Background Scripture: Matthew 6:19-24
Quotes of the Week:
Every right implies a responsibility; Every opportunity, an obligation, Every possession, a duty.
John D. Rockefeller
This lesson continues with the theme of transformation; only this time we are talking about our possessions. I doubt that many of us have the Transformer toys anymore, but we all have possessions. Some possess a little. Some possess a lot. Sometimes, after a tornado or a fire, you may hear someone on the news that says that they lost everything. I remember hearing a man talking about moving across the country with everything he owned in a trailer. He had an accident and lost everything, and he said it was the most freeing event of his life. I can't imagine any of us saying that, but I don't know what else may have been going on at that time in his life. Maybe he just wanted to start over.
If you had access to a Treasure Map, would you use it? As children, we are often enthralled by the idea of treasures. I know I used to think about the bucket of gold at the end of the rainbow (I never found the bucket), although I've seen plenty of rainbows in my life. I guess I assumed a leprechaun was there guarding the pot of gold. The thought of sunken treasures or treasures hidden away someplace is the focal point of many stories. You've probably seen TV shows where investors have spent a lot of money sending divers out to the area where ships had crashed long ago. Everyone wonders what treasure will be brought up. People even look for treasures among other people's trash. You have probably seen different shows on TV where people bring old antiques and other things they find in their attics or basements, hoping that they have a very big find! Others go to yard sales and flea markets, looking for that little nugget that sells for a couple of dollars, but is worth thousands. There is the thought that once we get that big score, we will be set. But, it never truly satisfies.
When I was growing up, we had neighbors down the street that owned a store called Trash and Treasures (or at least that is what I think the store was called). I don't remember much about that store, other than the name (I think) and where it was located, but I thought it was pretty catchy. I couldn't think of why you would sell trash, but again, I was young. It more or less summed up the concept that there are things that some people will place a lot of value on, and there are other people who think that very same thing might be tacky. I guess it largely depends on where you were raised and the types of things that you were taught to be valuable or preferred.
Is there anything wrong with possessions? Not at all. It is fine to own possessions, but it becomes a problem when they own you. It is good for us to work for a living, and to do so requires some form of transportation, as well as provision of food and shelter. It is good to be able to relax and enjoy time off, so some people spend money on boats or other recreational vehicles. It is good to be able to travel and see the world. I believe that you can find two nearly identical people who have the same type of things, and for one, it may be that they enjoy their possessions, but the possessions are not their top priority. For the other person, it could be that those possessions seem to define them. They worked and worked to get the things that they have and those things become a status symbol of sorts. You can't really look at a bank account, or the type of house a person lives in or the vehicles that they have and make an assessment of where they stand before God. We each have a pretty good idea where we stand individually, and I would have to say that we all tend to be bitten by the 'got to have' bug, from time to time.
We are constantly bombarded with the thought that we need more. You can't watch TV without being told that you need something. If you have cable TV or some other service with hundreds of stations, many of those stations are focused on selling you what you just "got to have". They can be somewhat mesmerizing (for some reason) and are pretty addicting for some. If you watch for a while, you see all the cool features and easy payment plans andů quick, turn the channel (or that thing you don't really need might end up on your front porch in 3 to 5 business days). If you go online, there are ads that often are focused on what you may have searched for recently. For example, as we were looking at home modifications for my ALS, we were looking at stair lift options - the chairs the go up and down, as well as incline platforms for wheelchairs (and let me tell you, those are quite pricey!). For a while on facebook, ads for stair lifts kept showing up next to my new feed. They are tricky, aren't they?
We all tend to have more than we need. Even when we don't think we have a lot, we will find that we have much more than really need. We look to put things away in our homes, often in the off chance that one day we may need it. Some people hang on to family heirlooms, and other people just seem to amass stuff, more and more over time. There is a practical question of how much can a person store up and still know what they have. I know that Berkley and I have a lot of tools, and quite frankly, since neither of us know Bob Villa, there are many tools that we do not know about - what they are or how they would be used.
Jesus pointed to a problem with storing treasures of different types. For different types of material, moths and other vermin will destroy over time. Who knows how they get in there, but they seem to find a way. For other things of value, there is always the risk of somebody breaking in and stealing it. We can try and secure our houses and our possessions, but if anyone really wants in, they can find a way.
Jesus said that storing up treasure is not bad in and of itself, but it is more important where you store up your treasure. He wasn't saying that the U-Store It is better or worse than Public Storage, but He did say that amassing treasure on earth can be problematic. Instead, we should strive to store up treasures in heaven. Then, Jesus said "for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." We know that we put a higher value on what we prize as valuable.
Where is your heart? Are you focused so much on a 401K, or some other investment that you lose sleep each night? I know people that seemed to live and die each day, based on how their investments did. We read the familiar verses that say that God takes care of the birds, and clothes the flowers of the field, but so many are much more focused on the money they are saving up. Don't get me wrong, it is good to save and God will allow us to earn to provide for our needs, but realize that it is all about God's provision. In a single fell swoop of a disease or some other catastrophe, bank accounts can be washed away.
If your treasure is found in earthly things, financial accounts, possessions, homes, cars and/or land, it will not last. Heavenly treasures, however, are spiritual and cannot be touched by the world. In fact, when the other earthly treasures are diminished, the heavenly treasures seem to shine.
Are your eyes on the light? Are you focused on the things of God and is that where you truly find peace and joy? When we begin to focus on the things of the world, we begin to become more and more like the world. The book of Romans tells us to not be conformed to the world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. When we are focused on pleasing ourselves, according to our human nature, we tend to bring in more darkness.
In this whole play of light vs darkness, there is always a winner. If there is a dark room, and even the light of a match comes in, it brings some measure of light throughout the room. If there is a light room and you bring in darkness, if doesn't over power the light, but is only found in the shadows. The more obstructions that there are to the light, the darker parts of the room seem to become. The problem is that we are in a world that throws more and more shadows into our lit room. As believers, we do have the light of Christ, but as we allow more things of the world to come in, parts of our lives are in the shadows. The light is as bright as it ever was, but when we allow the world to cast shadows, our lives become darker and darker. Unfortunately, we become adjusted to more and more things of the world, and I believe we would each say that our lives are not be as bright as we know they should be.
Jesus says that no man can serve two masters. Ultimately, you have to choose who you will serve. He says that you will either hate one and love the other or you will be devoted to one and despise the other. In the company that I have worked for nearly my entire career, we have had functional and program specific management chains. While this does not lend itself to loving and hating, or being devoted and despising, it does often place an employee in the position to decide who they will please. Ultimately, one boss is responsible for your review and your raise, so the choice is a bit easier, but the other line of command may be more instrumental in getting another job in the company. I believe Jesus is talking about who we align with. Are we going to align with God, as our ultimate Master, or are we going to align with the things of the world? Aligning with the world does not mean that you choose a life of crime or are into heinous sins, but it could be that we become more and more ambivalent about God, which is exactly the position that our enemy, the devil would have us be. We tend to forget that we have the hope of eternity with God, and we are too easily swayed by the calling of the world. We can still go to church each week and we can be part of Bible Studies, but if we are not being changed by what we hear and read and study, it is like we are riding the fence. Many people want to keep a foot on both sides, but over time, a decision has to be made. God is not content with having half hearted believers. Jesus didn't die for people who want to accept the gift, but show no desire to change their lives to live in the light.
It is not a bad thing to have possessions and it is not a bad thing to save throughout your career. These are wise things for each of us to do. But, look at how you live your life. Do you have a heart that seeks to help others in need? When we become so tied to our stuff that we refuse to see the needs of others, we need to take a step back and realize what has been done for us.
We have been redeemed. We are free from the guilt of our sin and we are free to walk in newness of life. God sent His Son as the only valid payment for each of us. Let us reflect on what we have been given and alter our lives accordingly, realizing that our most precious possession is the gift of God's Son.