Pandemic Ponderings - "Essential"

Though urged to stay home for safety, to go out only for “essential” purposes, and in spite of being in the particularly “at risk” population, they went to the store for dental floss.  Seriously.

We are being asked to stay in our homes to remain safe from the corona virus and the real possibility of getting COVID 19, a disease that has now proven deadly to thousands of people.  We are asked, and even told not to go out where we will be in contact with other people especially, but also surfaces where others may have deposited the deadly virus we might inadvertently pick up, except for things that are “essential”.  Like others I want to take care of my teeth and avoid painful and costly dental diseases—but in this moment, is dental floss essential?  It is just one example that begs the question:  Just what is essential?

 Writing to Timothy the apostle Paul makes an interesting comment we might normally dismiss, because as a rule we in America live far beyond its minimalist suggestion:

But godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. (1 Timothy 6:6-8)

The contrast is to people who want to get rich and fall into temptation and ultimately are led by their love of money to ruin and destruction (v. 9).  But it does raise the question—just how much do we need to be content?  What, after all, is essential?  Paul here is advancing a “winning combination” that might be a great “COVID 19 moment” challenge for us.  That is, godliness with contentment.

As to godliness, he will go on to encourage a pursuit that we can actually do from our sheltered homes, vv. 11-12—

But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.  Fight the good fight of the faith.  Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

Consider the opportunity to pursue godliness, through the very things mentioned, in our present situation!  Righteousness?  You likely have more time at the moment to spend reading God’s Word and in prayer, personally and perhaps with members of your family, than when life goes on at its “normal” pace.  Faith?  As anxious thoughts arise in the uncertainties this little virus brings, it is a good time to read of God’s care in Matthew 6:25-34, or follow along with the Psalmists as they pour out their anxious thoughts to the Lord and are comforted by his faithfulness.  Love?  There are opportunities around you to call and give a word of encouragement to someone, and if you are healthy you may be able to serve someone in need of something truly essential.  Certainly you can pray for medical personnel, those who work in care facilities, first responders, grocery store clerks, and others who are serving in places of exposure on behalf of the general population.  And how about gentleness?  Dare I ask if your home might benefit from this spirit, as people begin to feel “cooped up”?

The second side of that challenge will be contentedness.  Are you good with food and clothing?  If we go out for things less than “essential”, we really need to think about what that means.  Perhaps we don’t believe exposure is really a risk, but we should perhaps watch the news to see the climb of the “curve”, the numbers of infected not nearly at its peak.  It is possible we doubt the serious nature of COVID 19, but again—check the numbers!  Maybe we think we are strong and would only have a mild experience of this disease personally.  Not thinking, of course, of the vulnerable people we might expose as a carrier of the virus.  I have heard people speak proudly that they believe God will protect them, and of course—he has made provision for our eternity and if we are in Christ through faith.  We know where we are going if the virus takes us out!  But God has also given us the mental capacity to assess risk and be wise, and love that leads us to think of others beyond ourselves, so that stance may not be as godly as we think.  Exactly what is so “essential” that it is worth putting ourselves and the lives of others in real danger?

What a great time to explore our soul!  What do you require to be content?  How is your godliness growth curve?  Ask God to help you use this time of national emergency to good purpose in your personal development as a faithful follower of Jesus Christ. As you do, for the sake of serving Christ and others, be wise, careful and loving in the choices you make.