Wisdom in an Antique Store; The True Value of Possessions
Antique stores are treasure troves of stuff and fun to explore. Searching through one can be a treat to the eyes, senses and imagination. You see things made decades if not centuries ago; the wares displayed are a kaleidoscope of colors, textures, shapes and design.
If you use your imagination you can conjure up an image of the people who once owned the items and how they were used. You’ll notice tarnished silver, rusted metal, worn cloth, chipped china: all the signs of wear and passing time. Once these items were new and treasured possessions; valued by those who owned, saved for, and cherished them. But time has a way of corroding things, life has a way of changing, and treasured items grow old.
We all possess items that we love. Perhaps it is a work of art, a meaningful gift, an item that reminds us of a loved one, our children’s artwork, a wedding dress, an athletic award, and family pictures. These are treasured memories, important milestones in our lives and they bring meaning and enrichment to our lives.
However, some of us spend our lives working to accumulate more “things”: a bigger house, nicer furniture, a luxury car, jewelry, clothes, fabulous vacation, and all the accouterments of a successful life. Somehow we feel more secure when our “stuff” is all around us. We are actually putting our trust, hopes and dreams in things that will someday be gone.
Accumulating a lot of “stuff” and being successful has a way of changing us too. We can become proud of all we have accomplished, rather than how God has blessed us. We begin to believe that all be have is the result of what we have done, and we can become self-centered, selfish and arrogant.
In Luke 12:16-21, Jesus tells the Parable of the Rich Fool. A wealthy man owned land that produced such a large crop that he decided he had to build a new barn in which to store all his grains and goods. He was very proud of himself and all he accomplished so he said to himself, ‘You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself? This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”
Jesus was well aware of our tendency to put our values in the wrong places. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke about where our treasure should lie: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21
Jesus is telling us that the things we should treasure and value are those that we lay in heaven. We need to be generous toward God, not just live for our personal satisfaction. For as our stroll through the antique store demonstrated, earthly treasure is corruptible, grows old and useless; can be lost and stolen or sold in an estate sale. But Jesus tells us heavenly treasure is incorruptible and eternal. We all have a choice to make; we need to decide what is truly important in our life.
This is not a ban on possessions for we all have needs that must be met and we are to enjoy the things that God has created as well as plan for the future. God expects us to work and take care of our needs. “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.” Proverbs 6:10-11 Paul uses stronger words in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” The indictment here is the selfish accumulation of wealth rather than the blessing of salvation. “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” Mark 8:36
In Matthew 6:21, Jesus is warning us that what we treasure controls us, “For where your treasure is there your heart will also be.” The word heart in Biblical literature refers to the center of our being. Jesus is asking you what is more important in your core, in your heart of hearts: the stuff of the world or God? “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:15
Rather than developing a desire for possessions, Jesus wants us to develop faith, character, love, charity, generosity, and an effective prayer life. He desires to have a relationship with us and if we let our “stuff” fill all our space we leave no room for Him.
When we put our emphasis on the things of this world, we tend to worry. And worry can really interfere with life, both spiritually and physically. All our possessions will someday end up in an antique shop, in a trash heap, or belong to someone else and yet we worry about such things. Next time, let’s explore the connection between where our treasure is and why we worry.