Imagine it’s February 2021, it’s time for my family and I to hop on a plane to Scotland for long term missions, and we show up at the airport in a couple 26 foot U-Hauls packed full with our stuff – furniture, bedding, dishes, clothes, all the extras, everything we’ve accumulated … the whole 9 yards. We’d get some funny looks; we might even make it on YouTube … you know one of those “Stupid People Doing Stupid Things” clips. It’s easy to imagine how ridiculous even the thought of this is, but many of us may be doing something quite similar whether we realize it or not.
Jesus once spoke this parable (a simple story teaching a spiritual truth) of a man who not only wanted to hang on to what he had but wanted to store up all of his excess so he could take life easy: “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:16-21)
Here’s a fact our middle & upper class American culture doesn’t like to think or talk about: each one of us will die one day. When we do we’ll leave behind all of our money, retirement investments, houses, and material possessions … everything we have accumulated.
One of the things I have noticed through the last year and a half is how amazed others have been at all we’ve sold and given up in order to do missions across the pond (not that it was a fortune to begin with). I appreciate the sentiment, understand where they are coming from, and it’s not my aim to be critical here. Allow me to be transparent and confess that it’s been a bit emotional for my family and me as we have and continue to go through the process of selling and downsizing. Parting with stuff that we have had for years, stuff we have memories attached to, stuff we still use, stuff we never planned on parting with … even though it is just stuff, it is crazy how attached we can get to it. However, no matter how you cut it, truth is that sooner or later we will all part with our stuff. It is as Job put it: “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return.” (Job 1:21a)
However, Job’s mindset isn’t the typical mindset I find in this American culture and understandably so with all that is right at our fingertips. Quite sadly though, in my experience this isn’t the typical mindset in churches here either. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely believers who are sold out for Jesus, who hold material things with a loose grip, and who invest in The Kingdom with their time, energy, and resources, but this is not the common attitude that I have encountered. Truthfully, it’s not the attitude I have always had either (might I insert here the importance of us being patient with each other as we grow in Christ). Even still, reality is many of us talk a good talk but our walk is marked by a noticeable limp.
Before I do any more beating, let me add some balance to this so as not to be misunderstood: money is not evil, but the love of it is, and it does cause some to wander from the faith (1 Timothy 6:10). To be responsible with money in planning for financial setbacks is a good thing (Ecclesiastes 11:1-2) … we all probably know someone who lives on handouts when they are fully capable of taking care of themselves with a little self-discipline and financial planning. Retirement is not wrong, but the use of it can be (in principle Luke 12:16-21 quoted above). Jesus taught that where our treasure is, that is where our heart will be (Matthew 6:19-21). Believers are instructed not to love the world or the things in the world because the things of this world are passing away (1 John 2:15-17).
The problem comes (1) when we work for our own pleasure, leisure, and financial security over and above and to the neglect of the Kingdom of God and (2) when we are unwilling to part with possessions, comforts, financial security (or really anything) for the Kingdom of God.
Let us remember that no one can serve both God and money/possessions (Matthew 6:24). What we can and should do, however, is use our money and resources (time, energy, abilities, etc.) to serve God. We need to remind ourselves of the truths within God’s Word, such as: “one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). We will all part with our money and possessions at some point. There are at least two places I’ve never seen a U-Haul: at the airport and at the cemetery.