As Jesus passed by, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.
What is success? How would you measure it? Is your job your life? Are worldly obsessions the secret to happiness?
We tend to think of the wealthy as happy - as if the two were joined at the hip. Well, I am here to tell you the obvious: They, and their children, are not happy! I can assure you of that. I’ve been around the wealthy almost all my life. I have close and intimate friendships with the wealthy in Rome, Manila, Dublin, Madison (Yes, Madison Wisconsin!), Chicago and Dallas. Life is harsh for the wealthy. So much show – hoopla - is required; so many encores and extravagant performances are required. Debt must be hidden; children must be “perfect”. God forbid the Joneses show any signs of failure or humanity. Ah yes, “The Joneses”, the picture-perfect family that moves into an upscale community, impressing the natives and integrating themselves into every single aspect of the community… until tragedy strikes, or, until reality and humanity hits. This is when we all begin to reassess everything.
There is something unique about us humans: we have a very hard time learning from our mistakes. Our parents, schools and neighborhood should have taught us better. A few days ago, The New York Times published an essay on youth and morals. Of course the results were not so good. But what was really shocking for the researchers was the inability of 18-to-23 year olds to speak at all about morals. “When asked to describe a moral dilemma they had faced, two-thirds of the young people either couldn’t answer the question or described problems that were not moral at all, like whether they could afford to rent a certain apartment or whether they had enough quarters to feed the meter at a parking spot.”
The story of Matthew’s conversion is a story of grace and life! He spent years building up his resume and it brought him to nothing. He bought the lie “wealth brings happiness and power” and it brought him to loneliness and fear. Matthew converted because he found something – someone – better than himself; he found God.
Am I still drinking the Kool aid? Do I still believe that getting a good job or going to a great College will make me happy in life? Has it made you happy? Or have I come to realize that it is only one piece in an enormous puzzle, and that in this puzzle some pieces are bigger than others? God and Love are the biggest pieces because it’s what brings the greatest peace! Have I convinced my children of this truth? Have I learned this lesson myself?
Am I still teaching my children that they need to feel good about themselves? Do I realize that for a child this might very well mean leaving dead bodies all around me? What makes a child feel good about themselves? Is it what others say about them? Or do the decisions they make in their life have anything to do with it? If your child blames you for everything in his poor miserable life, then that’s a good clue for you. Am I ultimately responsible for what people say about me? No. Am I ultimately responsible for what I say to others? Yes. What makes me feel good about myself is being good, which means making good and holy decisions.
The story goes something like this…Someone once asked God, “What surprises you most about us?” God answered, “They get bored with childhood – they rush to grow up and then long to be children again. They lose their health to make money, then, lose their money to restore their health. By thinking anxiously about the future they live in neither the present nor the future. They live as though they will never die, and they die as if they had never lived.”
If I were to sum it all up, I would have to say, “We live as if we were never called by God!”