Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Matthew 6:19-21 (KJV)
On his latest visit, my Ethiopian friend Getch was confounded by the proliferation of “storage units” throughout our city. “Whatever are they for?” he wondered. It was difficult for me to explain that Americans have so much stuff that they have to rent additional space to warehouse it. In the whole continent of Africa where most people are happy just to have daily food for their families, the idea of excess was incomprehensible to Getch. And it was a little difficult for me to justify the situation.
In the Bible Jesus is approached by a man who wants him to convince his brother to divide an inheritance. Rather than side with the offended man, Jesus says that life doesn’t consist of lots of things (not what the brother wanted to hear). Jesus goes on to tell the story of the rich man whose harvest was so great, his barns couldn’t hold everything. Instead of opening the barn doors and inviting the poor and needy to help themselves, the rich man decided to tear down the structures and build larger barns so that he could sit back and enjoy his wealth. Jesus calls him a fool. Life isn’t about things.
Have you ever wrecked your dream car? Or had moths eat holes into an expensive Oriental rug? Or had someone accidently break a treasured piece of porcelain? Or even lost a valued possession? Life isn’t about things.
I heard a noted Bible scholar say once that abundance is having enough for the needs of you and your family with something left to share. That’s what those charity bags are all about. This is a great time of the year to open up the barns and pull out everything we don’t need or use. And it’s a good time to open our hearts to see if we’re holding things or if they’re holding us.
What about conducting a little test? Can we readily open up the closets and cupboards and take out those spare items that we’re storing for that rainy day? Things that we might need some year way down the line? What would happen if we all radically began to give generously, even sacrificially? Let’s get our bags out today and see. It IS more blessed to give than to receive.
Father, we are so blessed that sometimes it’s hard for us to let go. Fill us with such gratitude that we joyously open our hearts and hands to those in need—just as you did and do with us. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.