I have lately recognized a terrible flaw in my character.
I suppose this sort of discovery is to be expected — someone once told me, early on in my Christian life, that the experience would be something like walking toward a bright light: As one gets closer, the imperfections and blemishes that were not noticeable previously become more and more apparent — and more and more repugnant. As I grow in my knowledge of God through Christ, He continually reveals things to me to which I had previously been blind (see prior post about the “Zipporah Moment” for an example).
I have lived my life as a human lint roller. As metaphors go, there may be a better one out there: any object or device that roams around, gathering up objects, seeking to possess and absorb them like an amoeba:
- A vacuum-robot;
- A Venus flytrap;
- A Hungry Hungry Hippo;
…you get the idea.
My paradigm in life has been to be in constant seek-and-acquire mode. I see now how perverse and pervasive this is. It is completely incompatible with the teachings of Jesus, particularly Luke 12:15 —
Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
“Seek-and-acquire” certainly is one of the “kinds of greed” he is talking about. As a disciple, I ought to be on my guard against this. The verses come at me rapid-fire now:
“In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.”Luke 14:33
“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”Luke 12:32-34
“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:31-33
That’s right. You heard him right. The pagans run after these things. The pagans: people who reject God, people whose religion consists of appeasing imaginary deities to obtain physical “blessings.” They run after these things: their life is bound up in the here and now, trying to gather stuff, to line the nest, to decorate their dwellings. God sent the prophet Haggai to Israel to condemn their selfish materialism:
Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai:“Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?”
Haggai is the perfect prophet for bouregois materialists. The Israelites of his time reveled in their nice, paneled houses. They probably boasted to their neighbors, “Look at this great paneling! Persian Walnut!” They (like me) never stopped their acquisitive ways long enough to consider how God was actually withholding His blessing:
Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”
The pagans run after these things. But God (if we trust Him) is willing and able to provide for our every need. Instead of living life as a hungry Pac-Man, a human lint roller, I ought to instead seek to give everything away – at least live with a completely open hand about everything I possess.
The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.‘ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.
A perfectly reasonable answer, for the acquisitive Pac-Man. Just build bigger barns for all your stuff. Get a bigger house. Build a bigger shed. Get a house with a three-car garage. More stuff, more storage. But Jesus reminds us that all our assets (for which we like to use words like ‘hard’ and ‘permanent’ and ‘real’) are in fact nothing but vapor. All of our “surplus” stuff is worthless, EXCEPT inasmuch as we give it away to others:
Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. Luke 12:33
The wealthy man (in which I see a reflection of myself) ought to have given away his surplus. There was a better way to live. There is a better way to live, to expect a “Well done!” instead of a “You fool!” from the mouth of the Almighty as I enter the afterlife:
After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
Teach me, O Lord, to fill that purse that will not wear out, the real assets that are truly real. Change my Pac-Man, lint-roller heart.