Recently my Sunday School class has been taking an in-depth look at what Jesus has to say in the Gospels about money and possessions. One of the passages we have looked at is Luke 12:31-34, where Jesus talks about selling your possessions, giving to the poor, and laying up treasure in heaven.
I have always understood the real focus of this passage to be not so much on possessions, but on our heart’s attitude toward our possessions. Certainly, God is not saying that possessions in and of themselves are wrong, is He? They are a gift from Him to be used for His glory, are they not?
However, if God is really my greatest treasure, then my desire will be to invest as much as I possibly can in the things that matter most to Him, and I will be eager to give away what I have to others. Somehow, we seem to have this tendency to accumulate stuff… it just happens. The more stuff we have the easier it can be to become distracted by our stuff from what is really most important. So when Jesus talks about selling your possessions and giving to the poor, one way to understand this might be that we should make a choice to live with less, not more. This is, of course, a highly counter-cultural idea that is no more popular today than it would have been when these verses were written. I think the point, however, is that if God is truly what we treasure the most, then we will have no real problem parting with some things in order to have more opportunity to invest in eternal treasures.
My pastor challenged us with the principle of simplification, encouraging us to think through practical ways of simplifying our lives with fewer possessions so that we have more resources to give to others. Most of us would have to admit if we are honest that our houses are crowded with a lot of stuff that we either don’t use, don’t really need, or is not really important. So how can we take that over-abundance with which we have been blessed and use it to bless others, and in so doing simplify our lives to allow for greater eternal investment?
I began to look around my apartment and almost immediately came across things here and there that have just been sitting in a closet or on a shelf and have not been touched for months. Now, I am by nature not a junk-collector, and I like to purge as often as possible anyway, but yet stuff has a way of collecting nevertheless! After a quick perusal around my house, I had a “Stuff, Etc.” bag full of things that I knew I was not using and could sell. I have done this before and usually end up using the money to buy something else for myself. But why not instead save that money and use it to help others as opportunities arise?
As I thought more about all of this, it occurred to me that the idea of simplifying can apply to more than just the “stuff” in our lives. It can apply to how we spend our time, too. If I can learn to simplify the activities that I have going on and try to keep the things I do as simple as possible, rather than too elaborate or time-consuming, I will have more time for the things that really should be most important, like developing my relationship with God and serving others with my time. My use of both money/possessions and time reveal a lot about what I truly value the most!
“But seek His kingdom, and these things will be provided for you. Don’t be afraid, little flock, because your Father delights to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Make money-bags for yourselves that won’t grow old, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Luke 12:31-34