We very seldom view accumulating stuff as a barrier to serving others. Common sense would seem to say that if you possess more stuff then you have more with which to serve others. Jesus appeared to see this from a different perspective. In Luke 12 Jesus tells a parable of a rich man whose land is especially productive and has much more than he needs. The rich man comes to a simple conclusion of what to do with this incredible blessing:
I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.
Jesus proceeds to tell His disciples (which hopefully includes you and me) that our lives should follow a radically different path rooted in living out His kingdom in the here and now. Here’s Jesus’ radical conclusion of how that should look:
Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
I don’t want to get too preachy here, but as followers of Jesus a big part of our mission (our reason for existing on this earth) is to be a glimpse of Jesus’ coming kingdom. Think of our life’s misson as being an appetizer for the amazing banquet that is to come (check out this parable too). Jesus seems to repeatedly say that our desire to hold on to the stuff of this world creates a big barrier to us living out this mission…
Here’s a few thoughts on why:
The more stuff we have, the more we want more stuff. Consumerism is addictive. Our natural tendency is to pursue the bigger, nicer, better, fancier ____________.
The more stuff we have, the more we want to hold on to our stuff. Somehow our stuff easily becomes the source of our security and satisfaction. Our hearts have the capacity to turn almost anything into an idol.
The more stuff we have, the more our stuff becomes the desire of our hearts. We often think that wherever our heart is that our treasure (money & resources) will follow. Jesus says it’s the other way around.
The more stuff we have, the more of our time and energy it requires. Just check out our calendars. A lot of time is spent keeping up our nice stuff rather than sacrificially serving others.
The more stuff we have, the more it insulates us from the needs of others. Everyone (both wealthy and poor) has needs, but all too often pursuing bigger better stuff removes us from intersecting with those in need. Does God choose to bless some with larger houses, nicer cars, and more resources? Certainly. Does God lead some Jesus-followers to reach out to the wealthy with the good news of Jesus? Of course…
BUT here’s the big bottom line: If God blesses us with a lot of stuff , it’s so we can be a blessing to others and become a glimpse of His kingdom in the midst of a messed up world.
Although this 2002 Barna study is several years old and focused on tithing, I still find it interesting and somewhat relevant:
In general, the more money a person makes the less likely he/she is to tithe. While 8% of those making $20,000 or less gave at least 10% of their income to churches, that proportion dropped to 5% among those in the $20,000-$29,999 and $30,000-$39,999 categories; to 4% among those in the $40,000-$59,999 range, down to 2% for those in the $60,000-$74,999 niche; and to 1% for those making $75,000-$99,999. The level jumped a bit for those making $100,000 or more, as 5% of the most affluent group tithed in 1999.