A woman reveals her family’s heart
People Matter was a regular column by Phillip Jensen in Southern Cross, the monthly magazine of the Anglican Diocese of Sydney.
Jensen, P 'A woman reveals her family's heart'. Southern Cross, August 2000.
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“Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?” (1 Corinthians 6:7)
Rose had been wealthy, but over time, and with bad decisions, had lost almost everything.
She clung onto the pride of wealth and continued in her myth of owning valuables. It was one of those harmless little deceits that are so dangerous. All the family went along with the pretence—for either they wanted to believe it or they did believe it.
Not that they cared all that much for Rose. She was not visited by many in the family. She lived alone in an out of the way place.
She was the wealthy aunt, cousin, sister, great aunt, who knew everybody’s birthday and sent the annual Christmas card and appeared at weddings and funerals. The low maintenance multipurpose relative.
But when Rose died, the reality of life was displayed by the family. Not in a new awareness of her meagre existence and impoverished lifestyle, nor in sorrow over the lack of care that they had expended on her behalf, but in the demonstration of the human heart.
Suddenly the relatives arrived. From all over the place people found it convenient to visit Rose’s flat. ‘Suddenly’, because no-one wanted to miss out on their share of her possessions.
It was an extraordinary event—people who were hardly known within the extended family appeared from nowhere “just to call by and pay our respects”—to the now uninhabited flat. They spoke of, ‘some little memento, nothing important, just something of sentimental value, something to remember her by’, ‘something she had promised me’, as their eager eyes scoured the flat for the famous valuables.
It is sad how the slightest hint of getting something for nothing brings out what is universal in the human heart: the selfishness, the greed, the covetousness, the materialism. And when there is disagreement about the inheritance that goes to court, what tragedy awaits. The lawyers receive somebody’s share of the estate and some lose not only their hoped-for share but even their own possessions, in their futile pursuit of wealth.
Yet sadder still if Christians engage each other in these battles.
“Why not rather be cheated?” says God. To go to court is to deny the gospel. It is failure to take seriously that the saints are to rule the world, it is a failure to take seriously that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God, it is a failure to understand that greed is part of the list of wickedness that excludes one from the Kingdom of God. “Why not rather be cheated?”
It was not that painful to be cheated over Rose’s valuables—they did not exist (although there are still those who think that somebody got there first). But when Christians fight over possessions, we have a monumental gospel defeat. Our idolatrous hearts have not been changed and our understanding of the judgement and kingdom of God is seriously defective.