By Jennifer Miller
A few years back I was gathering my belongings together for a big move. I made the choice to move closer to my family. I had a chance to turn my life around and I took it. Once the decision was made, and before I could begin the chore of packing, I needed to put together a To Do List. For any move to be successful, one needs to be prepared. I took a long hard look at the task at hand and for a split second (okay maybe more than a second elapsed) a part of me wanted to just avoid it altogether. However, I knew that was not the answer and I decided to proceed. My first step was to acquire the boxes I would need so that I could pack my belongings. More importantly however, I needed to assess what possessions were necessities and what possessions I could do without. Some of them had to either be given away or tossed. What it boiled down to was this: I had too much to take with me and I did not have the room to store everything. How did this grow into such a huge mess and how did I not see it happening? This became quite the eye-opener. I never realized how much money I had spent on my possessions. Money that I could have been spent elsewhere.
It caused me to contemplate for a moment. When did I become so materialistic? Why did I acquire so much and why did I allow myself to do so? Was I impulsive or greedy, did I willingly buy everything my eyes desired, was I trying to keep up with the Jones’ so to speak, and how did it get so out of control?
I realized that a line had been crossed. I went from my original goal of wanting to take care of others and meeting their needs to wanting to fulfill my own selfish desires instead. More questions came out of this and I started demanding an answer. Why did I make these poor decisions and how can I learn from these choices? What was the root of my problem? Finally, am I able to get back to my original plan?
In order to understand myself a little better I needed to lean on God’s word. His word is my strength, and more specifically, my instructions telling me how to navigate throughout this life. My mind wandered to Luke 12:15: “And he said to them, Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Did I make these purchases because I wanted what others had or was it all for show? Did it signal success for me? What did this say about me and my character? Was my foundation built on shaky ground that was overloaded with perishable items or was it built on a firm foundation based on love, trust and respect for my Lord?
As I looked back, I could see it started out simple enough. At first, I purchased the needed necessities to support myself and my way of living. At first it seemed attainable enough, but soon thereafter, I seemed to veer off this path and I headed down a new path of pleasure and comfort; thus I began to purchase items that were not necessary, but rather were considered more of a luxury. These were items were bought in a moment of weakness and for the most part were not really used, but rather just sat there and collected dust. Was I putting more stock into worthless items and shifting my priorities away from the areas my money really could have benefited others? Was I becoming more and more selfish and now serving another master instead of God?
Matthew 6:24 came to mind and set me straight when it stated: “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” Did I secretly desire to live a life of luxury and purchase items to attain that goal? In 1 Timothy 6:9-10 it says: “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”
I had to do some soul-searching at this point. I needed to remember what being a Christian meant and why it is so important to stay on the right path once you give your life to Jesus. My life is not meant for getting all my wants, but rather for meeting all my needs. My life is not determined by a set number of possessions, but it is measured by the actions I take to help others less fortunate than I. Who am I that I should live so carelessly and be so thoughtless to put myself first and above anyone? I had to come back down to earth and reexamine why I had become a Christian in the first place.
I admit that I like to decorate my home, but I must realize that I do not need to make expensive and excessive purchases in order to do so. I do not need multiple cars or closets overflowing with too many clothes. I do not need the best or the most expensive electronic toys that money can buy. I need only what is necessary to get me through this life. The answer is to live simple and trust that God will provide me with all that I need. He is the one in control, not me. I am being asked to manage what I have been given and I am to do so by living in obedience to his command. In order to be on the right path again and wanting to comply with his command, I need to reorganize my priorities. It is nice to every now and then get a few items for pleasure, but it should never be the sole purpose or the focus of our life. We are here for such a short time and it is our actions and intentions that speak volumes about us. We are not here to accumulate trinkets or luxurious items. We are here to live for God and to spread his message when we invite others to learn about him. When we follow his instructions and live for him, we are building up a treasure for ourselves. This treasure will be given to us in heaven and not on earth.
I want to walk by his example. I want to follow his instructions. I want to give of myself to others to aid them in their hour of need. For example, an expensive coat can be tempting in the heat of the moment that you desire it. You begin to imagine how it would feel on you, what it would symbolize, or what you would look like in it. However, step back and imagine how fantastic a warm coat would mean to someone in need. I am not suggesting that we never purchase something for ourselves, but that we think before we do so. Is this an item I need or is this an item I just want to own? Will purchasing this item bring me true happiness or just satisfy a moments desire? Can I do without it? Can I take a cue from Jesus and put others first ahead of myself?
After taking a bit too long to think things over, I concluded and I decided to donate what I could and keep what I need. Thankfully I am not able to store all my belongings, so this time the decision was easy for me to make. Yet I am human, and I do succumb at times from temptation just like everyone else. How well I learned my lesson will be determined when I finally find a new place to call home. At that point in time my actions will be scrutinized to determine if I applied the lesson I was taught or if I caved into the desires of my heart. I pray that I make the right choice this time.
In my past I have struggled with making sound choices. When I did not, I have suffered the consequences of those decisions. At that time, I also struggled with my relationship with God. However, in my present stage of life I have been transformed and I am shaped by his hand. He knows my struggles and guides me whenever I need to make a choice. I have come to lean on him and on him alone. He knows my heart and my desire to help others. He strengthens my resolve to resist putting myself first.
I want to take advantage of all the opportunities that come my way to help others. I can start by not accumulating worthless items that will only perish over time. What I learned is when we shift the focus off ourselves and onto others, we are accumulating a new type of treasure. These treasures are to be cherished. For example, when we give to others and can fulfill someone’s needs, we smile to ourselves knowing that their needs were met. We operated out of love and gave to others, we received validation for our actions. It is better to give than receive as the saying goes. As I previously mentioned, we are building up a treasure. This treasure is imperishable, and for eternity, but we receive it in heaven, not on earth. It is priceless and a gift from God. He gives it to those who are faithful, and who made the choice to follow him and do his will. We can work for the treasure in heaven or for the earthly rewards we purchase to satisfy our earthly desires. It is a choice we make when we decide to live for him or to live for ourselves, so choose wisely. I chose him and that is an accumulation of treasure I can live with. My treasure will never perish; whereas earthly treasures will. They will be left behind for someone else to enjoy…after all, you can’t take it with you no matter how much you want to.