Rev. Dr. Scott D. Hannon
St. John Lutheran Church, Amherst, NY
I stood in my basement looking around at totes, bins, baskets, and cluttered shelves. As I approached each item I had one single question in mind: Do I need this? We were preparing our house to go on the market and the realtor gave us a simple task… Get the stuff out.
Over the years my wife and I have collected a lot of stuff. We have too many Christmas decorations. We have bins of kids’ clothes. We have dishes we each brought into our marriage collecting dust because we got new dishes when we were wed. We have college papers and she has a lot of trophies, a lot. We have coats we’ll never wear again and an unbelievable amount of sentimental possessions that have no place in our home, but take up a lot of space in our basement. We have stuff – which is remarkable because I feel like I’m always running clothes and items to the charity bins at church. Despite routinely getting rid of things, we still have so much.
As I went through our basement I made three piles – toss, donate, and keep. We tossed a lot. We donated a ton. And we kept a little. This process all happened a little over a month ago. What we have found surprising is just how little we miss all that stuff. Our basement is nearly empty. We have one shelving unit and a box on the floor for random necessities. Otherwise, it is bare. And not only do we not miss it, it is kind of nice to be free from all that clutter.
In scripture Jesus says, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” He says this in response to a guy who wants Jesus to tell his brother to give him his share of the inheritance. It seems as though even in antiquity people got caught up collecting. There seems to be something wired in us to misplace our security in what we have and to always worry that we don’t have enough.
Instead of collecting stuff Jesus encourages his disciples to store up treasures in heaven. He warns us that worrying too much about what we have here is a waste of time because like they say… you can’t take it with you. To the guy who wanted his share of the inheritance Jesus tells a story. He says that there was a guy who had a lot of stuff. So, he built bigger and bigger barns to hold it all. Unfortunately, the moment he felt secure he lost his life and his stuff became someone else’s. “So it goes,” Jesus says, “with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.” Luke 12:13-21
Instead of worrying about whether or not we have enough stuff, let us consider the ways we can build up our treasure in heaven. Moreover, whether you’re considering moving or not do an inventory of all the things around you. Ask yourself: Do I need this? Or, is this just taking up space in my home and in my life? That question can be asked not just about physical property but also a host of other things that fill our lives – obligations, relationships, self-imposed responsibilities, things at work, things at home – ask yourself: Do I need this? And if the answer is no, by all means use that discovery as an opportunity to make room for God.
If you’re wondering how to store up treasure in heaven consider the following practices…
Worship – make and take time to praise and glorify God. Worship not so you can get something out of it, but so that you can offer a part of your life and energy to God. And be amazed at how that investment pays off.
Read Scripture – develop a practice of reading scripture. Sign up for a daily verse to be emailed to you or buy a devotional book at the bookstore. Take a break from social media and so-called news to read God’s Word.
Pray – routinely and frequently interrupt your routine with prayer. Offer thanks, ask for help, seek guidance, and, more than anything, listen.
Give – instead of collecting for yourself, give yourself (and your stuff) to others.
May you be surprised by how little you miss the stuff that takes up so much space in your life. And may you be wowed by how great the riches of God’s Kingdom are.
For more inspiration and insights from Pastor Scott and Pastor Shawn’s past columns, please visit www.jamestowngazette.com and click on the Faith Matters page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.