Speaking the Truth in Love

Things Passing and Permanent

In one of his letters to the Corinthians, Paul divides everything in the world into two basic categories. Faithful Christians “look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18). Material things, things that can be “seen” (or perceived by the other senses), are temporary. But spiritual things, things that cannot be experienced by sight or touch, are eternal.

Although Paul’s focus is on permanent things, too many people get distracted by passing things. For instance, some worry about the environment—air and water pollution, diminishing natural resources, climate change. On the one hand, God’s people are to be good stewards, caring responsibly for the earth. After creating the world, the Lord puts Adam in the lush garden of Eden and tells him to “till it and keep it” (Gen. 2:15). On the other hand, this planet is a transient thing. “The day of the Lord will come like a thief,” Peter says, “and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up” (2 Pet. 3:10).

Money is an even bigger concern to most people. We worry about how to spend it, invest it, protect it, earn more of it. Wealth is fleeting, however. Solomon says that “when your eyes light upon it, it is gone; for suddenly it takes to itself wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven” (Prov. 23:5).

A disciple of Jesus enjoys a more rewarding life when he pays less attention to worldly concerns and more attention to what really matters. The earth and all material possessions will pass away. But “we have a building from God,” Paul says, “a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Cor. 5:1).

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