Vending Machines

“Who, then, are those who fear the Lord? He will instruct them in the ways they should choose.”    Psalm 25:12

vending machine

Shortly after completing my laborious climb to the peak of Mt. Fuji, Japan’s tallest mountain, I spotted a small and very steep service road to the top. On this perilous route that was more of a path than a road, I noticed a large object slowly and laboriously being transported to the top of the mountain. Out of curiosity, I lingered to learn what could be so important. Emergency equipment of some sort? Water and food for weary travelers? Building materials for shelter from the extreme elements? The heavily perspiring workmen eventually reached the top of the mountain and removed the tarp covering the mysterious object, revealing … a Coca Cola vending machine! Only in Japan, I thought to myself.

Somehow it seemed appropriate to have a vending machine occupying one of the most iconic and yet most inaccessible locations in Japan. There are roughly 5.5 million vending machines scattered across the country, making it the highest number of vending machines per capita in the world. Vandalism is generally not a problem in Japan, so these machines can be located in very isolated situations, ready to quench someone’s thirst or satiate various other needs. Like peddlers marketing their wares to a passerby, it is not unusual to see as many as a dozen or more lined up together in some locations. Japanese vending machines offer a variety of choices and products ranging from drinks (both hot and cold), candy, rice, fruit, soup, hamburgers, ice cream, gum, noodles, beer, books, flowers, cigarettes, toys, toiletries, masks, underwear and even good luck charms. Choice and convenience are obviously the underlying values associated with the placement and plethora of these machines throughout Japan.

As we live in an age of consumerism, we are bombarded daily with possible alternatives of what to eat, wear and do. Unfortunately, this may lead us to falsely conclude that life centers exclusively on our personal preferences. Indeed, such a multiplicity of choices is generally a morally neutral transaction and benign in its consequences. However, a propensity to make decisions based solely upon our personal preferences may encourage us to leave God totally out of the equation when it comes to other, more significant choices. Like items in a vending machine, the scale of importance of these decisions can vary greatly, but they should all be based upon our reverence for God and what He deems to be important. After all, our goal in this life is to please Him, not ourselves, so our choices should reflect that value. It is therefore comforting to remember that as we take time to consult God in the myriad of options before us, He has graciously promised to instruct and guide us in such matters. Ultimately, these choices count for eternity and shape us to serve God’s perfect purposes.



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