We recently made some home improvements and now I’m obsessed with stuff. We built a deck and I find myself wondering—what color pillows would look good on the chairs [pillows for outside???? says my husband….]. What color flowers should I plant in my planters? Do I need more planters? What about a couch [again…a couch for outside???? says my husband….] A new grill? It seems the list keeps growing and growing and growing….
A dear friend of mine recently returned from living in Hawaii for a few years. Since she has come home, one of the big differences she has noticed is how worried people are about stuff and their homes on the mainland. She says she is now obsessing over paint colors, which she never did in Hawaii. Maybe it is their hang loose attitude, but she says she can’t think of anyone she knew there who was worried about what color to paint their house or what was the next improvement to make.
If you spend any time reading the bible, God and Jesus worry about money and its affect on us. There was a man who came up to Jesus, telling him that he had kept all the commandments—did this mean he would inherit eternal life? So Jesus told him just sell all that stuff you have and give it away. And all he could do was walk away utterly dejected. It is easier for a camel to walk through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven, says Jesus.
I so feel his pain. I try to keep so many of the commandments, but I really love decorating and making our house look nice and put together. I like to have people over and I like to go to Target and browse. And the connection is not lost on me that the more you look, the more things you find that you think you “need.” And the cycle goes on and on.
I wonder if that is why Jesus told that man to just let it all go. There was another young man who wanted to be closer to Jesus and when Jesus asked him about himself, he talked about all the stuff he had. It was all stored up. He had gotten all he needed. But the problem was that that was how he defined who he was—by what he had. By his stuff…. When Jesus told him to let it go, he couldn’t either, and we are told that as he walked away, Jesus loved him.
When my friend was in Hawaii, she happened to be around a community who did not define themselves by their stuff. Maybe it was the beaches and the sunshine and the shared beauty of the outdoors, but there was a freedom she found when she was not worrying so much about her house and how it looked. I really believe that is the freedom Jesus wants for us.
You know the ironic thing? I have been so worried about making the deck look nice that I haven’t even just sat in a chair and had a margarita, like I have been dreaming about doing in the 8 years I have wanted to build that deck. And I suppose that is the problem.
God and Jesus worry about us and our relationship with money and stuff, because it is so powerful in our lives. And we live in a culture that is virtually uncritical about accumulating wealth. It is seen as always good and never dangerous.
I often think of many of the stories Jesus told as being descriptive, rather than proscriptive. By that I mean that rather than saying, because that young man could not get over being obsessed with his filled up barns, his is going to go straight to hell [that would be proscriptive], Jesus is describing how his life IS. He is already in a sort of hell, because he is so worried about letting go of what he has, that he can’t even see Jesus who is standing right in front of his face. And that is truly sad. And that is why Jesus is so concerned with money.
I know what I have to do. I have to just stop. I have enough. I have to pour myself a cup of coffee and go and sit and listen to the birds sing and be thankful. I have been too turned inward, and Jesus wants me to turn outward. I need to let go of accumulation and embrace generosity. Wow is that hard to do.
But thankfully Jesus’ well of forgiveness is never-ending and with God all things are possible. I hope when you read this, I will be outside enjoying my deck. Blessings on your journey.
Pastor Paula


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