I’ve spent the past couple of weeks slowly chewing through Stephen King’s book, Needful Things. I would have finished it much faster if left to my own devices, but I had pesky distractions: preaching, a child, sleep! [I know, I know, the last is not a valid distraction for a book lover]. Reading fiction is a pleasure I haven’t spent nearly enough time indulging lately, so this was a treat. As I read the book, one really important lesson began to surface for me.
Without giving too much away, the book basically follows different people in the small town of Castle Rock, Maine following the opening of a new store called Needful Things. This store sells random stuff, but everyone who enters finds their perfect thing. Even better, the prices are unbelievable. For a small amount of money and the promise to pull a prank for the proprietor, everyone walks out with treasures. Two things happen as a result, each person becomes consumed with their new-found treasure and the tricks have devastating consequences.
Midway through the book, the reader learns that these unbelievable finds are not what they seem. Their owners see mint-condition treasures; everyone else sees junk. One character sees his needful thing for what it really was for a split second and hears a small voice inside him say, “This is how it was from the very start…You just didn’t see it.”
This reveal made me sad for the different characters. Here they traded their relationships, their sanity, even their lives to own objects that were moth-eaten, dog-eared, broken-down and bound for the landfill. It wasn’t worth it. They just couldn’t see that until it was too late.
This also brought the aforementioned lesson. I began to think about the things that I pine away for: a home to own, for instance, and realized that I, too, have needful things, things that I want so badly that I mistake them for needs. I thought of how I trade my peace looking at things that I can’t have or incurring debt for countless other things. We all do. Like the characters in this book, we see such things as so precious that we’re willing to trade our time, our money, and sadly sometimes our health, relationships, and sanity just to hold them for a split second. A split second is all we get with stuff in this world.
When we give up so much for so little, it’s because we don’t see it for what it is, just like the characters in the book. Everything we own, even the most precious or stalwart is bound for the trash heap. It may not be today, or even in our lifetime, but in light of eternity, it will be gone. That is why Jesus taught, “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be” (Matthew 6:19-21). It’s not wrong to own stuff, it just won’t last, so we would do well to be careful what we’re willing to pay for it.
The title of this book also reminded me that there’s truly only one thing we need. “But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42, KJV). We need Jesus. May we cling to him and our time at his feet all the more when other “needful” things come calling.