Does it frustrate you that so many things are made with “planned obsolescence” built in? You know, the product falls apart or quits working soon after the warranty expires? As you walk the aisles of your favorite store, are you appalled at the flood of cheaply made merchandise that becomes worthless soon after being put to use? Do you lose time to things that aren’t positive or productive?
Modern life offers a nearly endless supply of such things—movies, video games or “reality” television shows—which feature scripted tensions and struggles by characters that are actually parodies of real life. Certainly, these activities can be entertaining, but are they really worth the time invested?
If you look to the Bible for guidance about what is valuable and what is worthless, you’ll find clear instruction, with the pros and cons (called blessing and curses) of many attitudes and activities described plainly. An underlying principle found throughout the Bible is that our decisions determine the quality of our lives. God tells us in Deuteronomy 28 that if the instructions given by our Heavenly Father are followed, bountiful physical blessings are promised (vv. 1–14). However, if His instructions, which are embodied in the Ten Commandments, are ignored or despised, intractable problems and curses will result (vv. 15–68). This knowledge enables a person to recognize what is worthwhile and what is of no value.
There are behaviors that are worthless, though not widely recognized as such. Highly commercialized holidays based on ancient pagan customs that long predate Christianity now occupy a great deal of people’s time and money, which is not pleasing to God: “Thus sayeth the Lord, learn not the way of the heathen… For the customs of the people are vain” (Jeremiah 10:2–3 KJV).
The Apostle Paul and Barnabas had to explain this to the people of Lystra, a town in Asia Minor. A man was miraculously healed at the hands of Paul, and the local people immediately assumed that Paul and Barnabas were the pagan gods Hermes and Zeus. The town’s people began to worship them with pagan practices. Paul vehemently decried this and said to them “Friends, why are you doing this? We are mortals just like you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them” (Acts 14:15 NRSV). So we see that idolatry in any form is worthless and destructive in God’s eyes.
“Whew!” you may say. “At least I don’t have any problems with idolatry.” But consider that, from God’s point of view, idolatry comes in various forms (such as covetousness, Colossians 3:5).
Psalm 119:37, one verse in a beautiful poem about the Law of God, puts it this way: “Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things, and revive me in Your way.”
In life there are valuable pursuits about which the Bible has much to say. Solomon put it into perspective in describing the pursuit of godly wisdom: “Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding; for her proceeds are better than the profits of silver, and her gain than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies, and all the things you may desire cannot compare with her. Length of days is in her right hand, in her left hand riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace” (Proverbs 3:13–17).