Whoa . . . now how many of us actually put God before our possessions (including money)? Be honest now. I think of Job every time I think of how we so closely hold on to “our” money and “our” possessions. How many of us could endure what Job endured when he didn’t do anything to cause what happened to him (losing everything–his home, all of his possessions and material wealth, all of his children, his health–EVERYTHING except for his wife and three friends who weren’t exactly helpful).
Truth is . . . we own nothing. Now that’s a hard concept for most people to swallow, but if we are Christian, we know that God owns everything. And if we are Christian, we are the stewards of what He gives to us, whether it is material possessions or money or even talents and skills. Unfortunately, in the current climate in America we tend to forget all about that. We tend to think we own everything we possess including our bank accounts and our talents and our spouses and children and even our health when in a moment’s notice it could all go up in smoke . . . reminding us that we actually own nothing.
I don’t say this to scare anyone. I say it to make all of us think beyond the surface of this life. We are all quite aware that unfortunate and devastating circumstances can happen in a moment’s notice (just ask all of the millions of unemployed people in America who have lost their livelihoods and most likely many, many material possessions including homes and money because of it). Retirement accounts have vanished in the wind; savings have been spent to keep the bills paid; and still the outlook since 2008 is very bleak for many of these millions of Americans to ever find employment again outside of a miracle from God (and God IS still in the miracle-working business). That number includes me.
I lost all of my furniture, over 600 books (I actually think the count was closer to 1000 but I never kept track of the number of books I owned) and a major part of my material possessions in September 2009 when I left Houston to return to Florida after losing my job in Houston in April 2009 (I had to stay there until my apartment lease ran out at the end of September). I also instantly lost a salary of $52,000/yr when I lost that job as well as other benefits the job provided. And, I was forced to live on $275/wk before taxes in unemployment benefits (through Florida) which didn’t begin to cover my rent, car payment, and other necessities of life in Houston on a monthly basis. It was a shock, to say the least, but I remember how incredibly grateful I was to receive that first unemployment check, even as small as it was, because God was faithful to me even in the midst of great despair. What looked like the end of my world as I knew it was really the beginning of the greatest adventure I’ve been on in this life. I just didn’t realize it at the time, but I clearly see it now.
If you’ve read any of my previous blog posts there is a scarlet thread the weaves it’s way through all of them, connecting them is a way I never could have done on my own. Much like Aslan, the Great Lion, in The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, this scarlet thread is what has held my life together. This scarlet thread, just like Aslan, is Jesus Christ. And I make no apologizes in a world gone mad for clinging to the One I know to be True (and Truth). He has been so incredibly faithful to me over these past three plus years that it makes all the suffering through long-term unemployment and losing most everything “I” owned seem like an incredibly small sacrifice to pay for the privilege of knowing and following after Him. The world may mock, but for those of us who truly know the Savior, it is the world that is losing out. Not even the most spectacular special effects that Hollywood can come up with can begin to compare to a life given over the One who created life in the first place.
I’ve come to learn that I own nothing . . . and He owns everything. I’ve come to learn that any talent I have is a gift from Him. Like the Apostle Paul, I’ve learned (and I’m still learning) that whatever the circumstances of my life may be at any given time I am content because I know that Jesus Christ has already cleared the path ahead before I even get there. The passage I’m referring to is Phil. 4:10-13 (NIV 1984): “I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him (Christ) who gives me strength.”
As long as we cling to “our” possessions and “our” money and “our” talents, we miss out on the greatest adventure this life and eternity has to offer. We cannot serve both God and money (and material possessions). Jesus made that clear in His Sermon on the Mount. The Message Bible states Matt. 6:19-24 like this: ” 19-21Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.
22-23“Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have!
24“You can’t worship two gods at once. Loving one god, you’ll end up hating the other. Adoration of one feeds contempt for the other. You can’t worship God and Money both.”
So, let’s stop clinging to all the things we think we own but we don’t. And let’s start trusting God to provide for all of our needs instead of ourselves. After all, it’s always been that way whether we see it or not. And He has a way of clearing our vision on that account if we give up our ownership over those things we never really owned in the first place.
Got it? I think it’s a great way to start a brand new year!!!
The idea for the title for this post came from the January 2nd devotion in “Open Windows” (Winter 2011-12)–Southern Baptist Guide for Personal Devotions (published by LifeWay). That devotion is titled “Put God Before Possessions.”
Photo credit (with an article) here