I wasn’t born in a barn, but I did live in one for a while. My parents had bought some land in the country, and the barn went up fast. Construction of the house was slower, so we lived in the barn while it was being built. There was no insulation, and in most of the internal doorways we hung curtains instead of actual doors. I remember shaking my shoes out before I put them on in the morning to make sure there were no scorpions inside. I also remember being happy. Yes, we were roughing it in a lot of ways, living without a lot of normal conveniences, but life was good. When the house was finally finished and we moved in, it was nice to have fancy things like doors, but it didn’t change the basic dynamic that was already well-established: my parents had created a positive atmosphere, and that was the air I grew up in—it didn’t matter if I was breathing it in a barn with scorpions or a house with doors.
I am glad that I spent most of my childhood in the house. But I do want to remember, and teach my own children, that being surrounded with fine things doesn’t make everything fine. They are just things. They don’t have that power. It’s nice to have nice things, of course, but there are a lot of things that nice things can’t do—like make people nice. And beautiful things can’t make souls more beautiful. And valuable things can’t make people more valuable. The things I have can certainly change my life in significant ways, but they can’t change the realities that are most significant. It really is true: you can’t buy happiness. Integrity is not for sale. If you barter for love, it dies. If you buy friends, you don’t have them. If you think you can pay God for his grace, you don’t even know what grace is. So yes, nice things are nice, but the nicest things in the world are not things at all.
“Better a little with the fear of the Lord
than great wealth with turmoil.
Better a small serving of vegetables with love
than a fattened calf with hatred.
Better a dry crust with peace and quiet
than a house full of feasting, with strife.”
- Proverbs 15:16-17, 17:1
“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
- Jesus Christ, Luke 12:15