Recently I watched someone moving house, and various thoughts passed through my mind. This person came to my place of work 7-8 years ago with one small bag. He was single at that time. A few years ago, he got married and now has two children. Over the years he has amassed a lot of material goods. I watched him struggle to load the vehicle. I wonder about myself. What is it? All these useful and not so useful things, that we hold on to so passionately, are bought with money. Money is wages that we get for a piece of work that we do. We convert this into things as we buy them. Some of it will have a greater resale value, but most of them depreciate as the days go by. Many lose their charm and usefulness and begin to collect dust or remain in some forgotten corner. Sometimes we don't even know we have them, as we stop using them.
What Is Money?
Money is time converted into currency. Eight hours of my time of work is translated into cash and it becomes my wages at the end of the month. Depending on the importance of my responsibility, the training, skills and my contribution, I am remunerated. What is time? It is life. When I work for 8 hours, I am giving 8 hours of my life and it is gone. So, when I buy goods, I am actually investing my life into it. My life now takes a lifeless form. I can once again give it life, depending on how and for what I use it. I still have the power to give it meaning, if I am willing to share it with others. What really gives it meaning is this aspect of sharing. None of these goods will accompany us as we leave this world one day. This is one of the fears of many people. They work hard and amass wealth, but at the end, they have to go empty handed. Naked we come, naked we go! We do not even know who will really enjoy what we leave behind.
Imagine, instead of spending money on that which does not satisfy, we invest in people. Maybe helping children to be educated; maybe taking care of sick people by providing for their bills; maybe training someone to have a skill that could bring livelihood to a family; maybe helping someone to start an income generating small business; maybe doing something to help the invalid, the neglected, the exploited and used. Maybe just doing something that will bring joy to someone.
I think there is so much joy in seeing others happy. Jesus said, "Bear each other's burden." When we spend money on others, we are actually sharing a bit of our lives with them. When we withhold money, we are withholding life. We leave behind many happy people who may in turn begin to share their life with others. This giving multiplies. We are showing mercy, and mercy has a way of coming back through the back door. The Book of Proverbs has many exhortations about giving to the needy. It is a sign of generosity and reflects God's heart and His character. It is part of being wise.
Dealing With Possessions
So, what shall I do with my possessions? Maybe twice a year I can clean up my possessions and give away that which will benefit or are useful to others. Many have too much unused and used clothes, which can be given away. Think before we buy new things. Ask a few questions. Do I need it? Is it going to make any difference to my life? Is it possible to postpone my urge to buy now? Can I use the money for something else? Maybe I can decide not to buy anything new for a few months. Maybe I can wait and allow God to give me a surprise. Any new gadget seems to give some fascination. After we get it, we realise that it does not give what we anticipated. Soon it is out-modelled and we are ready for the latest. This chase continues in today's world of technology. We are never satisfied. Sellers exploit this weakness in our system and we give into this almost unknowingly. "Why spend money on that which does not satisfy?," the prophet asked centuries ago. Nothing has changed since then. We are still chasing after the wind. "It is all vanity," said the Preacher.
God has promised to provide for our needs. Maybe we are impatient. We want some things and we want them now. So much of our anxieties are related to wanting. How much of our time is spent on this mind chase! We browse Internet and do window-shopping. Our time, yes, our life is wasted away. We give the impression that we are busy and very important. In fact, we have no time for people or matters that are important. Our possessions give us status and worth. How we long for this applause from friends! In spite of all the advances in communications, we find we have no time for communication. We spend too much time on mobile faceless conversations; when we meet in person there is nothing much to talk. We prefer faceless relationships and superficial chats.
Where Our Heart Is
Our material possessions reflect where our heart is. Jesus warned us about this and told us to invest in that which does not rot or gets stolen. He also told us to seek His kingdom and right living, and promised to take care of our needs. What better way to invest than investing in people and be involved in life-giving ventures? God's kingdom is all about people and how we can share in each other's lives. The power of money is a force that needs to be contained and channelled in the right way. It has the power to possess us and make us addictive and leave us unsatisfied. It has a spiritual dynamism and demands our worship. James said, "Love of money is the root of all evil." We may not agree with it initially, but anyone with wisdom will see how true it is.
How do we acquire wealth? Of course, we do inherit some from our families, especially if our parents made sure of such inheritance. Very few of us question how our parents made money. We may have got a good education that enables us to get a well paid job and we save, and can have more than we need. There are many well-paid jobs available, depending on our training and our abilities to perform. Many go abroad to make money as the sole goal of life and use their profession only as a means to make more money. Job hopping is very common nowadays. We are always looking for more. Many Christians are trapped in this activity, as they have no sense of direction or calling. They attribute all their seeking and achieving wealth as a sign of God's favour.
The more we have, the more we spend and we change our life-style and circle of friends and the way we entertain ourselves and where we go for holidays. Our priorities change and our children take on a very different life-style based on affordability. We look for better and thus more expensive schools for them and this demands more money, so we look out for another better paying job. We may even leave the country for this additional comfort and opportunity. No one will say in all these developments that they are walking away from an earlier commitment or a sense of an earlier call to do something else. This will be too much for the conscience to cope with. So in today's world, it is better not to make a serious commitment whatsoever, but just drift along and settle for whatever satisfies the immediate need and give the best opportunity for the family. It is amazing to see some of the jobs people are willing to take up in a different country which they will not even dream of in their own country. Again what is driving this? How does one make sense of what is happening at a deeper level? How do we make God fit in to all that's going on?
Our Possessions And Children
Soon the children get so used to another way of relating and living, and they become misfits to our way of thinking. Now for the sake of our children, we sacrifice what we used to hold on very dearly, our faith in a real God. Now God is an optional extra as we have taught ourselves to live without Him. It is only pain, suffering and sudden loss that will shake us up. This can be seen if we look at the recent Gulf war and the present economic meltdown. People suddenly are afraid of their future and security. They are worried about not having enough to sustain their life-style. They have enough for their daily bread and for their necessities, but not enough for their luxury or additional comfort and extravagant personal habits. Now they begin to pray and go to churches and make promises. But once the difficulty is over, they are back to their self-sufficiency road. The Christian world is full of such people. Deep down, the problem is the same old greed and covetousness, which come out of their lack of trust in a living God whose promises are difficult to believe!
Issues To Grapple With
The possessions that we accumulate will possess us and eventually eat us up. Our worry and distress are all indicators of where our heart is. We need to ask, "How much do we need? What shall we do with the surplus?" Jesus' words about not to worry seem to be inappropriate and irrational. It is as if He does not know much about our life to give such an advice! What are we to make out of all He says? Can we afford to believe in this Person and go through life without taking adequate precautions and preparedness? Don't we need some security and guarantee in case the unexpected happens? All these are valid questions.
We need to grapple with these issues and let God speak to our individual situation. Also guard our hearts against covetousness and face our doubts. May we take time to think and pray before we convert more of our life into junk! Let us also be aware of the fact that the devil is too ready to give us many things just like he came to Jesus and offered everything for a moment of worship! He is listening to our prayers and watching our hearts. As soon as he finds an opportunity, he gives us what we are seeking and it becomes a trap and a handle for him to manipulate us. So, let us watch and pray.