I got a brochure yesterday with a note in it, designed to look like a doctor’s prescription. It read:
Dear Mr. Webster,
You belong in a world of endless pleasures, where your whims are indulged and new horizons await you. We can help you get there.
Initially, I wasn’t sure exactly what the prescription was, but the following pages showed me what this wonderful world was. Where I “belonged” was on a luxury liner in the suite of my choice touring the beautiful Mediterranean Sea.
I think the doctor got this one right. There, all of life’s stresses would be whisked away by the gentle Mediterranean breeze. (And the 24-hour-a-day buffet wouldn’t hurt either)
The pictures and descriptions made it quite appealing. Who wouldn’t enjoy a 14-day care-free trip gazing at some of the world’s most exotic sights?
But something about the doctor’s “prescription” bothered me, and I think it was because of a couple of false underlying premises.
Do I really belong in a “world of endless pleasures” where every whim is indulged? As I write these words, about 925 million people in the world are hungry, and I deserve a two-week cruise? Why exactly do I deserve it? It’s one thing to suggest that someone works hard, lives frugally, and saves money for two years and decides to treat himself to a nice vacation. It seems to be an entirely different matter when a brochure suggests that he deserves it.
The brochure also promises things it can’t deliver. It reflects the mistaken notion that what we really need in order to be happy is something we don’t have. In this case it’s an escape from the real world for a couple of weeks on a luxurious cruise ship. Another brochure will convince me it’s a sleek sports sedan, while a TV commercial says it’s a case of beer beside a beautiful mountain stream. Or maybe it’s designer clothes, a better job, more free time, or a slower pace. Whatever it is, we don’t have it and we deserve it . . . or so we’re told.
Truth is, there are folks who have all of those things, and happiness still eludes them. Have you heard the latest story about the wildly rich and successful young man who’s strung out on alcohol and drugs? (There’s a new one every week)
What Jesus said a long time ago still holds true: “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). Paul echoes the same sentiment when he writes: “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13). There’s nothing wrong with exotic vacations or nice things, but when we start believing that they will satisfy our need for fulfillment or happiness, we’ve missed one of the main lessons Jesus wanted us to learn.
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