Over the past few days, Laura, the kids and I have been moving to a “new” house (new to us, that is), which is closer to the kids’ school and the church we serve. If you haven’t moved recently, I don’t recommend it. Even after we had gotten rid of a lot of “stuff,” I was still shocked to see how much “stuff” we had to get from one house into another. I don’t know how it happens, but it seems that non-organic objects somehow multiply exponentially.
What starts out as owning a couch and love seat turns into needing another chair, and then a sectional for another part of the house. This happens in our closets, too. We add shirts, slacks, and dresses, and rather than purge ourselves of what we’ve already owned, we begin to accumulate. Over the course of many years, we now have a “winter wardrobe,” and a “summer wardrobe,” and something, of course, for the seasons in between.
We don’t mean to be hoarders—even if we’re not the type that would make it on the reality TV show. But we find it harder and harder to throw things away or give them to others. You never know when you might need that “doohickey,” even though you haven’t used it for years.
The Bible speaks as strongly about this subject as it does almost any other. God taught the Israelites to place their complete dependence upon Him, when He led them through the wilderness. They were to eat the manna from heaven, but only one day’s supply. If they tried to accumulate, the manna rotted with maggots. If they tried to transport too many belongings, they would grow weary and faint.
Likewise, in the New Testament, we read that our hope is not in what we possess but in the fact that we are in the possession of our Lord (1 Timothy 6:17). Jesus told the story of a rich man who ran out of space to store his crops. He decided to tear down his barns and build bigger ones, and there he would store all his grain and goods. This seems reasonable enough, and the rich man said to himself, “You have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry” (Luke 12:19). Isn’t that part of the American Dream?
God gives a harsh judgment, though: “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be? So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:20). God’s condemnation comes not because the man was a builder or a wise businessman, but because the rich man laid up treasure only for himself. He had no concern for God or others.
When I read this story I have to come under the scrutiny of the text. Am I like the rich man who builds only for himself, so that one day I can relax, eat, drink, and be merry? As I move down the path of saving, investing, and purchasing, is there any difference in my purpose and motivation that guides my decisions versus someone who is not a Christian? How does following God influence my decisions to buy, spend, and invest? The issue in the New Testament does not appear to be related to how much you have as to what you do with what you have and whether or not you are rich toward God.
Again, quoting from Paul’s instruction to Timothy: “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life” (1 Timothy 6:17-19).
For all of us who might not consider ourselves to be rich, be made aware that half the world’s population lives on $2.00 a day or less. The house we just moved into, though smaller than the one we sold, would still fit several families (or more) from third-world countries. So, let’s be generous and ready to share. That type of “storing up” is not accumulation for self, but for laying a good foundation for the future. Then, and only then, will we understand what it truly means to be rich.