One of my favorite Steve Martin movies is The Jerk, in which Martin plays the character Navin Johnson, a white man raised by a black family. Johnson is also little more than a complete moron, who somehow rises to the top of the world due to a simple invention of his, which makes him a multi-millionaire. At one point in the film, when he is down on his luck, Johnson leaves his home while claiming that he doesn’t need a thing there (quote below from IMDB)
Navin R. Johnson: Well I’m gonna to go then. And I don’t need any of this. I don’t need this stuff, and I don’t need you. I don’t need anything except this.
[picks up an ashtray]
Navin R. Johnson: And that’s it and that’s the only thing I need, is this. I don’t need this or this. Just this ashtray. And this paddle game, the ashtray and the paddle game and that’s all I need. And this remote control. The ashtray, the paddle game, and the remote control, and that’s all I need. And these matches. The ashtray, and these matches, and the remote control and the paddle ball. And this lamp. The ashtray, this paddle game and the remote control and the lamp and that’s all I need. And that’s all I need too. I don’t need one other thing, not one – I need this. The paddle game, and the chair, and the remote control, and the matches, for sure. And this. And that’s all I need. The ashtray, the remote control, the paddle game, this magazine and the chair.
Navin R. Johnson: And I don’t need one other thing, except my dog.
Navin R. Johnson: I don’t need my dog.
It is difficult at times to distinguish between what I need and I want. The list of my wants is very long and would include items from the silly to sublime:
- a whole bunch of new books to read
- several new cds I’d like to listen to
- more money
- a minimum of 4 more hours in each day
- a pair of new black dress shoes that never need polishing
- a national championship for my alma mater Eastern Kentucky University in football (Go Colonels!!!)
- the ability to write and finish my sermons before late Saturday evenings or early Sunday mornings
- a cool new cell phone (since I gave mine to my daughter for her birthday – she needs the minutes more than I do)
- about 25 less pounds on my body
A list of my needs, however, would be much shorter (and more serious). I need:
- to be a good father to Desiree
- to be a good pastor
- to be more committed in my following of Jesus
One thing I notice right away when I compare these two lists is that my “needs” list contains not one single “thing” on it. I already more stuff than I need, and though I may want more stuff, most of what I have already is unnecessary. The second thing I notice is that my “needs” are all centered on relationships . . . with others and with Jesus. People are important, not things.
In many ways, I wish that I was more like Paul, who once wrote:
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11-13 ESV)
How about you? What do you really need?