to plenty of wealth and end up regretting it severely when she torments them to no end. By the end of it, rather than getting more gems for themselves, they end up forfeiting whatever they got gladly just be rid of her.

In life, there are two types of “physical” goods: things we need and things we want. In terms of material needs, there are very few. Food, water, and shelter, and we likely don’t need anything else. The rest of our time is devoted to getting things we want. Needs are limited and can be satisfied. Wants, on the other hand, are always unlimited. There will always be something new we want. For a good example, assessing my own financial situation and expenditures, I could be making twice as much as I make right now and I couldn’t think of a thing I would need. I’d be totally financially secure. Yet people who make ten times as much as I do or more go bankrupt regularly. Why? Because once you satisfy your current wants, new and more expensive ones arise. In terms of Biblical examples, consider Solomon. He had more wealth, more wisdom, more power, and more monuments than any other king of Israel before or after him and peace on all sides, and yet, as he related in Ecclesiastes 5:10, it didn’t give him peace. “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.” He ended up seeking more from venerating pagan gods and acquiring an ever-growing harem, neither of which did him or the kingdom any favors and eventually led to the split of Israel with his successor.

And when it comes to wants, there are things we always think we “need” to have. I think little kids are bigger on that than adults…or at least I hope they are. I know when I was younger I always had to have that toy or that new soft drink or that game, etc., etc. Don’t know how my parents put up with it (although they tolerate it a lot more from their grandkids…but that’s another story… :P). The worst part for them had to be when it came to food. All the time these big flashy cartoon commercials would run ads for breakfast cereals or microwaveable corn dogs or something that would make the product look like the greatest thing ever, and I’d always want it. My parents knew better about what I would and wouldn’t eat and judiciously refused, but I’d still demand it. The one that comes to mind is those little TV dinners: “Kid Cuisine”. After countless times begging, I finally got one. Well…anyone who’s ever eaten a TV dinner, especially having not “mastered” how to microwave a particular brand, knows how that turned out. I could barely stand to eat any of it and hated the stuff I tried, and we never got a TV dinner again. That’s only one example about where I figured I’d love something and I had to have it, only to end up regretting it once it was finally mine.

In addition to times when I make a purchase I end up regretting, the other part of regret that arises when it comes to the fruitless attempt to satisfy all of my wants is when I buy something I don’t really need and discover my money could have been better spent elsewhere. Like, for example, if I end up getting myself to spend the extra money on a new game or book only to pass by a stand asking for donations for disaster relief or helping a mission soon afterward…and I realize while I may get a few hours of enjoyment out of my own purchase that I really didn’t “need” it and could have better spent the money elsewhere.

One of the more frequent quotes from the Bible, even in the secular world, is 1 Timothy 6:10: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” It’s also frequently misquoted. It does not say money itself is a root of all kinds of evils, but the love of money. Whether you’re a Christian or non-Christian, money comes in useful on Earth, and you can’t really say money is evil without saying cars are evil or work tools are evil. It all comes down to your attitude on it and how you use it. Otherwise, it’s neutral. I think what gets us caught up is when we get past the point where we simply use material means to fill our material needs and then start trying to apply it to fulfill other needs. For just as we have “physical needs” (and, some psychologists would debate, we must meet these before we can fill other needs), we have other needs. Emotional needs. Mental needs. Social needs. Spiritual needs. And the problem arises when we start thinking by fulfilling physical wants we can neglect, or even somehow satisfy, those other needs that can’t be fulfilled by physical means. It becomes an addiction and a substitute.

In Proverbs 30: 8-9, the writer sums it up succinctly to me: “Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.” Sure, the author doesn’t want to go poor and hungry as no one does, but at the same time he doesn’t want to be so wealthy that wealth becomes the god in itself. As Lord Jesus Himself cautioned in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

As with many “more difficult” passages in the Bible, I don’t consider this passage so much as God on high saying “either serve me and become a hermit without possessions or you hate me” as him cautioning about how being too devoted to “acquiring things” and focusing on getting more possessions will literally drive a wedge between us and God, and we grow to depend more and more on physical means for happiness without tending to our spiritual, emotional, and social needs and connections. Hence, how Lord Jesus elaborated in a few lines earlier 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.” Not only is it important not to look to money and wealth as a direct source of comfort or relief but rather in how we use it toward others, but it also reflects on what we consider has value.

So the next time we pause and assess our current financial situation or simply what we seem to be spending the most of our time, energy, and money on, my suggestion is to stop for a moment and wonder if that next purchase is really going to end up making us (or others) happy in the long run, if I’m finding myself wishing I had the money to contribute to worthwhile causes/charities/my place of worship/missions/etc. while I’m spending so much on myself, and how this is reflecting on what I truly “value”.

Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, thank you for the means you have given to me. I praise you for the ‘physical’ and ‘material’ gifts you have given me as well as the gifts that transcend the material; including my mortal life and salvation and eternity. With whatever you have entrusted to me, I pray that I will be a good steward. I pray that I will never let my lack of means drive me to become cold and hard against you and others or neglect my purpose in this world, just as I pray that I will never let my abundance cause me to rely so much on my personal wealth and means that I ignore you and others and seek fulfillment through satisfying my unlimited wants. In all things and all circumstances, allow me to give glory to you; even in where I invest my personal wealth. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”

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