by David Phelps

“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” - Mother Teresa

November, 1999

I have a coworker, Chris, who is involved in what is sometimes called "direct marketing." That means he sells stuff and he tries to recruit other people to help him sell it. One morning recently, he saw me reading a science fiction book while I was on a break. He asked me, "Hey, Dave, why don't you read something that's going to put money in your pocket?" Of course, he was referring to the kinds of "success" books he reads.

For me, however, reading has other benefits. Sometimes, I read for enlightenment or education (Bible study, research or the news); other times, I simply read for enjoyment (science fiction or the comics). The truth is, I just plain like to read. So does my wife, Charlotte, and I'm happy to say that our daughter, Monica, does too; it's the one part of Monica's homework we don't have to ask her to do. We all read for the pleasure or other benefits we get from it and not necessarily for any material gain. Not all rewards are financial or even tangible.

One recent morning at work, I said "good morning" to a lady from another department. "How are you this morning?" I asked.

"Oh, I'm tired," she replied. Mentally, I braced myself for a barrage of complaints. Then she told me she had been up late the night before, training to be a counselor for the upcoming Billy Graham crusade. She knew she would have to get up early the next morning to come to work but she also knew it would be worth her sacrifice.

Everyone is pursuing something; everyone wants some form of "riches" or "treasure." Our quest for wealth has brought success to a fortunate few while dooming others to a wretched existence. The gulf between "have's" and "have not's" continues to grow. Today, the average corporate CEO makes a salary equal to four hundred ordinary workers.

The message of the world around us is to fill our "pockets." The message of Christ is to fill our souls (Matt. 5:6; Luke 1:53). Jesus tells us, "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money." (Matt. 6:24 NIV). The pursuit of material gain can interfere with our ability to serve God (Matt. 13:22; 1 Tim. 6:9-10). Jesus challenged the people of his day, "What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?" (Mark 8:36 NIV). We are called to issue the same challenge today (1 Tim. 6:17-19). If our priorities are aligned with God's, we will know that compared with knowing Christ, nothing else is worth anything at all (Phil. 3:7-8).

If one of us saw someone who was genuinely in need, who was truly poor, we would help them if it were at all possible. Meanwhile, we are surrounded by people who are spiritually poor and we know where to find limitless riches (Eph. 1:7-8).

We have something to say to the people around us. The next time we see someone reading, we can tell them to read a book that will do more than put money in their pockets. That book is the Bible. It contains the key to salvation and it can add their names to the most important book of all, the book of life (Rev.3:4b-5).

The lady at work didn't volunteer to work with the Billy Graham crusade because it would put something in her pocket. She did it because, for her, it was important and because it was the right thing to do. She may not have gained anything tangible from her experience but she may have helped to bring souls into the kingdom of God.

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.'" (Matt. 6:19-21 NIV.)


Copyright © 2000 by David Phelps