I love stuff. I love to collect stuff and I have a lot of stuff. I collect books and have a large library. I collect teapots and have a lot of them and a lot of tea to fill them. I collect Polish pottery, German pottery, Christmas decorations, crochet items, music, dishes, turtles, and quilts. I was made painfully aware of just how much stuff I really have recently when I moved from one house to another. I had my “stuff” to unbox, my adult children’s memorabilia stuff that they told me to throw out but of course I couldn’t throw it out because it was their childhood stuff, my son’s stuff and a lot of stuff that I inherited from my parents when they passed on to glory. I realized that my stuff is bordering on too much stuff when nearly a year later I am still sorting through my stuff! So I decided to take a look at what the Bible has to say about stuff! The first verse that comes to mind is this.
What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Mark 8:36, (New International Version or NIV).
Jesus is explaining to His disciples what the cost is for being a follower of Christ but that the cost is well worth it. I think we should read this verse in its context.
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” Mark 8:34-38, (NIV).
As you can see Jesus speaks rather bluntly, but in a gentle way, to the disciples because He wants them to understand the importance of their mission. Had the eleven disciples, plus Paul, also known as apostles, not listened to Jesus you and I might not know about what Jesus came to earth for and we would still be lost in our sin without salvation. That’s a grim thought!
The next verse that screams out to me is the story of the rich young ruler who asked Jesus what he must do to be saved. Jesus answered him that he needed to keep all the commands of Moses to which the young ruler replied that he had but wanted to know if that was enough. Jesus’s reply is interesting.
Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:21-26, (NIV).
Some people like to use this scripture to say that rich people won’t be in heaven. I don’t think that is really a fair analysis or interpretation. Jesus was telling a young rich man if he had followed the commands of Moses, the Jewish Law, as he had bragged that he had since his youth, then the only thing left for the lad to do was to share his wealth, sell it all and give it to the poor. Why? Because Jesus knew the lad was lying about keeping all the commandments. We all lie to ourselves at times and while we may believe our own lies we cannot lie to God. Jesus’s point is that what we have here on earth will not last, but what we do for others here on earth is real wealth in heaven. This is a step-on-my-toes passage of scripture for me. I have a collection of teapots which are designed to serve tea to myself and to others. How many times have I drank tea poured from those pots yet never shared any tea with someone else? Have I shared someone else’s burdens? A cup of tea goes well with listening to someone who needs someone to support and encourage them. I collect books, how many of those books have I shared so that others can draw some encouragement from them as I have? See where this is going? Hmmmm! What else does the Bible have to say about stuff?
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. Matthew 6:19-24, (NIV).
Jesus is teaching us that the true Christian will live on earth but will live with purpose and intention. We are to be focused on the future, the long-term future of eternity in heaven and not the short-term future of life on earth. I heard a preacher say once that the only treasure we can take with us to heaven is the souls of the lives we invested in here on earth. That is the point of this passage and it is food for thought. I can’t take anything with me, why? The Apostle Paul gives a great description of a Christian’s life and how we are to build upon the foundation of Jesus Christ as you will see.
I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building. By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames. I Corinthians 3:6-15, (NIV).
So you see everything we do on earth will be tested by fire. I don’t think my collection of books, teapots, turtles, and so on will survive the fire. However, the people I meet along the way and get to know and share the good news of Jesus Christ with will survive the test of fire. This is a sobering thought. Where do you spend most of your time, energy, and resources? Are you collecting stuff or are you collecting relationships that will last through eternity? To be perfectly honest I struggle with getting out there and meeting people to encourage them, to build them up and to simply love them. I know that I need to work more in this area of my life.
As for me and my stuff, I am pleased to report that I have parted with a lot. I sold some furniture and I got rid of some books and donated some household things to a worthy charity. Truth be told, though, I need to keep cleaning out and getting rid of more or otherwise when I die my children will have to do that and I am sure they will be thankful that I threw away their baby teeth, donated their old toys, and recycled their coats and sweatshirts they so willingly left behind when they moved away from home. Someone somewhere on this planet has need of those things and I plan to see that they get it. What about your stuff?