Tag Archives: Shakespeare


Syndicated columnist Sydney J. Harris made the following keen observation: “Men may be divided almost any way we please, but I have found the most useful distinction to be made between those who devote their lives to conjugating the verb ‘to be,’ and those who spend their lives conjugating the verb ‘to have.'”

It is a necessity of life, I suppose, that we must spend a certain amount of time conjugating the verb ‘to have.’ Could it be possible, however, that our focus becomes blurred when we forget that it is much more important who we are than what we have? The Master said, “Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Luke 12:15). He followed those words with the story of the rich fool, who had no time for God. “So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:21).

There is, however, more to the observation of Mr. Harris, I believe. Conjugating the verb ‘to be’ is really our life work. We are certain things – parents, sons, daughters, Americans. We are most importantly Christians, children of God. But beyond what we are, there is something even more important. What we must remember is that we are all constantly in the process of becoming. We are becoming more faithful or less faithful, more Christ-like or less Christ-like, more godly or more ungodly. Life is not static, and neither are we. We are always becoming. We ask the child, What do you want to be when you grow up? The questions for us are always, What do we want to be? What are we becoming? and most importantly, Who are we becoming?

Paul told the Romans, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing ofyour mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2). The reason we should not be conformed to the world is that God has something better in mind for us. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:28-29).

Hamlet began his soliloquy with the words, “To be or not to be, that is the question.” He then mused about whether it was better to struggle on or just prepare for the time when we have shuffled off this mortal coil. The time will come when we will not be on this earth. How well we can live with ourselves now and later, depends on whether we devote more time to who we are and are becoming than on what we have.