Earthly things are temporary, but Godly things are eternal.
In 1929, Nick Carraway is a patient at Perkin’s Sanitarium. He speaks with his therapist about a host of issues he’s facing, including anxiety, insomnia, and depression. When asked to describe when these problems started arising, he thinks back to 1925, when he first met the great Gatsby. The story really starts, he says, when he moved to Long Island and was invited to dinner at his cousin Daisy’s house along with her husband, Tom. He begins to think back on Tom’s personality, and describes their history.
Kingdom of God, Life, Death, Accomplishment, Pride
In our introduction to Tom, he plays polo on his grand estate in East Egg (the “Old Money” part of Long Island.) He is tall, fit, handsome, and surrounded by servants taking care of his every need. Nick recalls their college days together. “When we were at Yale together, he had been a sporting star, but now his glory days were behind him, and he contented himself with...” at this, Nick pauses slightly, then continues, “... other affairs.” During the pause, Tom disembarks from his horse, and one of his butlers hands him a phone. A woman’s voice can be heard speaking to him seductively over the phone. He chastises the woman, telling her, “I thought I told you not to call me here.” He hangs up, and sees Nick standing in the doorway to greet Tom after his game. Tom is rough and rowdy in comparison to Nick’s polite, if somewhat awkward, persona. Immediately, Tom suggests they go into town to get drinks with their old college friends together, which Nick quickly declines. “Nonsense! We’re going!” is Tom’s only response. The pair turns a corner and the door opens into a hallway filled to the brim with trophies, awards, and medals from various sporting events. Tom takes Nick down the hallway, pointing out some of his favorites. “First team, all American... Forrest Hills, I played the Prince of Wales. What a sissy.” He grabs a football and points at Nick with it. “Life is something you dominate, if you’re any good!” With this, he throws the football to Nick, who awkwardly catches it, and then stares in shock as Tom runs towards him, trying to tackle him.
The first thing Nick tells us about Tom is that he’s rich and that his glory days are behind him. At first, it’s hard to see what he means, until Tom begins talking about his past days in Yale sports. With an entryway dedicated completely to it, it’s easy to see that Tom’s self worth is rooted in his physical abilities and wealth. However, there’s almost a sense of pity one feels while watching this; sure, he’s accomplished some impressive sporting feats, but it all seems so superficial, and so long ago. The truth is, all of those achievements are superficial, and will ultimately waste away. Someday, Tom will grow old, his body will weaken, and he will no longer be able to “dominate life” as he once did as a young man. Ultimately, he will die. As will we all. Our world is full of messages that tell us to be the best we can be, focus on our appearance, pile up wealth, and impress the neighbors. But God's economy is different. Colossians 3:2 cautions us to set our minds on things that are above, not on things that are of earth. This is because the things of earth are fragile and temporary, as opposed to the things of God which are eternal (Matthew 6:19-21). In God, we find our true value. It doesn’t come from our achievements, or our works, but from the fact that we are His children, lovingly created and planned from the very beginning (Psalm 139:13). If we strive to equate our time on earth with everything we are, we are guaranteed to be disappointed. James 4:14 addresses this, saying “Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” We cannot waste our lives trying to build up riches and esteem here, because it will all fade away. Even if our lives are filled with difficulty and pain, that too will pass. We should focus on things that last. Matthew 6:33 assures us that if we first seek God’s kingdom and His desire for us, and the rest will follow. He is the only source of reward that counts.
Pride, Accomplishment, Death, Dying, Life, Kingdom Of God, Proud, Flesh, Fleshly
References to drinking, mildly suggestive content.