31 July 2011

Jesus Wants Us To Use It Before We Lose It

Luke 12:13-21

Possessions.  Stuff.  Money.

It's a touchy subject, isn't it?  Talking about faith and money touches on sensitive areas like when we talk about faith and sex.

It would be easy to say that stuff is bad.  And, more pointedly, people who have a lot of stuff are evil.  In fact, people do it all the time in order to become popular.  After all, there is always someone richer than us.  So, we look at the problems in the world and say to one another, "Hey, if so and so didn't have so much, those other people would have more and the world would be a better place."  It's called class warfare and it has been all the rage since monarchies have had lessened influence.


But, the more we think about real life, the more these simplistic arguments fall apart.  We all need stuff.  We all need food to eat.  We all need clothes to wear.  We all need roofs over our head.

Moreover, God made the stuff.  He also created us to need the stuff.  He also gave us dominion over the stuff.  We are to care for stuff as the stuff takes care of our needs.  He gave us creativity to shape stuff in various ways for various reasons.

If stuff is so bad, why am I always asked to give my stuff to others to help them.  If my stuff was bad, should anyone need it?  How can I help people if I didn't have things to help them with?

I work for a non-for-profit organisation that helps people with needs.  Part of my job is to get and keep track of the stuff so that we can serve people better.  I've heard many Christians and other people say that rich people are selfish and bad.  But, I happen to like people who not only have stuff, but have the gifts and skills to keep producing more stuff.  The more stuff there is, the more people that we can serve with stuff.

People who don't work and produce nothing aren't in a position to give so that we can maintain a building where people can come and find hope out of dispair.  More than good intentions are needed to give "free" pregnancy tests.  So, I love producers.  I love people who are in a position to give because they have.

And, what gives me comfort in having these thoughts is the teachings of Jesus. 

Stuff is not the problem.  It's what we do with the stuff that is the problem.  Rich people are not the problem.  It's what rich people do with what they have been blessed with that is the problem.

Jesus did not shy away from teaching people about their stuff and what they should do with their stuff.  Sensing the authority of Jesus, someone approaches Jesus with what has been weighing on their hearts as many of us do.

Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.

I could almost hear Jesus sigh when he heard this.  Really?  This is what you come to me with?

After chastising him for coming to him with a request he doesn't have the authority to honour, he uses it as an opportunity to teach about the similar positions of the heart, which is Jesus' true concern.

Jesus tells us that stuff isn't bad.  The rich person in the story is not condemned because his land produced a record crop.  The rich person is condemned because of what he did with the stuff.  What did he do?  Nothing.  In fact, he uses his stuff as insurance for an early retirement.

And I will say to my soul, 'Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.'

God's response?  You fool.

The problem was not that he produced.  The problem was that he stopped producing.  The problem was not his stuff.  The problem was that he did not use his stuff to serve God.  How do we serve God with our stuff?  What does the Law say?  How do you read it?  The greatest commandment is to Love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our mind, all our soul and all our strength.  To put it another way, Love God with everything we are and have.  How do we love the Lord with everything we have?  Love our neighbour as ourselves.  Give.  Share.  Eat with.  Teach others to produce as we have so that there can be more, not less, of God's rich blessings.

Followers of Christ have a high view of humanity.  We realise that we are each created in the image of God.  We each have various gifts that supplement our various weaknesses so that we may care for one another in wonderful ways.  We realise that it is not up to the few to care for the many.  We realise that each person is capable of serving the other in their own unique way.

God never issues a command that we cannot follow.  Each person can love their neighbour as themselves, just as each of us can love God with everything he has given freely to us.

Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions...So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.

Father, thank you so much for your immeasurable riches and that you have graciously shared those with me.  Give me the wisdom to be rich toward you as I am rich toward others.

2 comments:

  1. Lance, this is a really good post. I think about these things. Jesus even used metaphors with "stuff"--the lilies of the fields, man does not live by bread alone.

    I think the problem is attachment to what the stuff is supposed to do. I had a terrible problem with my ex-landlord, a Christian who was way too attached to his building and he was filled with fear over losing any income. His peace did not come from God, but from income. The recession did a number on him and he didn't show grace. I've been angry about it, but I realize that he isn't alone--Christians and non-Christians alike are full of fear and they don't trust God.

    Our relationship to stuff also has to do with our sense of eternity. If we know that we will leave this temple, our body, and move to a different realm, then the stuff seems more transitory as we can trust that we will continue, no matter what. Stuff can also represent ambition: if we have no sense of eternity, then we live for the acclaim of this world alone. This is another reason why people prioritize career gains over relationships, including the one with God as their sense of eternity lies with their legacy of achievement.

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  2. Very well put Susan. Our view of eternity does indeed have an effect on what we do now. I also think that we prioritise stuff and career over relationships because relationships are hard. I can only control one half of the relationship, but I can control how and when I will get most of my stuff. I can set tangible goals when it comes to stuff, but I don't really know how relationships are going to go.

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