I’m reading the classic novel Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, the story about a man who is shipwrecked alone on an island for years. After he’s washed ashore and recuperated, he builds a raft to go back out to the shipwreck that’s stuck on a sandbar to rescue what he can from the ship to help him survive.
In his journal he writes, “And it was after long searching that I found out the carpenter’s chest, which was, indeed, a very useful prize to me, and much more valuable than a shipload of gold would have been at the time.”
He makes sense, of course. What good would a boatload of gold do if you were marooned on a deserted island? Far more valuable would be a carpenter’s chest filled with all kinds of useful tools. If he were back in civilization he would likely opt for the gold. Given his present circumstances the chest of tools is far more valuable. It all depends on how you view your current situation.
What do we consider most valuable? It all depends on how we view our current situation. If this life is all there is then you could reasonably be expected to focus on grabbing all the gusto you can in the here and now, wealth, pleasures, personal experiences. You could even convince yourself to do this at the expense of the happiness of others, because a hundred years from now it wouldn’t matter to anyone presently alive.
On the other hand, if there’s more to life than this life then that reality should impact how we view what we consider important in the here and now. The here and now should take a back seat to the there and then.
We try to teach children the benefit of delayed gratification, to do the sacrificial now, for a greater benefit later on. Financial advisers encourage us to sacrifice, save and invest now for a greater return later on. Isn’t the ultimately wise perspective, then, one that has us live to reap the benefits a thousand years from now, and beyond, instead of what will benefit us during this short sojourn on earth?
Robinson Crusoe embraced a realistic perspective of his situation and went for the tools, forsaking the gold. The argument can be made that the realistic perspective for us in this life is to embrace the eternal perspective, going for God and not the material. This life will soon be past. Only what’s done for God will last.
Jesus put it this way, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21