Kennedy's 'Postcards from
Playing the fool
Jonal entry 910 | Wednesday, August 31, 2005
I haven't been able to get out of my mind the question considered here on Monday, having had another approach to the same question in the back of my mind for some time. I think that another familiar passage in the same chapter of Matthew, part of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, speaks to it. Everyone is familiar with Jesus' words, "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" And then, ""Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?" But from study I've done to preach on this passage, years back, I came to prefer a slightly different reading, as presented here in the UK New International Version:
This is followed by mention of what garments can be added to make a real difference in a man's or woman's life when all is said and done. The question put last week asked if we keep living despite the pains of life because of our possessions. But I think a better question is, do we let our possessions possess us? Is our whole life nothing more than the game of adding this, or that, the latest miracle "drug," which can be anything from a cholesterol medicine to a sports car to the latest wireless Blackberry, or game module, or cell phone, or pocket computer.
Many of us "love" these gadgets, and I've been seduced to ruminate and let my mind "play" there in the past couple of weeks. It began when I had to squeeze into my car at the gym parking lot because someone was parked too close to my car to let me get in. So I got my head in, and remembering that "if you can get your head in anything else can be pulled after," I managed to wriggle the rest of my limbs and lard-bucket torso after. But I put my head in to do a specific bit of arranging before doing the rest, forgetting that I'd left a bagful of gadgets on the roof of the car. But once I'd wriggled the rest of me in, it was too much of an accomplishment to consider getting out again. When I backed up a couple minutes later, that slight bump I drove over might have been a plastic water bottle, but turned out some time later to be my fanny pack, which held my cell phone and my digital camera, the toy I'd acquired just a year ago and wrote about here and had worn the fanny pack just to carry with me ever since.
The bump I felt my tire encounter didn't register as anything to worry about. When I got home a half hour later, I discovered the fanny pack, phone, and camera were missing. I drove back to the parking lot, still not remembering specifically about putting the stuff on the roof of the car "for a minute" while I was going to arrange things, and then figure out how to get into the car. But the vague feeling became clearer as I continued looking and realized I wasn't going to find them. When I got home, empty handed, I called the phone company to suspend the service so that anyone finding the phone wouldn't be able to run up my bill. I was told that I was eligible for a new phone at no charge. That was the beginning of my new quest for toys. I won't continue the long version of the story...but let it suffice to say that I did get my fanny pack back after advertising for it (and the finders refused my offer of a reward!). But the fact that my camera was ruined, as unmistakably evidenced as a car having run over it, brought the scenario above back to my mind.
Meanwhile, my tax-preparer friend finally became available to help me prepare my returns for the preceding two years. So besides getting a "free" phone from Verizon (for just renewing my contract another two years), we found enough money coming back from the IRS to consider replacing the camera and maybe, even, get one of those newfangled music machines that holds 500 songs in something no bigger than a pocket knife. So I've been shopping, and shopping makes me think about the "things" that supposedly "enrich" our lives, which is what I think the Lord was referring to when He said no amount of thinking can add a cubit to our stature or, I think more correctly interpreted, another hour to our lives.
But these gadgets, I think, more than anything else I've encountered, give us the illusion of somehow transforming our time, in many ways, and that gives us the illusion that we have somehow transcended (or put one over on) time. For example, you don't have to have an answering machine at home to take your calls, your cell phone is there in your pocket or purse or holster wherever you go. Call anyone and set up a meeting, get a needed fact, you've put one over on time. You can drive or sip lattes at Starbucks and do business at the same time!
But if you believe it, you are, the Lord says as we saw on Monday, a fool. Even thinking you're transcending time or you've added some "cubits" to your "stature" or hours to your life, is mocking God. You're ungratefully proud in your own conceits. And Hethough merciful and usually long-sufferingis not amused.
Webmaster Jon Kennedy