Moving! What a chore! And so much stuff! After 14 years of remodeling and upgrading our house in the suburbs and thinking we would never move again, we did it. We had turned our house into a virtual bed and breakfast and used it as a tool in our hospitality ministry. When the reality of moving set in, any thoughts of living in a quieter country setting were overwhelmingly squelched. There was the large basement preaching library and office to consider. There was the complete nursery for our young grandchildren’s day care along with all of the indoor and outdoor toys a child could ever want. There was the complete children’s library and teaching materials left from my teaching career. There were remnants of a cosmetics representative’s sales inventory. There were travel artifacts, gifts, collections, seasonal décor, and on and on. Although much of this came through garage sales and other re-sales and gifts to us, each took up its own storage space. But since storage was not an issue, why be concerned?
The move came about very quickly with only six weeks between concept and giving possession to the new owners. We found our “dream” mountain property on the first day, the third property we saw with the realtor. At her insistence, our house went on the market “as is” the next week and sold within three days to the third set of prospective buyers. This was, as I had prayed, so that I could pull, sort, sell, and pack with our young grandchildren there and not have to keep the house “show ready.”
As we prepared to seriously downsize from five bedrooms and three baths down to two bedrooms and one bath plus separate office/library building, we had to make serious decisions about the volume of material goods. First, shift the grandchildren’s things to their home, then a newspaper furniture sale, then a huge name-your-own-price garage sale, and finally have a charity donation pick up the remainder. There was still more to pack and keep than we needed in a small house. Storage in an oversized two-car heated garage would take care of the normal household storage.
As I sorted, sold, and packed, I reminded myself of what Jesus taught concerning possessions. Yes, most of it was useful in our ministry at one time or another, yet it had become a burden. My possessions had possessed me.
Luke records Jesus teaching in chapter 12 as a response to being asked to settle a family inheritance dispute. Beginning in verse 15 Jesus cautioned to “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). Jesus followed this statement with the parable of the rich fool who was prepared for now but not for eternity. Jesus showed God’s tender providential care for the birds and flowers of the field showing that even King Solomon in all of his glory was not dressed as splendidly as the lilies of the field. A special caution is found in verse 34 where we are told to store up treasure in heaven. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:34). (This is also stated in Matthew 6 as part of the Sermon on the Mount.)
Matthew also recorded a conversation between Jesus and a rich young ruler who wanted to follow Jesus but his great wealth (possessions) stood in his way (cf. Matthew 19:16ff). Jesus cautioned that wealth would make it difficult to be spiritual.
As Americans, most of us are wealthy by the standards of the world. Our mission trips to the South Pacific and Africa have impressed upon me just how little most of the world has in terms of earthly possessions. Women I met in these places still do their laundry by hand in buckets or streams with brushes on wooden boards much as my 91-year-old mother lived as a child. In discussing housing with Robina, a special friend in a thatched roof, woven-sided house in Vanuatu, I explained that because of cold weather and snow our houses had to have solid sides. She turned to her husband Joel and said, “I don’t think we could live there.” My concern had been, could I live there for a few days without plumbing and electricity?”
Our concepts of needs and wants have become confused over the years. What much of the world would see as luxuries are seen as necessities in our culture. We truly are rich. The apostle Paul told Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:17 to instruct those who are rich to still trust in God, to do good works, share, and to have a treasure for our future in heaven.
The prophet Habakkuk could have had us in mind with his statement about being rich with loans from creditors (cf. Habakkuk 2:6ff). Our mortgages, loan payments, and credit card debts would astound those of previous generations. It is as though our trust is in the dollar, rather than “In God We Trust.”
Have you also become possessed by your possessions? Perhaps you are possessive of your possessions to the point that you are afraid to share and be hospitable for fear that your possessions will be broken or soiled. Perhaps you have become unwilling to share your income to spread the gospel locally or in mission areas. Have things become more important to you than people?
King Solomon, the wisest of mortal men, expressed his God-given wisdom in the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. He realized, as we should, that “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income. This too is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 5:10).
Our recent move has given me a new perspective on collections and material things. After sorting, downsizing, and packing, I have seen an end to my need for the retail and resale experiences with the exception of shopping for gift-giving occasions. The beauty of God’s nature with which we are surrounded now far outweighs the beauty of anything money could buy. Moving to the mountains at the beginning of winter has posed its challenges. But the beauty of the snowfall, the sounds of the creek meandering through the front yard, the snow-covered evergreens, the exquisitely shaped icicles hanging from the overhangs, watching God’s little wrens enjoying the suet and seeds at their new cedar-covered bird feeder, I am filled with awe at God’s beautiful gifts to me. It truly looks like a winter wonderland Christmas card come to life.
Now as I finish unpacking and decorating our cozy new home the things that really bring a smile to my face are the truly important mementos–the framed photos of my special little grandchildren. Other things are just that, “things.”
by Louise “Weezie” Burger
Weezie and her husband, Wayne, have served with the Columbine church of Christ in the Denver, CO area for over 20 years. She is an instructor in the Bear Valley Bible Institute women’s program and enjoys her three grandchildren.