Remember what is really important

One of the hall marks of a true Christian is that they always try to keep things in a proper and Godly perspective rather than get carried away by trivial and worldly matters. In Matthew Ch16v26 Jesus set “life” in its proper context by posing these questions; “What does it profit a man if he should gain the whole world, yet lose his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” Salvation and getting right with God is the only thing that really matters. As Jesus further warned in Luke Ch12v15 “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”

Sadly I often come across individuals who either forget these warnings or who are ignorant of them. The life they led revolves around “trivial pursuits” and they get all worked up or bogged down about things and events, which at the end of the day, are profoundly unimportant. Failure to keep things in proper perspective means that spiritual and Godly matters are ignored and the end result is that they become selfish and completely absorbed in their own little world. Their selfishness is such that they live in a kind of “bubble” and provided nothing harms their “bubble” or way of life, they don’t really care too much about what happens to others.

I have witnessed this “focused triviality” numerous times. For instance, I may have just spent hours trying to comfort someone who has recently lost a spouse, only to have the next family I visit, spend most of their time bitterly complaining to me about some trivial and petty issue they have with their neighbour or work colleague. Perhaps the neighbour has failed to cut their part of the hedge or a work colleague has been rude. The reason this is the only thing they talk about, is because it’s the only thing that impacts on their personal world. A minor event is blown out of all proportion. The Victorians called such an attitude “a storm in a tea cup”, but the Bible calls it selfishness. I come away from such people thinking that they have absolutely no awareness about the real meaning of life and what is truly important.

Recently, I came across a fascinating account of an American “wannabe socialite” who learnt this Biblical lesson in a most dramatic way. It is a story that deserves a wide audience because it delivers a powerful message, sorely needed by those who make much of trivial things, in our generation of “celebrity culture”.

An ambitious woman by the name of Sadie Smithson grew up in Johnson Falls, West Virginia. Her father kept livery stables and the family was quite poor. Sadie’s greatest ambition was to achieve respectability. She wanted to be able to mingle with the rich and famous and be seen and acknowledged as someone important. As a step in this direction she tried to join an organisation which represented all that was socially prestigious in her town called The Laurel Literary Society. Her application for admission was declined.

Not being easily put off, she then came up with an ambitious plan which she felt certain would grant her admission. Few people in her town had ever been abroad so she decided to do a tour of Europe. She would then write about her experiences and give talks and lectures. The tour took several years to save for and plan, however eventually she set off travelling with a professor and his wife. To say that things didn’t go quite as she intended is an understatement.

They happened to be touring through Belgium when the opening shots of the First World War began. As they were heading in the direction of Paris, their driver lost his way and to their shock and horror they quite literally found themselves crossing a battlefield. Right beside the car lay a badly wounded young soldier. Sadie got out and went over to him. He looked up at her with frightened eyes and pleaded for water. She went over to a nearby spring and gave him a drink. As she did so, she suddenly became aware that the entire area was covered with the dead or wounded. Those touring with her, told her to get back into the car, but as she looked around at the scene of devastation, she sensed her duty was to stay and help. After a heated argument, the car drove off without her.

All night long Sadie ran back and forth to the spring, carrying water to the injured men. She tore her skirt into bandages, she scribbled notes and messages for loved ones at home and with each wounded man she offered the simple prayer “The Lord bless you and keep you and make His face to shine upon you.”

It was a night of sheer horror, of darkness and of moaning dying men. Finally dawn came and it was only then that a doctor and medics arrived. They were astounded to find a woman from West Virginia amid all the carnage of war. The doctor asked her what she was doing on a battlefield, to which she simply replied “I’ve been holding hell back all night.” He answered “I’m glad you held some of it back, for everyone else in the world was letting it loose last night.”

As she was returning to America, she told her story to a fellow passenger on the ship. She said “I’ve never been married and don’t know what it is like to have children, but that night all those men were my children, even the roughest of them and I believe I could have died for any one of them.” The fellow passenger then commented “The Laurel Literary Society will want you to belong to it now.”

Sadie looked thoughtful and then replied, “I am not going to apply to join. I’ve been face to face with war and death and God has opened my eyes to what is important in life. Little things like The Literary Society don’t matter to me anymore.” “What does matter?” asked the passenger. Sadie soberly replied “I have learnt that nothing really matters apart from being faithful to God and showing His love to others.”

Just as Sadie’s eyes were opened when she was confronted with reality, so likewise, people who make much of trivial things and who are content to dwell in their own selfish little bubble, will one day be confronted with the reality of God and His Judgement. In Proverbs Ch21v13 it warns “Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the afflicted, will one day cry himself and not be heard.” And in the parable of the Sheep and the Goats it warns that those who ignore the needs of others are actually ignoring Christ Himself. (Matthew Ch25v45).

When an individual fully submits every area of their life to the will of God, they will see things as they really are and put things in proper perspective. When they acknowledge the profound importance of being faithful to God,  trivial things will be seen in their true light and other peoples afflictions will become “as their own”. Selfishness will be replaced by a love for God and along with that, an earnest desire to share His love and compassion towards others.

Many people today are so caught up with their own personal interests, they lack any sense of urgency about getting right with God. They have no awareness of impending judgement and regard spiritual matters as unimportant. In reality, spiritual matters and getting right with God is the most important thing of all. Nothing else even comes close. As it states in Ecclesiastes Ch12 v13-14 “Fear God and keep His Commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every work into judgement including every secret thing, whether it is good or whether it is evil.”

Around the same time as Sadie’s experience, a cartoon was published in Punch which summarises this important teaching of Scripture in a simple yet profound way. During the summer, the King of the Belgium’s had refused Kaiser Wilhelm’s request to move German troops through his neutral country in order to attack France. Not to be out done, Germany simply responded to his refusal by invading his Nation. The cartoon depicts the Kaiser addressing the King of Belgium with these words; “So you see-you’ve now lost everything!” The King responds profoundly “Not my soul!”