Oh my, I was EXCITED for this week. Possessions.
I can loudly admit that we have way.too.much.stuff. When you majorly surpass the military allowed move weight, that becomes glaringly apparent.
Jen starts this chapter with this burning question, “How do we manage our wealth, financial priorities, and possessions with godliness and integrity?”
Yes, that’s the million dollar question.
It couldn’t get more direct than this: ““Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy,and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven,where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21
Ugh, apparently my treasure weighs over 21,000 pounds and barely fits in the two largest moving trucks that you can rent.
She goes on to show how the bible defines treasure as, “what we get our happiness from.” There are two camps:
“a beautiful home, gorgeous furnishings, lots of accessories and gadgets, sweet cars, the latest fashions, big savings accounts, stuff, things, luxuries.
generosity, living below our means, giving, intentional restraint, battling poverty, simplicity, sharing, communal responsibility, humility.”
We can’t have it both ways.
She has this awesome comparison using Matthew 20:1-16, getting back to the original Greek and talking about how we see and change the world through our “eye vision.” But I’ll make you read the study for that 😉
But I am going to share these two paragraphs with you, because every sentence makes my throat tighten up and heart beat faster.
“What do we despise more? Do we hate the power money exerts over us? DO we make intentional financial choices that break the materialism chain? Do we hate poverty and offer our lives as a remedy? Do we hate the gross abuses money inspires in mankind? Do we hate the whispers of greed and entitlement we see in our children, mirror image of our own affections? Do we hate the comparison game money feed off of? Do we hate the inequity that gives our kids rooms jammed with possessions while 16,000 other parents will bury their starved children today?
Or do we hate this discussion? DO we hate these questions? Would we rather spin this or twist this or shove this off on other people? Do we hate being challenged to care for the poor, since they didn’t earn this money we worked for? Do we hate Jesus and God and Jen Hatmaker for snooping around our bank accounts, claiming they can discern all there is to know by the line items? DO we hate the idea of parting with things? Do we hate the implication that rich people are predisposed to the bad eye? Do we hate being called “rich people?”
This, this was the tipping point for us. This was the question that Jace and I hit smack in the face the very first week of this study.
Jesus called that rich man to sell it all, give it to the poor and follow him. Jesus asked that of his disciples. Did that himself.
Are we each called to be missionaries? To give all we have to the needy? To spend our days not working at a job, earning money in the rat-race of this world but instead giving of our time in the name of Christ?
But what happens to the life-changing money of the world if all the Christians go and live among the poor and needy?
We just finished Financial Peace in which we learned to be good stewards of God’s money, how to happily tithe, spend intentionally, save responsibly: live like no one else, so LATER you can live and give like no one else. Dave highlights a story of a friend who able to anonymously pay a single mother’s electricity bill for a year in advance without second thought. He couldn’t have done that if he hadn’t worked, saved and invested wisely- if he hadn’t been a good steward.
But wait. When do we reach enough wealth to be able to “give?” The widow gave her last coin and Jesus rejoiced for she understood true sacrifice unto the Lord.
What do we do?
Oh. This question brewed for weeks.
It was the question that showed me just how God-timed this study was for us.
We’d been feeling a tugging, we knew He was trying to show us something. You see we aren’t all meant to support every ministry and every missionary opportunity that comes our way. We believe that God puts a passion, a desire for a ministry in your heart, that He gives you the skills, resources and the abilities to do it. Some may be called to work in inner-city missions work, others overseas, perhaps some in medical fields, or raising money to build wells. There are SO many amazing opportunities to show Christ to this world, and we believe He has a special one for each of us. One to focus our thoughts, our time, our financial resources towards.
We had been taking careful stock of our resources, of our spiritual gifts, of our talents, of our passions- trying to determine where, how, when, what we were meant for.
A lot of options brewing. Helicopter pilot for missions support in South America. Helicopter pilot for “hidden church planting” in anti-Christian countries. Permaculture and self-sustainable farming instructors in third world countries. Farming/raising animals to fill local food pantries. Fostering/adopting children. Pregnancy crisis counseling and fundraising.
All of those feel right. All of those would mean a lot of very different things for our family. Because it’s not just the two of us, God is calling our whole family, and our children will be involved in any decision. Some things we can do right now, some things require a fundraising/saving, significant hours of training, a complete change in lifestyle (now and later) and a long wait in time (as Jace’s commitment to the Air Force has at least 5 years left.)
Was Jesus serious when he called us to sell everything we have, give it to the poor and follow Him?
There are a lot of people who do just exactly that. Should WE do that?
And then there are a lot of us who sit back, go to church weekly, try to fit in some quiet time, tithe, occasionally give beyond that, and then just settle in for our comfy, privileged lives.
Is this what He intended for us?? How do we find that line between those two happiness camps I mentioned up there??
I don’t have an answer for that. I don’t think we are ALL called to sell all we have and be full time missionaries overseas.
BUT I do think we are ALL called to be full time missionaries in the life we currently live, no matter what that looks like. And to be ready, open, seeking, and willing for if/when we are called to sacrifice our comforts even more fully for His Glory.
“But here is the truth: This side of heaven, we will never find ourselves on the right side of the kingdom all of the time. I won’t. You won’t. Rather than assessing this area as one sum total, already determined, imagine this part of discipleship as a thousand little moments, thousands of small decisions that bit by bit, choice by choice, slowly draw us under the leadership of the correct Master.”
So as we started this week’s fast, the big takeaway for me regarding possessions was a heart attitude. Each time I choose to purchase something or do something with my money, I try to stop and assess the real value of what I am buying/doing and decide which happiness camp this would land me in.
Am I never going to buy another thing? No. I’m not sure that is realistic. Am I going to be more intentional about my spending and the kinds of companies I support? Yes. I will get into this more as we get to the spending week, but the whole attitude of considering each choice as to where my treasure lies has greatly affected my spending and giving habits.
Ok, so moving on past the (incredibly written, life-changing) devotional chapters…
For the fast, Jen decided to get rid of seven things away every day of the month, and she surpassed that easily. We honestly didn’t even set a “goal.” I knew I had WAY more than seven things a day I was purging.
I was fascinated by how she and her friends completed this fast. Instead of just giving everything to a local non-profit in one quick swipe, they tried to intentionally give things where and when they were needed. Jen attempted to pray over everything thing, that God would show her who needed it when.
Oh yes, we are so removed from the needy. We don’t actually see them and meet them face to face. What an incredible challenge.
This was hard to do in just one week. I spent that week going through as many closets and rooms as I could. I should mention, we have a basement that’s as large as our house and it’s packed full.
We got rid of a lot. It was a stressful week, honestly. I did my best to seek out the needs of local charities and made separate trips as needed. There were some things we chose to sell. Things we had deemed worthy of the money and “necessary” at the time of purchase. Things that now seemed excessive and unnecessary. For anything we sold, we took half of the money and invested it in Kiva– an organization that provides micro-loans to people who would be hard pressed to get loans across the world. We focused on supporting entrepreneurial people who were investing in their businesses to support their families.
We are still in this process of downsizing. Of really weeding things down. It’s funny- the more you get rid of, the easier it is to get rid of more. Possessions, while they hold an emotional value oftentimes for us humans, they are simply things. The treasures of our heart, the memories and the love of our families, they don’t lie in these things. (and dad, as you are reading this- know that I am hearing your voice saying this- I am listening!)
And this, this is the week that the giant excesses in our previous spending habits really started weighing on my heart. The purchases, big and little, are so justifiable at the time (that juicer is on sale, and it’s so good for my health! it’s buy one get one 1/2 off and I do only have one pair of boots right now. it’s only the dollar bin, the kids would be so excited to get a “present” when I get home!).
But there is an opportunity cost for everything. And during this week, the giant opportunity cost on my left ring finger just got heavier and heavier. This excess- the diamond I wore for show- I simply couldn’t stomach it any longer.
But- that is a post within it’s self, so I will continue with that tomorrow!
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