“Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart” (Ps 90:12).
“Vanity of vanities” could be a biblical admonition or an ad for bathroom furniture. English has taken the term at face value and applied it to large lighted mirrors and cabinets stocked with beauty supplements. Modern expectations for personal appearance as the key to success fall under that rule that “It is better to look good than to feel good.” Or to be good.
Jesus had nothing against looking your best. He was offering counsel on priorities and the foolishness of letting obsession with possessions rob us of attention to real human development and authenticity. The wealthy farmer fixed on doubling his storage space to insure a long, leisurely retirement did not know he had only hours to live. All his possessions were headed to probate and a generation of family squabbling.
We know that we can’t take wealth with us. But Jesus suggests that there is something we can take from this life into eternity. We can store up treasure in heaven by living lives rich in relationships and loving service. This is the stuff of heaven already. Death does not end our earthly networks of community and self-giving, but confirms our discipleship for bringing heaven to earth during our lifetimes.
Wisdom of heart means recognizing that love is the real treasure and that every act of love pays forward to our place in the Beloved Community. To use our gifts and advantages for others in this life is to come in empty here in order to be filled with God in eternity. Those who have this wisdom already possess the joy of the Gospel.
From our sister publication: A Place to Call Home, a new series focusing on women religious helping people who are homeless. Read more