Keeping score…

J. Davy Crockett III
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Many families have a "rich uncle," and I had mine. My father's brother had the knack.  Whatever he did seemed to prosper.  A product of hard times in the Great Depression, he had known poverty, scratching out a living on his father's truck farm raising vegetables for market. He was highly motivated to do well and he had the energy, drive and desire to pursue his dreams and ambitions.  As the years rolled by, his efforts paid off as he plowed the earnings from his automobile business into real estate. He acquired city property, houses, apartments, farm land – any property that was for sale.

Over time he became a wealthy man. Sadly, it never brought him or his family much happiness. It seems that along the way he spent so much time on his enterprise that his family did not flourish. They had everything they needed, but him. After his death, it took several years for his heirs to dispose of his holdings and to settle the estate. Along the way, it became a bitter, acrimonious process.

Once, in his later years, in a philosophical moment, my uncle said to me, "Son, after you have food, clothing and shelter, everything else is just keeping score." I think my uncle had come to understand what Solomon wrote long ago, when he said, "Nothing is better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that his soul should enjoy good in his labor. This also, I saw, was from the hand of God" (Ecclesiastes 2:24).

Solomon apparently did not have a happy family life even though he was very wealthy. He also wrote, "Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life which He has given you under the sun, all your days of vanity; for that is your portion in life" (Ecclesiastes 9:9). This great king of Israel came to understand what is really important in life. We find timeless instruction in Proverbs the Book of Wisdom, "Do not overwork to be rich; because of your own understanding, cease!" (Proverbs 23:4).

Wealth can be a good thing if used in the right way. It can also be a great trial or stumbling block. Jesus Christ understood this and explained it to His disciples in Matthew 19:23-26: "Then Jesus said to His disciples, 'Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.' … When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, 'Who then can be saved?' But Jesus looked at them and said to them, 'With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'"

You see, it is a matter of priority – a matter of emphasis. If one devotes himself to obtaining riches and neglects the spiritual, transcendental values that are eternal, then that person, though rich in the physical trappings of wealth, is "poor and blind and naked" (Revelation 3:17).

There is a better way. Jesus described it clearly, when He said, "Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" (Matthew 6:31-33). We can count on this promise from the Messiah.

My wealthy uncle began to understand these important principles late in his life, too late for him to materially change the course of his unhappy circumstance. How about you? Are you just "keeping score" or are you devoting some time, energy and effort in seeking first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness? It is the only way of life that brings genuine happiness, personal fulfillment and true prosperity.

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