God or the Other… To most of us, that seems like a simple choice. We choose God. Do we really? I know we like to think we choose God but then there are so many ways in which that choice can be construed. God or riches, God or fame, God or career, even God or family… The list goes on and on. What would our choice be? We want to choose God but the alternative can be so enticing that we can become lulled into believing it is the better choice.
I am reminded of a story in the Gospel of Luke about a “rich man” who met Jesus one day. The man appears to be very religious, as religious as anyone of us. But Jesus found one facet of his life that was keeping him from truly choosing God – his wealth. When Jesus confronted the man, Luke tells us, “When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy” (Luke 18.23, TNIV). The story never actually tells us that this man failed to choose God. Instead, it only implies the failure to make the correct choice. What Luke emphasizes is the sadness. That is the part of the other never advertised.
Today I came across a story about a man named Jack Whittaker who won a $315 million dollar lottery several years back (Shaya Tayefe Mohajer, “Is Powerball Win a Nightmare or Fantasy?,” Associated Press, 2007). Today, according to the article, Mr. Whittaker claims sadness. He says that becoming rich has left him without any friends, became a source of trouble that has left his family and marriage in disarray and for all the money he has, he is not able to buy a cure to his daughter’s cancer. In the end, Mr. Whittaker is quoted saying “I’m only going to be remembered as the lunatic who won the lottery… I’m not proud of that. I wanted to be remembered as someone who helped a lot of people.”
I don’t know what Mr. Whittaker religious convictions are. I do know that for most of us, we have and will continue to face the choice of God or Other. There may be a lot of things about the other choices that appear attractive but in the end, there is sadness when that choice becomes a choice against God.