A missionary family in China was forced to leave the country sometime after the communists took over. Early one morning a band of soldiers knocked on the door and told the missionary and his family that they had two hours to pack up before the troops would return and escort them to the train station. They were informed that they would be permitted to take with them only two hundred pounds of stuff.
Thus began two hours of family wrangling and bickering – what should they take? What about this vase? It’s a family heirloom, so we’ve got to take the vase. Well, maybe so, but this typewriter is brand new and we’re not about to leave it behind. What about some books? Got to take a few of them along. On and on it went, putting stuff on the bathroom scale and taking it off until finally they had a pile of possessions that totaled two hundred pounds on the dot.
At the appointed hour, the soldiers returned. “Are you ready?” they asked. “Yes.” “Did you weigh your stuff?” “Yes, we did.” “Two hundred pounds?” “Yes, two hundred pounds on the dot.” “Did you weigh the kids?” “Um…no.” “Well, you’d better weigh the kids!” And in an instant the vase, the typewriter, and the books all became trash. Trash! None of it meant anything compared to the surpassing value of the children.
If only it were that easy for us. If we had to make a physical choice, the choice would be easy. What’s worth more – your child or a computer? If you could only take one with you, which would it be? That’s easy; it’s a no-brainer. But seldom does the choice come wrapped in such an easy-to-open package.
Too often, it sounds more like this: What’s more important – spending time with your family or staying at work a couple of extra hours to get caught up? Many say, “Don’t ask me to make that choice! My family is important to me. It’s just that I really need to get this done! After all, I’m only doing it to provide for them.” Still, there are times when the question just won’t go away: Which is more important?
Man has a tendency to misplace his priorities. We tend to major in minors and minor in majors. We place the emphasis of our life on the wrong things and neglect that which is truly important. Many are like Martha in the New Testament whom Jesus said was troubled and anxious about many things, but had neglected the most important thing. Our attention and interests are focused on so many things that are really not all that important from the viewpoint of eternity. On one occasion Jesus said to his disciples, “For what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mt. 16:26). Indeed, all the riches of the world do not equal the value of one soul.
There are times when we are forced to admit that we’ve been gathering hundreds of pounds of “trash” while neglecting that which is of greatest importance. The apostle Paul once said, “But what gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Phil. 3:7-8).
May God bless each one of us with the wisdom to choose that which is of greatest value.