How Did I Miss That?
Part 4: Our Possessions Possess Us
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
My wife and I are blessed to live in a large house on 5 acres of land. It is located in the rolling hills south of Lawrence, Kansas, among a beautiful mix of field and forest. We enjoy stunning sunsets on a regular basis and can view much of the night sky that is invisible to our city brethren. Even when our children were home, we had plenty of room for everyone and everyone’s stuff. Musical instruments, clothes, books, music, furniture – you name it, we probably have it.
As I age, I notice that much of what I was excited to possess in earlier days requires an amount of time and resources that is disproportionate to its current value to me. So many things I simply had to have in my younger years now have me wondering I was thinking. Even trying to thin out the excess, however, is a difficult process. First, one never knows when something might come in handy – or when a friend or family member might need it. Second, there is sentimental value in much of what we have. It is difficult just to throw that away. Third, passing things on to others means cleaning, moving, and organizing. It is often easier to hoard (or to leave the problem for my children).
Jesus warned us not to store up for ourselves treasures of the earth. Actually, I think his point has to do with what we value, more than what we possess. If we keep things we do not need, however, we are assigning a value to them – even if only the value of not having to get rid of them. There are reasons, however, that holding onto stuff in excess of our need is inconsistent with Christian teaching. First, there are those who really need some of what gathers dust in our homes. Second, there is a maintenance cost associated with everything we keep, and those costs are resources unavailable for other, more important uses. Third, and most important in my opinion, our possessions possess us.
In too many ways, I am a slave to my possessions. When I spend my weekends maintaining my large yard or trying to keep our big house clean, I have neither time nor energy to dedicate to other needs of my family, friends, and community. If I must first rearrange my old stuff to make room for new stuff, I accomplish nothing of value – for myself or others. If my heart – my time, my attention, and my God-given resources – is consumed in caring for my stuff, where, when, and how can I have a heart for others? It is a challenging spiritual dilemma, and one I will likely wrestle with the rest of my life.
Our possessions possess us. How did I miss that?