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Summary: We need to distinguish between needs and wants. Poverty can help us decide what we truly need; then we become eager to make happen what we truly want. Our relationship to God determines our priorities. Montgomery Hills Baptist Church

Some things I need, it is true. But many of the things I think I need I do not truly need. I only want them, but persuade myself I need them. They are not needs; they are wants.

And, deeper than that, many of the things I think I want I do not truly want. I just hope they will make me feel good about myself, and so tell myself I want them. It is not I, really, who want so many things. It is that part of me that feels insecure and uncertain. Many things are not needs, not even wants, they are props for people who do not feel secure..

We have two granddaughters – one of them almost four, and very aggressive; the other a little over two, with the voice and face of an Old Testament prophet. Olivia snatches a toy from her little sister and says, “I need that doll.” But Jackie knows better, screws up her tiny face, and announces, “That’s not fair”. No, Olivia does not need it; she just wants it. And when that child has grabbed her sister’s doll under the guise of needing it, but ten seconds later throws it aside to go for something else, you know what is going on. She neither needs it nor wants it. She just expects to be numero uno.

We think we need things, but it’s really a want; and it’s not really a want, but a prop to make us feel better about ourselves. I have learned that all that truly matters is to know my own heart and follow it, because deep down my heart can hear the heart of God.

I have discovered that the most important question I can ask myself is, “What do I really want?” “What do I really want?” When there are choices in front of me, when I am struggling to discern what to do, I have learned to ask that penetrating question: “What do I really want?” I know it sounds selfish, but it helps me clarify what is important and it keeps me from going after things that I do not really even want to have – because, some things I need, but many of the things I think I need I do not truly need. I just want them, and persuade myself I need them. They are not needs; they are wants. And, deeper than that, many of the things I think I want I do not truly want. I just hope they will make me feel better about myself, and so I tell myself I want them. It is not I, really, who want so many things. It is that side of me that feels insecure and uncertain. These things are not needs, not even wants, they are props. So I have learned to ask myself, “What do I really want, deep down?

I don’t know about Montgomery Hills, but at Takoma Park, money did not always just roll in for the church budget. Two or three times during my twenty-year tenure at Takoma Park we suspected that there wouldn’t be enough income in the next year to support everything we wanted to do. So I need to confess that on those occasions, I would play a little game. I would volunteer to forego a raise in salary. I would say to our finance people, “Look, give all the others a raise, but hold mine back. I’ll take the burden of balancing the budget.” Now when I would do that, the committee was supposed to say, “Pastor, how heroic of you! How unselfish! But we can’t let you do that, so here, take your raise.” That’s what they were supposed to do, and a couple of times they did. But guess what? One year we got a tough-minded chairman on that committee, who took me literally. When I went through that speech, she said, “Okay. Fine. If that’s what you want, that will help us.” She actually believed my game! “If thatis what you want ...” But hey, that’s not what I wanted! What did I really want? Not only the money, but also the acclaim for being superpastor, so spiritual he lives on bread and water and prayer! Ah, she caught me, didn’t she? I had not listened to my own heart enough to know what I really, deep down, wanted. And certainly had not listened to the heart of God.

What do you really want? Aren’t we all caught up in that confusion? Don’t we all have to work at making sure we are hearing ourselves rightly? You know, we get in the mailbox at my home about eight mail-order catalogs every day. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but on average, eight catalogs, all with enticing pictures of luxurious goods, usually modeled by luscious lovelies who, sad to say, do not come along with the merchandise you order! If my wife and I had not learned how to listen to ourselves, we would be swamped in things we have been told we need; but we do not need them, we merely want them; and down deep we do not even want them but may get hooked on the idea that a new coat or a piece of furniture or electronic gear will make us feel we are somebody! My wife has decided not even to open most of these catalogs, but just to put them in the recycling bin! We have listened to our hearts and found out what we really want, and guess what? More stuff isn’t it!

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