Generosity of Possessions
“Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”-Hebrews 13:16
When I told my co-worker that we no longer had furniture to sit on in our living room, because our upstairs neighbors had had a toilet overflowing incident that had ruined our futon, I was expecting her just to commiserate with me about difficult neighbors. I was not expecting her to give me her nearly brand new, very comfortable, couch! But that’s what she did. She insisted that she and her husband did not need two couches while Dave and I had none. She looked so happy to be able to help us that I couldn’t say no (plus we really needed a couch). So, we gratefully accepted her generous gift and, we enjoyed it for the better part of a decade. We rested on it, studied on it, slept on it, when the kids came along they delighted in bouncing on it. Often as I sat reading on that couch I would think of my old co-worker, Iftu, and her husband Bedessa. I would think of how kind, and good, and faithful they are, and I would give thanks for the gift of having them in my life, and for the gift of the couch. A couch is a simple gift, but it really did bless our life and express the joyful faith of the people who had gifted it to us.
Do you have extra possession you could use to bless others? Most of us do. I have spent a lot of time in my life thinking about Jesus’ teachings about possessions. I know what He says (“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on Earth…”, “Sell all that you have, give the money to the poor, and follow me.”, “Blessed are the poor” ect). I proclaim Him to be Lord of my life. And yet…..I live in a 2,000+ square foot house that is full of things we don’t really need, and often don’t even use, while 22,000 children die every single day as a result of living in extreme poverty. Unfortunately, I don’t seem to be alone in my unfaithful accumulation and use of possessions: The average American considers themselves to be Christian, has over 300,000 possessions in their 2,100 square foot home, has roughly $5,000 in consumer credit card debt, and gives just 3.5% of their income to charity. All while ½ of the world’s population is living in poverty.
Clearly there are many of us who have chased accumulation of possessions (or identity in them) and ended up straying far from our Good Shepard’s path. We need to hear God when He speaks through the writer of 1 John asking, “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” (1 John 3:17). After we repent of the sin of our unfaithful accumulation and use of possessions what can we do?
First, we should give thanks to God that He has blessed us with an abundance of material resources that we can use to bless others, remembering that ALL that we have is really God’s (“The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him.”-Psalm 24:1). Next, we should ask God what He would have us do with the possessions He has entrusted to us to build up the Kingdom of Heaven. Then, we must joyfully listen to the Spirt as it directs our faithful use of the possessions God has loaned to us. When we do this several things could happen:
1) We may be asked to sell all our possessions, give the money to the poor, and follow Jesus. This is the instruction Jesus gave to the Rich Young Man of course (Matthew 19:21), and it is a call many Christians have heard and followed throughout the past twenty centuries. More often however we will hear God calling us to sell some of our possessions and give the money to the poor.
2) We may be called to use the material possessions God has entrusted to us to build up his Kingdom without selling them. We may hear the Spirit whisper to us that we should use our car to drive our elderly neighbor to the grocery store every Tuesday. We may hear the Spirit shouting at us to invite a down-on-his-luck relative to move into our guest room for a while. We may hear the Spirit calling us to invite friends and neighbors to use our garden and shop tools whenever they need them. One thing is for certain; we won’t hear silence!
3) God may invite us to enjoy a possession He has entrusted to us, such as I derived real happiness from the couch my friend gave me. God delights in giving us good things. Our faithful response to His lavish generosity should not be to imagine that we have earned what we have, but instead we should acknowledge that everything we have is a gift from God and thank Him for His good gifts!
God, help us to understand that all that we have is Yours. Grant us wisdom to discern how to best use the possessions You have entrusted to us to care for those in need. Help us to give You thanks and praise as we enjoy some of the good gifts you have given us. Amen.
Now Go and Do: Imagine what you can do to care for the poor and spread the Good News with the possessions God has entrusted to you. Commit to using one possession this week to bless someone and build up the Kingdom of God.
Love, Your Generosity Project Team (Adrienne Danielson, Deb Hess, Shari Fuhr and Marlys Mathiowetz)