If you’re a manufacturer, how long do you design a product to last? Forever? Well, that limits sales, doesn’t it – no one would ever have to buy another one! That’s why manufacturers build in obsolescence – a real or perceived limitations to a product’s lifespan. So the tech device comes with a battery that can’t be replaced, and you’re forced to buy a new one. Or, the cell phone manufacturer comes out with a new model each year, with a new feature so we’ll be enticed to buy the new model even when the old one works fine. And so on, and so on…
I have made built-in obsolescence sound bad, but it’s not always. Buying a small bike for a child, you know they’ll outgrow it soon enough, and it will be obsolete. Not a bad thing; in a way, it’s unavoidable unless you stunt a child’s growth.
That’s how God created the heavens and the earth – like a kids bike humanity would outgrow eventually; a good thing with a limited lifespan. The Psalmist declares,
“In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
They will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
Like clothing you will change them
and they will be discarded.
But you remain the same,
and your years will never end.
The children of your servants will live in your presence;
their descendants will be established before you.” (Psalm 102:25-28)
How long does a garment last? I still have a T-shirt from my high school swim team. That’s almost 30yrs old. I don’t wear it anymore, haven’t for years because it’s threadbare, sleeveless and nearly transparent. Long time for a shirt, but thirty years isn’t really that long.
The oldest parts of creation – the Grand Canyon, the Rock of Gibraltar, light from far away galaxies – they seem almost eternal. But, they are are like garments that wear out – short in lifespan compared to God who’s ‘years will never end.’
One could argue that it’s because of sin that the heavens and earth will wear out, but I don’t think that is what the Psalmist is saying. They’ll wear out because they weren’t intended to be forever. God’s handiwork is good, but it wasn’t designed for eternity. It was good for mankind, but mankind was supposed to have graduated beyond it and advance to the New Heavens and the New Earth. Because Adam failed his testing in the Garden, mankind has been forced to live in a natural world that has outlived its built-in obsolescence and is groaning, waiting for the new creation to replace it.
The key application of this truth is we ought to take care that our hearts are in love with what is eternal, not transitory. Our treasures should be stored in eternal storehouses, not temporal ones. Our minds and energies focused on what is forever, not what is fleeting. Jesus told us this – ‘don’t store up for yourselves riches on earth where moth and rust can destroy, but store up treasure in heaven.’ Paul echoed this when he urged us to ‘set our minds and hearts on things above.’
Nothing in this world is permanent, not even this world.