Jump Start # 2417
Luke 12:15 “And He said to them, ‘Beware , and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when on has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.”
Our verse today is sandwiched between someone wanting Jesus to settle a family dispute about inheritances and the parable of the farmer who tore down his barns to build larger barns. The man who asked Jesus the question didn’t get the answer he was hoping for. Jesus turned it on him and taught about greed and materialism. The farmer in the parable, is a mirror of this man who asked Jesus the question. The farmer only talked about himself and he made no references to God. He died and all his stuff went to someone else.
I was thinking about this the other day. I’ve got an appointment down the road with an attorney. It’s time to draw up some specific wills. Up to this point our will has been pretty vague. If I die, it all goes to my wife. If she died, it all goes to me. And, we never really had much. Now, it’s time to put more thought into it. Life doesn’t consist of possessions. Our lives are not defined by what we own. Our souls, our love, our hearts are of much more value and memories than stuff. But, what does one do with all the stuff? And as one gets older, it seems that there is more stuff and sometimes this stuff actually is rare, historical and has some value to it. On top of this, being a preacher for nearly forty years, and a religious pack rat at that, I occupy two rooms at the church building with all my file cabinets, books and stuff. And, from what people say, millennials are not really interested in their parents things. I can see some of that. The way I have decorated my offices is not the way my kids decorate their homes. What is interesting to me, probably is not to them. What means so much to me, doesn’t move the needle for them.
So, I took out a blank piece of paper and started writing down some of the valuable things I believe we have. That was easy to do. Now, who gets what? That’s where I’m stuck. Some things cannot be divided up, such as a piano. Investments are easy to deal with. Just divide them equally among the kids. The house, sell and divide the proceeds equally. Furniture, take what you want, sell or donate the rest. Easy. But it’s the special things, the possessions that are hard to know what to do with.
Sometimes we spend a lifetime collecting these possessions. A person will hunt things down in flea markets, garage sells and on Ebay. They collect. They save. They are important to them. But, as in the case of the rich farmer in the parable, “now who will own what you have prepared?” Great question. Hard to answer.
But here are some things I learned in this process:
First, who I am is not defined by what I have on the walls. The memories of our hearts, our times we spent together, our love, the holidays, this is how I want them to remember me. Remember me by my lessons, my writing and what I believed in. I have a cool hour glass sitting on my desk. The grandkids love to turn it over and watch the sand fall. But that’s not me. It’s just something sitting on my desk. What if the kids take all the stuff and sell it on Ebay? I’ll be out of this earthly room and it won’t matter to me. These things have served me and they may not serve others.
Second, we can get really worked up about our possessions. I’ve been to funerals where literally, as soon as the amen was said at the cemetery, the wheels were squealing as the kids were racing to the house to get what they wanted. I’ve known families that sued each other over stuff. Somehow I just have to believe that mom and dad didn’t do a very good job of teaching their kids about what was important in life. If one doesn’t believe in life after death, then this is all that there is and they will try to grab all that they can. So you get grandma’s old rocking chair, if you had to crush your relationships to get it, is it really worth it? It’s just stuff. A quick Indiana tornado and it can all be gone in seconds. Too many families get worked up over stuff rather than building quality relationships with each other.
Third, someday all of it will be gone. Jesus is coming. That’s a fact. The N.T. teaches that from the first book to the last book. And, according to what Peter wrote, when He comes, the earth and all of its works will be burned up. So, Junior got the grandfather clock and you didn’t. It’s only for a short time. Before you know it, the Lord will come and no one will have it. As Job says, naked we came and naked we go. All that we take with us is our souls and the record of our life. So, in the big picture of things, it really doesn’t matter who gets what because before long, it’s all gone.
Fourth, as our society prospers, we must be careful about passing on to the next generation large sums of money without godly instructions. Money can ruin some people and as the Bible states, it is the root of all ut sorts of trouble. Nothing wrong with leaving kids and grandkids money, but do them a favor and teach them about the power of money and the good that can be done with money. Money can ruin a heart and it can get a lot of people into trouble. So, while you are alive, teach your kids and grandkids about the value of money. I’ve seen people running through money, buying useless stuff and it’s gone as quickly as they got it and they have nothing worthwhile to show for it. They didn’t honor God with it. They didn’t use it wisely. They didn’t think about the future. It’s was shopping time and boy, it was gone in a flash. God is generous with us but he expects us to be good stewards and to use it properly. Should that be any different with the things we hand our children? Doors can be opened and opportunities created through generous giving, but in the wrong hands and with the wrong heart, much pain and sorry can come from money.
Now, let me say this, since I’m on this topic, and this is strictly, Roger’s opinion: I’m not a fan of willing money to a congregation. Some do that and that’s their choice. I’ve seen some who willed money to a church for new song books. The elders at that congregation didn’t want new song books, so the money was put into the general fund. That wasn’t the wish of the people who donated the money. I’d rather see a person give as much as he can while he is alive. Influence and see that the money is used wisely. Once you have passed away, who knows how the money may be used. That’s just my feelings.
Finally, all of this discussion ought to make us realize how blessed we are. We complain about this and that, but our closets are stuffed. We rent storage sheds because we don’t have room for all of our things. Our pantry is filled. It’s hard even to pray, ‘Give us this day our daily bread,’ because we have enough food in the house to last us weeks. We make a lot of money these days. We live in large homes these days. Everyone of age, has their own cars. I saw a stat the other day that on this planet, more people have cell phones than tooth brushes. We need to be thankful. We need to be good stewards. We need to share. We need to realize with much, much is required.
Life is more than possessions and it is important that the possessions do not possess us. Do I own the stuff or does the stuff own me? As I looked over my sheet of paper, I realized I forgot all my ties and colorful socks. Maybe we’ll just pass them out at my funeral…