"All these I have kept," the young man said. "What do I still lack?" Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth." (Matthew 19:20-22 NIV)
My wife and I just recently purchased a new home in the booming Metropolis of Wichita, Kansas. We were fortunate enough to find a house that we both agreed upon which is a miracle. So after a short praise and worship service, we went through the wonderful routine of purchasing the home. We got our realtor, we got our home loan, we made our offer, we haggled....(i just like saying haggle), and then we signed the papers and signed the papers and signed even more papers. I know they like to be thorough but i don't ever remember signing my name that much. Although I guess there was the one time I got in trouble with a teacher in 3rd grade but that doesn't count. I was a victim.
After signing the final papers, the house was ours. Nine months of living in our in-laws basement and we were finally in our own home. I can not express the joy and relief of being in our own home. There is just something about having a space to call yours. There is just something to having your possessions and your couch and your bed and your television that just makes you feel normal.
But before the house could feel like it was ours, we had to move our stuff in. For the last nine months, my wife and I have been storing our stuff in Topeka in a garage at my parents house. So a couple days after acquiring the house, some friends and I made the drive to Topeka to get all the stuff. For a couple hours, we loaded boxes and boxes of possessions that my wife and I had attained over the years. And then we transported the boxes to our new home where they in turn filled up our new garage. As I carried box after box off the truck, i began wondering what was in the boxes. I discovered that 30% of the boxes were Christmas decorations. Another 30% were boxes filled with books and teacher stuff for my wife's job, and then the other 40% was stuff "for the house". As I looked through the boxes, I began to think, "I have purchased a lot of junk."
I started to sort through the things that I have purchased over the years and I sorted through the endless boxes, I thought about how at one time the items I had purchased came with an expectation. I thought to myself that this particular item was going to bring happiness or joy. I thought that product would make me feel better about myself. It would raise my status in society or it would give me peace. I thought about how the all of these things were supposed to make my life easier or better or flashier. But as I sorted through these boxes, I realized that they were all empty promises. None of this stuff changed my life for the better. None of these things made my life complete. Most of this stuff caused me to want to buy more stuff. It is an endless cycle of always trying to keep up with the Jones.
I came across this passage of scripture where a wholesome, pure man comes to Jesus and asks how to get into eternity. Jesus responds by telling the man to follow the commandments in the Bible. Apparently, the guy is really good because he says that he has followed all these commandments and he is ready for another challenge. Jesus tells him to sell all his possessions and give to the poor. At this point, the guy is done. He walks away sad because he had great wealth.
As I think about this story, I am reminded of how difficult it is to walk away from my stuff. Though the boxes sit in the garage and most of it will never be used, it would be so difficult to give this stuff away or sell it. To me, it represents status and security. This "stuff" represents safety and a name. The truth is, most people really don't care how much stuff you have. So the only person I am really trying to impress is myself. Earlier in the book of Matthew, Jesus tells the people to store up treasures in heaven and not on the earth because the stuff on earth will be destroyed.... but the stuff in heaven will last for eternity. As I look in my garage, I am challenged by how much I have set aside in this life versus how much I have set aside in eternity.
And so I look at the boxes of junk that sit in my garage and wonder what I could have done with the money that I spent on all this stuff. Could I have saved a child in a third-world country that can't afford to eat? Could I have given to a ministry in the church that is making a difference in the community? Could I have suprised a single-mom with an anonymous card filled with a giftcard for food? Could I have helped someone in need? Sometimes I am so selfish.
What useless junk have you bought in the last month, week or even day? How much different would our homes, churches and communities be if we stopped buying stuff we don't need and gave to those who were truly in need? I think for the next couple months, I am going to attempt to purchase nothing for myself other than the basics and try to give more money away. I know it's going to be a struggle but if I am honest, I have everything I need. I really do. I don't need another movie. I don't need another shirt. I don't need another vase to sit on my shelf or a piece of furniture. I need food, shelter, and relationships. I need my family and friends. I need God and His Word.
I am still unpacking the boxes and I am still finding empty promises. But I am determined to aquire less and give more. The next time I move (which hopefully won't be in a really long time because my back is killing me) I hope to move less stuff than I did this time.
Note to self: need to make a trip to Wal-Mart to return some stuff I bought that I don't need.