August 9, 2013

Who owns my stuff?

In the past three days, we have toured six museums of the vast nineteen buildings that make up the Smithsonian in Washington, DC. While overwhelmed by the beauty of Monet paintings and fascinated by the work of international spies (there is a Spy Museum), I do agree with the wisdom and command of God in these words…
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19–21)

Augustine of Hippo, an early Christian theologian whose writings influenced the development of Western Christianity and philosophy (354-430) is viewed as one of the most important Church Fathers. His works, “City of God” and “Confessions” are read widely today. He wrote today’s devotional on the theme of heaping up treasure on earth. He said, “What is more mad, more unhappy? All day long you are harassed by labor, all night agitated by fear. That your coffer may be filled with money, your soul is in a fever of anxiety.”

What could be more contemporary and relevant? We are in the capital city of American where this is illustrated on every street. Surely, “Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro: he bustles about, but only in vain; he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it” (Psalm 39:6).

Yes, we bustle about in vain, even when all of that bustling is successful. Wealth accumulates and yet we die so soon, as do our children. As Augustine says, this is great futility that ones who must soon die lay up for those who must soon die also.

As for storing things in museums, I cannot say that is wrong. Looking at the past can prepare and equip us for the future. However, the value put on the stuff is seldom about that, except perhaps the artifacts and photographs in the Holocaust Memorial. I have to ask the question – what is the difference between a museum and a hoarder’s stash? Perhaps the perceived value? Or the sophisticated presentation? Or the security guards?

Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away” (Matthew 24:35). I am aware of that. I am also aware of wanting what I have possessed and produced here to have a significant fate rather than end up in the trash heap or a bonfire. I understand the human desire to keep and preserve what has been done.

But I also understand that I will not lose what I have given away. It may be that what I hold on earth (with anxiety) I will also possess in heaven free from care. God shows me over and over how important to not hold tightly to any of it. Instead, I’m to let Jesus take charge of my stuff and thus be in charge of my heart.


jesusandthebible said...

Later, in Mt. 19:21, Jesus will say more about what it means to have treasure in heaven (instead of treasures on earth). He tells the rich man to sell his treasured possessions and give to the poor, and he will have treasure in heaven, and come, follow him (Jesus). Thus it is especially by giving and sharing among the poor that we both reduce our treasures on earth and increase our treasure in heaven.

LC said...

Interesting timing. I wrote today's post about "laying up treasure" before reading your comment! In context, the instructions to the rich man were about this principle, but more about revealing the man's heart. We never earn salvation (as he wanted to do) by giving to the poor. Instead, this is evidence that God has already redeemed us and given us new life in Christ. Giving to the poor or other good works are evidence of that, not an effort to earn it. Thanks for your comment!