"I have everything I need."
"The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need." (Psalm 23:1)
No, your eyes do not deceive you. It really is a "For Sale" sign on a swamp. The placard just went up recently on the swamp behind my house. Now, I ask you, how do you put a price on such an unbelievably "hot" piece of real estate? What's it worth? How do we determine how much it's worth?
As I'm being subjected to the seemingly endless stream of television commercials, billboards, radio spots, etc. during this Advent season I'm struck by how much they're aimed at that very question, "How do we determine our worth - our value? In other words, they want us to believe that if we truly value our own self and want others to do the same, we've just got to wear, use, drive, or give their product. Surely we wouldn't want to insult someone by giving something that would be of inferior quality or label, leaving them to believe we just don't think they're worth much to us! Surely we want to be seen in or with what the ads tell us are the very things that define the person of great worth! Don't we?
I've come to realize that "worth" has become a powerful marketing tool that is designed to cloud the more important questions, "What do I need, and what do those I love and want to offer a gift really need?" When we allow our self-worth to be defined by anyone or anything other than God, we open the door to stress, hurt, heartache, and injustice. Once we take the bait and decide something or someone can determine our worth we stopping asking, "What do I need," and focus more on, "What do I want because those who tell me I'll be worth something if I have what they say will make me look like I'm worth something are telling me I should want this..." (Just writing that convoluted sentence stresses me...) As the tension mounts, the whole process becomes more and more selfish because all the while I'm focusing on what I've decided I want, I'm no longer considering my needs in the context of the needs of others. The more I allow myself to get lost in the cloud of "I'm somebody only if I have, own, give what I'm told is the "latest-greatest," the more I contribute to injustice. God's justice requires that when I consider my needs I consider them alongside the needs of others and make decisions accordingly. When "wants" begin to rule our lives we are deafened to the cries of the needs of others.
The psalmist's statement is so brief, simple, and life-changing: "The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need." God is the one who sets the value of my life. How much am I worth? God says I'm worth so much that I'm never alone, never out of God's consciousness, and never without the means to experience God's forgiving, restoring love. Because of that, I have everything I need to feel like I'm a valuable child of God - a person of the utmost worth -- priceless! That's the message God sends in the birth of Jesus, whose special birthday we approach once more in just a few more days.
I pray that as I prepare to celebrate Christmas, God will help me remember, "The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need." How about you?
Blessings and Peace, Gary Pastor, Sand Hill United Methodist Church Boaz, West Virginia
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"I have everything I need."