Jump Start # 2773
Luke 12:15 “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.”
Our verse today comes from a conversation between Jesus and an unhappy listener in the audience. It wasn’t something Jesus said that made this man unhappy. Fact is, Jesus was teaching about the Holy Spirit. This man had his mind on other things. He wasn’t interested in the Holy Spirit. His thoughts surrounded the subject of money and how he felt cheated by his own family. Someone had died, likely a father. The inheritance was to be divided. Under Jewish law, the eldest son got half. The other sons split the other half. In all of this, this man didn’t think he got his fair share. So, he interrupts Jesus. Before a crowd he tells Jesus to force his brother to divide the inheritance with him. Maybe the brother kept it all. Maybe the brother didn’t give equal amounts. He thought telling this to Jesus, he would come out with his share of money. Things didn’t go his way. Instead of speaking to the brother, Jesus spoke to this man. Instead of a conversation about dividing and sharing, Jesus chose the topic of greed.
This is where our verse comes in. Life does not consist of possessions. I believe age, maturity and spirituality has a lot to do with understanding this. When a person is young, possessions are important. When a person is old, one begins to think, where am I going to put all of this stuff.
That’s where I’m at. With the death of my dad, comes the task of going through his things. Some items are easy. His clothes do not fit any of us and the style is not ours, so that’s an easy choice. But with any older person, especially those that lived through the depression, there are mountains of papers and papers and papers. Some are easy to toss. My dad loved to make charts. That was the engineer in him. We found notebooks dating from the 1940’s, where he kept the high and low temperature for every single day. Then he’d average the temps out for a month and the year. Interesting, for about ten seconds, but not important to us. But then there are all those other things, such as high school and college diplomas, letters sent from the war, diaries when he was single, postcards of the hospital he recovered in after his war injuries. It was my lot to receive boxes of old Bibles, genealogical records and old, old stuff. It was important to dad. He saved it all these years. Now, it sits in my office at home. What to keep and what to toss, what a hard decision.
And, running behind all of this is our verse today. Life is not made up of possessions. We have found things that we never saw until the past few days. They have been tucked away and never shown to us. What our verse reminds us is that all these possessions did not make my dad. The memories that run deep within our hearts, that’s how we will remember him. The conversations, the smiles, the fun, the music, the games, the wonderful memories—the stuff of life, that’s what we remember.
In all of this there are a few thoughts for us:
First, far too many people define life by possessions rather than the heart. Dropping designer names means something to a lot of people. The brand of suits you wear, the name of the watch you wear, the name of your shoes, the brand of car, the location of your house—all move the needle on those who are interested in possessions. Hollywood is wrapped up in those things. Showing off expensive things is thought to make you someone. To me, it means you spent a lot of money. Some folks can barely make it through a day without having to buy something. Always buying, always needing something—a life of possessions.
Our possessions do not impress God. He owns the whole world. God is interested in your insides and what those possessions do to you. Do you possess them or do they possess you? This is not to say that a poor man wins more favor with God than a wealthy person. It’s not about what you have, but what has you. In acquiring things, have you closed your eyes to those who need you? Have you become rich, while a Lazarus is laying at your gates? Has your stuff made you feel like you are better than others?
Second, someday someone will have to go through all of your stuff. We don’t gather at funerals because of what a person owned. We come because they touched our lives and we loved them. In going through dad’s stuff it really reminded me that someday my kids will have to go through all of my stuff. And, between my wife and I, the real pack rat among us is me. This is especially true of my religious library. When it comes to old stuff, I have a ton. It means a lot to me. Those old preachers and old churches—I have all kinds of information about them. To my kids, they won’t know any of those names or places. I see trash bag after trash bag being filled with all those files I’ve collected. But isn’t that true of all of our stuff? What I liked, my kids don’t. What I’ve treasured, they don’t. And, what do I want them to remember about me? All this stuff that I’m surrounded with or who I was?
Most of us would do our families a huge favor by pitching a lot of things that no longer matter. This summer I threw away my high school year books. I’m the only person that would be interested in them and those pages have turned in my life. I still had my student ID card from college. Scary picture. Useless today. It went bye-bye. Life moves on. One can’t save everything.
The guest registry books that are used at funeral homes—we found the one for our grandma, my mom and now we have dad’s. What to do with those things? Life is filled with mementos. Golf pencils. Old slide rules. Pictures with no names on the back and we don’t know who they are. Postcards from trips. Stuff. Life does not consist of possessions.
Third, a day is coming when all these things will be no more. We don’t be carrying boxes to Heaven with all of these things. We won’t be needing our grade school report cards in Heaven. All the things we treasure will be gone some day. Don’t get so attached to things that you cannot go on without them. Job reminds us that we brought nothing into this world and we will take nothing out, other than a soul. More important than what stuff we’ve collected through the years, will be if our souls are redeemed in the blood of Jesus. Our souls is what will go with us. Valuable heirlooms will simply be passed on to others who likely will not even want them.
It is wonderful working with my two brothers and sister, as we go through dad’s things. One of us would pull something out and ask, “Does anyone want this?” The answer from the others, “It’s yours!” It’s only stuff.
Life does not consist of possessions. If it does not, then what does it consist of? That’s a great study. Life consists of faith, Jesus, love, people, hope and promises. Those are the things that can never be taken away from you and those are the things that cannot really be passed on to others. Each has to find these themselves and treasure them.