When I was a boy, I visited our grandparents in California.
My grandmother had a bunch of old clothes that she wanted my father to look through.
One that elicited most of my interest was his Navy uniform. I asked him about it.
Were you really in the Navy?
Did you sail on a ship?
He answered yes to both questions, so I pursued the ship a little more, thinking it was a battleship or aircraft carrier. He said it was a supply ship that went and kept other ships stocked with food, clothes, and other items.
Feeling a little disappointed, I asked, “what was the name of your ship?” And he told me…the Tantalus.
That was a strange name. What did it mean? So he told me the story.
The Greeks had a story about a figure called Tantalus. He was a wealthy but wicked king.
Once, he transgressed the order of things. One version says he stole the secret nectar and dared give it to the mortals below.
For that, Zeus punished him by making him forever hungry and thirsty. He did this with a cruel twist.
He stood Tantalus in a pool of water up to his neck. He could not bend it far enough to drink of it. So, in his thirst, the water was near but out of reach.
The branch of a low-hanging fruit tree dangled on the forehead of Tantalus. It was so close, yet so far.
He would be thirsty and hungry for the rest of his existence, even with abundant food and water.
Hence, we have our word tantalize, which means to tease with what is just out of reach.
While the legend fascinated a young boy, the truth is disheartening.
How much does it require to be satisfied?
In Western Civilization, we live better than over 99% of humanity. We want for nothing, but…we yearn for everything. What others have makes us miserable.
Jesus warned about being spiritually tantalized.
In Luke 12, Jesus tells of a man who had more than he needed but wanted even more. He soon discovered he could not have what he wanted because life was over.
Jesus prefaced it with these words:
“Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” (Luke 12:15, NIV)
The problem with an abundance society is we have convinced ourselves we don’t have enough. The more you want, the less you have. Like Tantalus, we die empty, longing for what is just out of reach.
Be careful about wants. They may be up to your neck and hanging over your head. Without them, you find yourself tortured. Instead, be grateful for what you have and let that be enough.