When we were moving from South Africa to Canada we had to go through the pain staking process of sorting through many of our belongings. To help with this our parents laid a blue tarp in the dining room and said, “Everything that is coming to Canada must fit onto this tarp.” It was then that it hit us. Despite our best efforts up to that point, not everything was going to fit on the tarp. The tarp was set to the dimensions of the cargo container that would be transporting our worldly possessions. We had to go through everything and decide how important it was for that particular chair, picture, table, book, toy and any number of other treasures to be placed on the tarp so that it too could make the epic journey across the Atlantic.
As we went through each item and made the decision what to do with it, the process became increasingly harder. Many books, odd toys and other knick knacks were not a problem to get rid of, sell or donate to the next Fair and Market at the church. Even things like a beautiful state of the art sound system and the family car were not too difficult to sell. After all Canada has cars and voltage system for the sound system was different between the two countries. The difficulty and challenge came when we had to decide on the oak dining room table and chairs that my parents had since they were married. That table was the focal point of our family life for birthdays, family meetings and dinner parties. I still can see the scratch marks made by my brother and I in certain corners. The little dotted rows made by my mother’s dress makers tracing wheel that she used for sewing is etched into my memory. The table did not fit on the tarp. As beautiful as it was, it was just too big.
This experience has caused me to reflect many times on the value of our possessions. What makes some things more valuable and essential than others? Why is it that when we go through our stuff it can be really hard to throw some things out?
There is always that nagging little voice inside us that says: “More is better”. Or, “We may need that one day” for some project at some point in time. If we had this, that or the next thing, or better yet all three then we will be much happier. We will be ready and well prepared for that project we may never actually get around to doing. We will have the right friends and have the right kind of lifestyle. Have you ever noticed just how happy and care free people are in most commercials?
Jesus says in today’s Gospel that we are to give up all our possessions if we are to be his disciple (Luke 14: 33). So this can be a problem. Logically we may even argue that we can’t give up everything, we still need the basic necessities in life. Clothing, housing, food, water, an income are just a few things that come to mind. For sure we do need all of these things. The problem is not with the basics in life but rather when our other possessions become more of a priority and take over our lives. We love our toys and stuff. The difficulty comes when what we have gets in the way or prevents us from doing what we should be doing in our daily lives. When we begin to place a higher value on the desire to have more of something rather than focusing on what it is God has called us to do. The problem comes when we focus more on our own needs, rather than the collective needs of all of us and our neighbors.
As I have said before, but it is worth saying again, one of the formational principles of Stewardship is that everything and I mean everything, our church and hall, cars, food, money, homes and lifestyle. all belong to God. All that we have in our lives is a gift from God that we are entrusted with to use as a resource for the work of the Lord. With this in mind we should be asking ourselves, “how do our possessions with everything that God has entrusted to us, serve God’s greater purpose and mission for us in the world?” This is worth spending some time to think about because we have been called by God at this time and in this place for a purpose. We are called with all that we have, just as we are, to be the hands, eyes and feet of Christ in the world. God has called you and me for this work. This is a privilege and a responsibility that has been entrusted to us. The decisions that we make in our daily lives matter because they impact not just ourselves, but everyone else around us as well.
When Jesus says that we are to give up our possessions, he is not saying that we literally have to go and sell and donate everything we have. Rather we are invited to refocus our thinking on our resources and what their primary purposes in our lives are. Do they serve our benefit only, or do they serve as ways and means to give praise to God, each day, every day? When we reflect more deeply on this question we may realize that there are some things despite how precious they seem to be in our lives that we may need to let go and leave behind so that we are able to engage more fully into the life of Christ.