During the Second World War a merchant ship on its way to Russia was
torpedoed. Sixteen men were in a lifeboat when it capsized. Somehow they
turned the boat right side up again but it soon became waterlogged. As they started frantically to scoop out the water with their hands, the captain, searching desperately for something better, suddenly remembered his briefcase stuffed with money for paying the crew. At once he emptied it and used it as a bucket.
When men are near to eternity their sense of values changes. Some things in life transcend all monetary value. Those who live for the material lose the spiritual. Of the shipwrecked man who had tied about his waist his bags of gold and went straight to the bottom, Ruskin asked, “As he was sinking had he the gold or had the gold him?”
The best work of the world, the noblest sacrifices, the greatest risks, are not done for money. What made Dr. Adrian Stokes, the English bacteriologist, go to Africa to study yellow fever, to catch it himself and to his last breath set down his symptoms, having his blood analyzed to supply data for future research? What could pay for that?
In the realm of clear moral vision, getting on, making money or winning fame profanes the noblest instincts. Kipling touched the ideal when, in speaking of celestial service, he said, “No one would work for money and no one would work for fame, but each for the joy of working!” It is the highest achievement of the human spirit.
To work only for wages destroys those finer qualities of character. Real life consists in developing our personalities and gifts by doing useful work for the joy of it and not for rewards. Materialism as a social force has its grip upon our civilization, and the only power that can break it is love expressed in transcendent service.
“Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 19:19). These wise words of Jesus contain the motive force for genuine service to God and humanity. This kind of love through Christ is alone able to regenerate and unite society and is the answer to its international, national and domestic problems. The real test of our nearness to God is the way we feel and act toward one another.
George B. Smith, Meditations for the Ordinary Man