Letting Go of What You Can’t Take Anyway (Rev 18:10-17)
WONDERFUL THING IN THIS PASSAGE – There’s a story about a dying rich man who had all his wealth turned into gold bars and stuffed in a backpack in his coffin. He arrived at the pearly gates with his pack clutched tightly to his chest. At the angel’s request, he unzipped his burden and proudly displayed its contents. “Well, come on in,” the angel sighed, “but what are you going to do with pavement?”
After Noah’s flood, the amassing of wealth and power for their own sakes began again with a man named Nimrod. Noah’s cursed great-grandson became “powerful in the land” and established a city and a kingdom named “Babylon.” As the people’s numbers and riches had increased, so had their imagined independence from God. They said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven” (Gen 10:8-10; 11:4 NAS). It didn’t work out so well. It never does.
Ever since then, Babylon has been the symbol of humanity’s lust for pleasure and enrichment and its rejection of God’s authority. In Revelation 18, John lists some of Babylon’s coveted wealth, and it sounds very much like the things we scheme and labor our entire lives to acquire and to retain:
“Gold, silver, jewels, and pearls; fine linen … silk … ivory; objects of expensive wood, brass, iron, and marble; cinnamon, spice, incense … wine, olive oil, fine flour, and grain; cattle and sheep; horses and carriages” (Rev 18:12-13).
John had already warned believers of the futility of seeking such things: “Do not love the world or the things in the world … For everything in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s possessions – is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world with its lust is passing away” (1 John 2:15-17). He repeats the point in today’s chapter depicting the final destruction of that world system:
“Woe, woe, the great city, Babylon, the mighty city! For in a single hour your judgment has come … All your splendid and glamorous things are gone … in a single hour such fabulous wealth was destroyed!” (Rev 18:10-17).
WONDERFUL THING IN OUR LIVES – There are two lessons that John and our rich friend in the first story would have us learn:  You can’t take it with you; and  If you could take it with you, you’d find it useless where you’re going.
Any “thing” on earth that has true value, brings true pleasure, or leads to true satisfaction will either be in heaven in purer form – or it will be replaced in heaven by things of immeasurably higher value, greater pleasure, and deeper satisfaction. So why waste so much time and energy on the lesser, especially if it hinders us from seeking the greater.
The Holy Spirit urges us to “seek the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Col 3:1-4).
One of the two best ways I know of to seek the things above is to spend daily, focused time enjoying the Bible and its Author. The other is to dedicate each day to living the Bible and serving its Author.