Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Pride Goes Before an iPad Fall

Recently, I was reading the Sermon on the Mount in my Bible. I came to these words by Jesus: “Do not store up for yourselves treasure on earth….But store up treasure in heaven….For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be” (Matt 6:19-21).

Ooh, that passage brought back some painful memories. Many years ago, I was the leader of a Bible study in my parish. Our group was working through Matthew’s gospel, and when we came to the Sermon on the Mount, I prepared some discussion questions on this topic of materialism and the fact that so many people nowadays are “possessed by their possessions.” This is a situation that Jesus clearly warned against. 
Here are a few of the questions I prepared: Did Jesus mean we must take a vow of poverty and never own a single thing? Did Jesus mean all rich people are greedy and evil? What is the main message here for people like us, who live in a prosperous, materialistic culture?

Then I came up with a terrific summary of this section of the Sermon on the Mount: the test for whether our hearts are devoted to our possessions or to the Lord, is how we react if we lose something valuable. What if we lost prized possessions, such as our car or our shoe collection, our pension fund or even our home? Would we be absolutely devastated and bitter? Or would we trust that God will get us through the crisis and provide our daily bread? Would we be thankful for the things we still had, such as our family and friends and faith, and still have some joy in our lives?

I must admit I felt kind of proud of myself. Oh yeah, that’s a good summary, I thought. The people at the Bible Study surely will be impressed. Then I pondered what it might be like if I lost something very valuable, such as my car or my job or our home. Well, it would be kind of devastating, no doubt, but I felt pretty certain if something like that ever happened, I would trust in Jesus’ words, and be thankful for what I still had, and move on with my life with joy, knowing God would provide. Yes, I had convinced myself that I was a regular Mother Teresa, completely detached from materialism and the perfect embodiment of Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount.
You know that old verse from Proverbs, “Pride goes before a fall”? Well, do yourself a big favor: don’t ever convince yourself that you’re a regular Mother Teresa.

The very next morning after I wrote down those Bible Study discussion questions and patted myself on the back for being so non-materialistic, I was reading the latest news on my iPad while eating breakfast. Suddenly, the iPad slipped from my hand and dropped to the tile floor with a sickening crunch. The glass screen was smashed.

I immediately moaned from the depth of my soul, “Noooooo! Not my iPad! It cost over 700 bucks! This is the worst thing ever!!”

I was truly heartbroken. Then our Bible Study class met, and I asked my discussion questions, and I offered my terrific summary, and the people in the class commented that I was so wise. And the whole time I felt like an idiot. I felt like such a hypocrite. I knew without a doubt I was still “possessed by my possessions,” and every one of Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount was pricking my conscience and making me question all of my assumptions about modern life — which I think is exactly what Jesus intended.
Now, over a decade later, I still cringe when I read the Sermon on the Mount, remembering how foolish I felt when I reacted so hysterically about a busted iPad. 

Today, I would never react that way if I accidentally smashed my iPad. But before anyone pats me on the back, the main reason I would be more calm is because now, just to make sure, I own TWO iPads. So, maybe I still have quite a bit to learn from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

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