Gather ‘round and listen closely as I share some stellar parenting advice with you today. If you find yourself at a family photo shoot and your toddler will not smile, the absolute best thing you can do is promise them a piece of gum if they grin even a little. When that doesn’t produce results, promise them an entire pack of gum. When that still fails to turn their frown upside down, your best bet is to promise them a gumball machine exactly like the one their best friend has. The photographer will think you’re an amazingly brilliant mom and your kid still won’t smile, but they will think they did so you’ll end up on Amazon the next day pressing “Buy Now” on a sugar-filled gumball bank. (There’s a reason this isn’t a parenting blog, y’all!)
This is, of course, based on a true story and we are now the proud owners of said gumball machine. My son is permitted to have two gumballs each day, both of which he excitedly claims before 9 a.m. every morning. Every single time he places his penny in the machine and turns the knob to release the gumball, he looks at me full of hope and says, “Maybe I’m going to get a blue one today! Blue is my favorite color!” As you can imagine, he very rarely gets a blue gumball but that has not once caused his anticipation or hope to falter. Every.Single.Time he chases after that blue gumball. Maybe you can guess what happens when he does get one? He takes it in his tiny hand, pumps his fist in the air and yells, “I got blue!” Ten minutes later, he spits it out as though it wasn’t just the most exciting part of his day. Like all other colors of gumballs, it loses its flavor and appeal rather quickly. And yet, each day, he sets his heart again on that blue gumball.
Blue gumballs, a hefty bank account, the perfect house, that promotion at work, and the praise of someone we admire. They really are all the same, aren’t they? We all have a “blue gumball” (or several) in our life. We chase them, always hoping for the feelings we believe they will elicit. Feelings of success, happiness, contentment, security, and approval. It doesn’t matter if we go days, weeks, or years without getting our blue gumball; we keep on chasing, striving, and working for it. It’s our proverbial carrot on a stick and this world has us running in circles after it. Even when we do find ourselves with our version of it, the sweet taste it brings is momentary. It wears off, we move on from celebrating and, before we know it, we are chasing something else again.
Friends, there must be a better way than packaging up our heart and parceling it out in pieces of hope placed on things that will never last or fully satisfy. To be sure, most of these things are not bad, they just are not designed to fulfill us. Since there is nothing new under the sun, we see this struggle played out in the Bible as well. Let’s read Mark 10:17-22:
As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.” “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. (Mark 10:17-22 NIV)
Here, we see a man who comes to Jesus knowing he has a void. He feels deep in his bones that who he is and what he has is not enough to save him. If he didn’t, he would not have sought out Jesus, asking Him how to gain eternal life. His “blue gumball” is money. And he has a lot of it. And it isn’t enough. Jesus looks at him and loves him as He says, “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (v 21)
Jesus invites this man to do away with the thing he’s been chasing. He invites him to stop looking for salvation and satisfaction in money. He essentially says, “Give up the search, now you’ve found me. I am what you are looking for. Leave all of that nonsense behind you and come hang out with me.” This wealthy man’s response was to turn and walk away from Jesus because, in that moment, chasing his “blue gumball” seemed better than living alongside the God who created him. It seemed more desirable to run after money than Jesus even though it was obviously not fulfilling him.
It’s easy to be an armchair quarterback and wonder how this guy could have missed the greatest invitation of all time, but really, are we that different? I will be the first to admit that I have put my hope of comfort and stability in my bank account. I have yielded my emotions to the hands of others as I long for their approval. I have placed my search for happiness squarely on things that do not last. Here’s the secret: They never bring abiding peace and, more importantly, they cannot make us right with God.
Oh how we need to do the hard work of discerning where we have allowed our hope to take up residence. Only then can we begin to reclaim it and place it firmly on the shoulders of our Savior, the only one who was meant to bear up under its weight.
Money? Jesus says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. (Matthew 6:19-20 NIV)
Approval of Others? The Bible says, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10 NIV)
Success and Notoriety? Jesus addresses that:, “A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.’” (Luke 22:24-2 NIV)
Our Own Careful Planning? James says, “Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15 NIV)
There is nothing on this earth that can satisfy like Jesus does. If you are struggling to trust Him in an area, keep pursuing Him. Keep asking Him for the desire to even want to pursue Him. Do not give up on Jesus. He is worth it, He loves you, and He will never, ever fail you sweet friend. I pray that, as painful as it may be, He would reveal our heart’s idols (their blue gumballs, if you will), so that we may run wholeheartedly back to Him in repentance and restored relationship. There is nowhere that His grace and love cannot reach. Let’s fall into His arms this day and find true, eternal peace. Love to you, friends.
If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. (1 John 3:20 NIV, emphasis mine)
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:4-9, NIV)