The following was published in The Christadelphian magazine in 1888:
It is not what we earn, but what we save, that makes us rich.
It is not what we eat, but what we digest, that makes us strong.
It is not what we intend, but what we do, that makes us useful.
It is not what we read, but what we remember and make our own in reading, that makes us learned.
With all the changes that have taken place in this world of ours in the last 117 years, it is remarkable how true all these sayings still are today.
People can earn a lot of money and yet be broke. Others can earn much less and yet, by wise saving and investing, become wealthy. The problem of not digesting what we eat still helps the drug industry become rich selling all kinds of medicines to help us absorb our food so that it can nourish our bodies. Back then there were no fast foods but no doubt some folks ate their slow food as quickly as some eat fast food today.
It is not what we read but what we remember and make our own that helps us. The expression about things ‘going in one ear and out the other’ also can apply to our reading — sometimes we are not really absorbing what we read. All too often we allow our minds to wander as our eyes scan the words; our brain is not engaged, like a car in neutral with the motor running. Just as a car can move only when we put it in gear, we learn only when we train ourselves to absorb and remember what we are reading.
Today there is much more garbage in print than ever before in history, but even back in 1888 one still had to be choosy as to what to read. In 1888, there was no temptation to watch too much television, look at lurid web sites or go to the wrong kinds of movies, but books, magazines and newspapers were available. The computer slogan of GIGO (Garbage In, Garbage Out) did not exist, but even then it was possible to fill the mind with the wrong things. Paul’s advice to think about things that are true, honest, just and pure is advice to feed our minds the right things, true in his day as well as ours. There really aren’t any new temptations, but certainly modern science has made all the old ones even more accessible than ever before.
Good intentions are the first step to faithful service, but when they are not acted upon, they are like empty dreams. It has been said that ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions.’ Although a fiery place of torment is a false idea of hell, not taught in the Bible, we also fool ourselves if we think that it is good enough to spend our time daydreaming of wonderful deeds that we would like to do. It is only what we accomplish that makes us useful. James gives us the example of a brother who is hungry and cold being given the hearty advice to be warmed and filled; unless we actually provide food, clothing and a warm place, the words are empty and worthless. We want to be useful in the Lord’s service, and to do that, we have to be doers of the word and not hearers only. In the parable of the judgment seat, those who tended to the needs of their hungry, thirsty, naked and sick brethren were not only commended as if they had been caring for the Lord himself, but were rewarded with life eternal. We need to intend to serve our Lord and then to act on it.
So the wrong ways are not new and have been with us even longer than back in the days of 1888. We pray with Solomon as he prayed in his day for his people that our Heavenly Father will “hear thou in heaven, and forgive the sin of thy servants, and of thy people Israel, that thou teach them the good way wherein they should walk.” We need to take what we learn about that good way and act on it, so that when our Lord returns he may say to us, “Come ye blessed of the Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
Robert J. Lloyd