Lane chapter 18b
How should we regard this life and the next?
Calvin and the scriptures provide this answer: life on earth is temporal. All is “vanity under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes) Even those who find themselves content due to wealth and happiness “can be sufficiently awakened to the evil surrounding us, be awakened to weigh the misery of this life. Our minds must be aroused to sufficiently see that the many allurements which provide the pleasantries, the many blessings, and the sweetness need to be viewed with contempt for this life to seriously desire to ponder the life to come.” (Institutes, p. 713)
Regardless of the wealth or poverty, extreme joy or misery one may find living in this world, it must be viewed as a temporal world and seen and accepted for what it is. With the realization that all is “vanity under the sun” (Ecclesiastes) we should be able to hold this life in contempt and strive for the ultimate goal of “good” within our hearts and meditate upon the life to come. As Dr. Matt said in the podcast, “This life is our ‘childhood’, whether we have a good ‘nannie’ or a bad one.” This life flows in different directions for each person. It has been my privilege to have seen and spent time with people in extreme poverty and also people of great wealth. Both sectors struggle with their own spirituality. Having traveled to Haiti many times working in my construction field to build churches and schools, I have worshiped with people of a society that has little but continued misery for a future in this world. However, I have never seen people who do have so little, yet have so much faith and spirituality. It seems to me that those who have the least to be happy about often provide the most fervent praise to God. Haiti is a classic example of less is more. The less they have, the more they worship, and praise God for what they do have. The life that requires meeting challenges and having more to overcome seems to bring with it a greater appreciation for the glory of the heavenly kingdom. It provides a natural desire to mediate on the life that is yet to come. The poverty motivates the people of Haiti with a stronger desire to worship God, as opposed to the lack of motivation often seen in the wealthy in this country. It is not unusual for worship services in Haiti to last three hours; many folks in my congregation are complaining if the service runs over fifteen minutes! Whether you are living in wealth and comfort or poverty and misery, this world should be seen and accepted as a germination period for the heart for salvation.
With regard to life after death the answer is ‘eternality.’ When believers leave this world with the power of the resurrection in their hearts, they know that the cross of Christ will carry them to triumph over all evil. They will know peace unspeakable that surpasses all understanding and experience all the inheritance of being a child of God. The fullness of God’s glory will be theirs. Calvin addresses the fear of death in this powerful statement: “But monstrous it is that many who boast themselves Christians are gripped by such a great fear of death, rather than a desire for it, that they tremble at the least mention of it, as of something utterly dire and disastrous.” (Institutes 3.9.5)
The personal pain of losing a very close friend less than a year ago comes back to me as I write this. We were friends for over fifty years. He was a wealthy person with multiple houses and ‘toys’ in Hawaii and Florida. We shared many adventures traveling around the world together. He was diagnosed with lung cancer and was absolutely terrified about dying. He did not know Jesus. One of the things he kept saying was “I have too much to live for.” Yet he had no family, never married, had few friends – he was strictly referring to material things. I never could get him to stop looking at what he was leaving and look at where he could be going. Without Jesus death becomes the enemy.
My question is: Do you think wealth or poverty is more advantageous to seeking the Kingdom of Heaven