I admit it: I like stuff. Some might look at what I have and think that I could do a lot better, but it works for me. Others may think that I live in excess, and maybe they are right. (These are both a matter of perspective.) Regardless, I like that my couch is comfy for a Sunday-afternoon nap. I like that my good computer boots up fairly quickly. I like that my car has Bluetooth so I can call my wife on the drive home from work.
But, despite all of this, I think that I could agree with the songwriter, who talked about what life would be like if his “stuff” was lost, and he had to start over: (See God Bless the USA.)
If tomorrow all the things were gone
I’d worked for all my life
And I had to start again
With just my children and my wife
I’d thank my lucky stars
To be living here today
Cause the flag still stands for freedom
And they can’t take that away
Rather than just being proud of my country1, though, I value more personal things. I can live in confidence of my standing with God (thanks to His efforts, though, and not because I have been particularly perfect or pious), and I value my family above my belongings (despite my reactions when something that I like gets broken).
Still, I get pulled back into liking “stuff”. Yes, I know better, but I still get tempted when I see stuff that I think I want – whether in a store window, in my neighbor’s driveway, or online.
Jesus, when asked to arbitrate a decision between siblings, reminded us to keep an eye out for this vice.
Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.”
Luke 12:15 NASB
Why not? After all, doesn’t God want us to be happy, clothed, well-fed, and in possession of the latest smartphone? I do think that God wants the best for us (see Romans 8:28), and owning things isn’t inherently wrong. This verse isn’t a warning against working hard and having what we need – it’s a warning about greed. We shouldn’t desire stuff over more important things.
Why shouldn’t we accumulate more things just for the sake of having more stuff? Let me suggest that it’s the same reason that we take pictures of sandcastles, ice sculptures, and rainbows, rather than filling our house with them:
Stuff doesn’t last.
We are reminded of the ephemeral nature of stuff, as we read passages like the following:
Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.
1 John 2:15-17 NASB
Everything we see – every tangible item – isn’t going to stick around in the future. You could argue that people live for eternity, but that’s their souls. Not only will there be a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21:1-2), but we’ll get new bodies (2 Corinthians 5:1-5). Heaven might have some things that bear similarities to what we’re used to in this life; however – as near as I can tell – no bank account, no boat, no building we live in, and no BMW will be transferred to our eternal dwelling.
Don’t get me wrong – there will be great things in Heaven, I’m sure. We will also be in the presence of God Himself, and share the experience with others who love Him. But, the possessions we accumulate here on earth aren’t part of them. So, instead of seeking these things for own comfort, status, or selfishness, let’s use them as tools – a means to an end – in order to gain benefits for eternity.
Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
1 Corinthians 3:12-15 NASB
Rather than investing in things that won’t outlast this decaying world, let’s use what we have to make a lasting impact for God’s kingdom (which does last forever).
I can’t tell you exactly what this looks like in your life. Maybe it is as simple as financially supporting another Christian who is helping expand the kingdom of God. Or, maybe that nice car / van / bike or house / apartment / condo / dorm can be used to provide transportation or hospitality for others, and share the love of God with someone else that He loves. Perhaps our excess (in any particular type of material good) can be shared with those who don’t have enough.
Regardless of your situation, may each of us find new ways for God to use – through us – the material “stuff” that we have, for a cause greater than ourselves.
“Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Luke 12:33-34 NASB
(I encourage you to also read Luke 12:22-32, immediately preceding this passage.)
- Having said that, my country has a lot going for it, both past and present. However, because it is full of imperfect people like me, it remains imperfect. Still, for all my travels, there is no place like home. I hope you feel the same way about your country, no matter its good points and shortcomings. ↩