I was just reading “Walden,” by Henry David Thoreau and there was a paragraph that struck home with me. Thoreau talked about how the world’s possessions and how our pursuit of materialism takes control of our lives. It is so prevalent that we end up serving the pursuit of riches and lose sight of our purpose. “For my sight has been whetted by experience; always on the limits, trying to get into business and trying to get out of debt, a very ancient slough, called by the Latins, aes alienum, or another’s brass, for some of their coins were made of brass; still living and dying by another man’s brass, always promising to pay, tomorrow, and dying today, insolvent….”
I couldn’t help but think of the man who was tearing down his barns to build bigger barns (Luke 12:13-21). He lived “aes alienum” or in pursuit of another’s brass. The mark of covetousness is when our possessions and desires take precedent over our love and service to God, the kingdom, and our fellow man. It is a form of slavery, but a subtle form to a master who robs us of the riches of the kingdom in servitude to filthy lucre. Satan is shrewd in providing us justifications for our pursuit of success, wealth, fame or another’s brass. The end is always the same, we serve the masters of this world and neglect our true calling. It was in this context that Thoreau’s more famous phrase was penned, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”
When we trade the riches of Kingdom for the tares of the world we willingly surrender the freedom in Christ, to the bondage of a temporal and perishable world. Our life’s efforts are spent on pursuing the fool’s gold that moth and dust corrupts and that thieves break in and steal (Matthew 6:19). All of creation is a reminder to focus on those things that are “true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable and praiseworthy” (Phil. 4:8). It is through our surrender and devotion to Christ that we understand that this corruptible body will put on incorruption and our mortal journey will transform us into the eternal, immortal presence of our Savior Jesus Christ.