Our children can often surprise us. It’s not uncommon while I’m working away in the office for Anna to bring me a picture she has drawn. On a couple of occasions she has brought me a picture of a circle separated into two halves. On one side she has the title “wants”, and on the other she has “needs”. Inside each half of the circle she has identified things that fit into each category, and they aren’t things you might expect a 7 year old to have. She actually has identified correctly things like food, clothes, and yes, toys and put them into the appropriate category. It turns out they had been working on this type of sorting exercise at school, and she brought the skill home to share with us.
Looking at the world from a child’s perspective often gives us greater wisdom than we expect. Children, by the age of 7 are beginning to realize the difference between what they need to live, and what are frivolous extras which are nice to have, but are not vital to our existence.
Now of course, as the world changes we are seeing changes in wants and needs. Is a television a want or a need? How about a car? Two cars? Is a computer a want or a need? A telephone? What about a cellphone? If we were to go out into the street and ask different generations of people these question, we might get very different answers.
Yet, as we watch the news we see how integrated these things have become in our lives. The protests in the middle east are primarily organized over the internet, on Facebook or Twitter. I heard on the news the other night that one of the leaders of the protest movement in Egypt would love to meet the creator of Facebook someday and thank him in person for what the technology he developed has allowed them to do in the name of freedom for the Egyptian people.
It’s becoming more and more difficult in our world to distinguish the difference between wants and needs. I watched a documentary recently which showed how our children are being marketed to. From birth they are being targeted by marketers to try and burn into their brains brand loyalty. The want to turn them into consumers of their products, to get them to influence the purchases their parents make in a multi-billion dollar industry. As I wrote this I am fully aware of the plethora of branded toys in our home.
The best part of this documentary is that it shows the government has decided to let the companies police themselves. There are no laws in place to protect children from excessive marketing, in fact the US government repealed those laws under Ronald Regan. I think in Canada we’ve done a better job at this, but with our huge American influence, there’s only so much that can be done. If governments or industries won’t protect our children, then it’s up to us.
But it’s more than just the toy industry, it’s also the food industry. It’s also the medical industry with pharmaceuticals, the automobile industry, the banking industry, the oil and gas industry. These industries are cutting corners, they are working to reduce and avoid safety standards in the name of making millions of dollars.
In the end, who pays when mistakes are made?
Recalls, recalls and recalls. It is alarming to see the number of recalls for children’s toys and furniture each and every year due to safety issues. The same goes for food, common food we eat each and every day.
It’s a crazy world out there, and we have to walk, work, play and shop in it. We can’t avoid it can we? It’s everywhere! And it’s designed to make us spend more, even when we don’t use the product being sold, because the prices for everything keep going up, even for basic life necessities.
But Jesus tells us not to worry.
It’s hard not to when you see the news and the documentaries that shed new light on what we have brought upon ourselves as the human race. You can’t help but wonder if this is what God had in mind when we told us to “be fruitful and multiply.”
“Do not worry” he says. Easy for him to say, he’s not living in the world we’ve created today!
This passage today is a tricky one for us to process given what we know of this world. There are certain things we need to have yet the times have changed where we don’t know where these things have come from. 100 years ago you knew exactly where your food came from because you probably bought it straight from the farmer. Toys? You pretty much made them yourselves, or used your imagination to turn a normal every day item into something quite entertaining.
But today, almost all our food is shipped to us, from places we might have never even heard of. The same with our toys. We don’t have the same choices where if we thought someone was providing an unsafe product we didn’t get it from there. And we made this choice because we probably witnessed the problem ourselves because it was in our own community. But now we rely on government and industry to tell us what we are buying is safe, and it appears as though they are less ambitious to do so.
Jesus tells us God is watching over us. If God takes care of the little birds won’t he care for us? If he dresses the flowers in great beauty, won’t he care for us as well?
We believe this don’t we? We believe that God loves us, and through His grace He will take care of us, right? Of course we do.
There is much for us to be concerned about as we live our lives. Much to worry about, much to be afraid of, much to concern ourselves about whether we have enough. How do we know we have “enough” when we’re continually be shown the amount of “enough” we need keeps increasing?
I’m not saying we need to go back to living 100 years ago. I’m not saying we need to throw out our newest cars, toys, electronics, or medicine. These things have brought us a long way in the world. They generally are better and safer than ever before. The life-span of the average human being has increased a lot in the last 100 years, and people are living active lifestyles much later in the their lives than ever before.
I guess what I’m saying is we need to find where we are most comfortable in the world and to find our own comfort level to where we can say, “I have enough” and be happy with it. For each and every one of us that will be different. I admit that I love to use technology, and I find it useful in my daily life. It helps me communicate in real-time with colleagues and friends around the world. We share and support each other in our lives this way. These are useful in my ministry and get me in contact with people, resources and ideas I might have never come up with on my own without them.
So don’t worry about what your neighbours are doing. Don’t worry about whether you have enough stuff or not. If you are comfortable, if you are still able to live out your life as one who seeks to live as children of God, then I think you’ve got little to worry about.
Jesus says, “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
Rely on God. God knows what we need and will help us find those things. All the extra stuff, they will take care of themselves. But God will guide us on our way. As children of God we first need to strive for that which He gives, those things which are love and grace.
Grace in that when we fall short, when we give into the temptation of looking for our own wants, our own extras, He will still love us as we hope and strive to live in the way Jesus Christ showed us to live.
We all have needs. We also all have wants, things we wish we could have. There is a place for some of those things.
But the greatest need we should all want to have, something we should strive for above all other things, we should want to be with God. We should identify the need deep down within us that we need to be His children and to let him care for us as a parent loves their child.