What is it about “stuff” that gives it such a grip on our lives? And how do we find liberation from it? These are tough questions with no easy answers. Well, perhaps no easy answers that most of us are willing to consider. I think of Jesus’ response to the rich young ruler when he told him to give away everything he had and come follow him. That’s not easy but it’s straight-forward. Giving it all away could have liberated him from the thing that had the biggest control over his life.
I live in Fairfax County, one of the richest areas of the most powerful and wealthy county in our world. That makes me feel poor. Many of my neighbors have so much more stuff than we do. They drive fancier cars, live in bigger houses, wear better clothes, eat at more upscale restaurants, and send their kids to more elite schools. And stuff costs so much here. On and on it goes and I begin to feel jealous and resentful.
My wife Ruth and I have worked for churches and faith organizations all our lives. Neither of us ever drew six figure salaries. Even so, we have been comfortable and have never been in need. So why do we feel poor and worry about our retirement? Probably, because we compare ourselves with people who have more stuff than we do. And we live in a financial system where we need to stack up money to support ourselves after we retire.
We need to get a grip and one place to start is by going to www.globalrichlist.com developed by Care International. When I punched in our income and net worth I discovered that we are among the richest 1% of people in our world. Come on! That can’t be us. I don’t think of myself as being so incredibly rich. No! It appears that I am one of those rich guys who Jesus said is like a camel who has to thread the eye of a needle to get into the kingdom of God.
Especially troubling for folks like me is Jesus’ story of the rich man living the good life and the poor beggar Lazarus sitting at his gate covered with sores and longing for the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table (Luke 16: 19-31). Is it a simple morality tale of a reversal of fortunes where the poor go to heaven and the rich go to hell? No, but it’s a stark warning that our love of money combined with our unwillingness to see and respond to the plight of others is a sure road to hell both in this life and in eternity.
The first step toward liberation is an honest recognition of how much stuff we actually have. On my next post on this topic I will explore avenues toward further liberation and living in the freedom of having our wealth become a source of joy-filled giving and service.