Please understand that when I tell you this, I am not boasting but rather speaking a plain truth. I am a wealthy person. No, I do not own a Fortune 500 company or have a really diverse portfolio. What makes me so wealthy is that right now, at this very moment, I have three boxes of cereal in my cupboard. This is the definition of my wealth.
I do not mean to underestimate the times or down-play the economic struggles that our country faces. Times, in a certain sense, are tough. Unemployment and gas prices are up. Wall Street and confidence in Capital Hill is down. For so many decades we have had our seven years of plenty. Now, it seems, our number is up.
But for the most part, especially for those of us who live in the United States, we have been given more than we ever thought possible. Three boxes of cereal? That’s a lot of food when compared to someone living in a third world country. Comparatively speaking I have been given my weekly bread. I am part of a wealthy society that has been given more widespread abundance than any other civilization. Cell phones, ipods, computers, large mansions, Costco stores, exotic vacations, sports cars. These things used to be either unheard of or very rare. But now in households across the country they are as commonplace as the dust that settles on the family dinner table.
Which begs the question, do we as Christians have too much material possession? Have we become to the proverbial child sitting in the grocery cart stretching out our arms towards every toy, every piece of candy that we see? Do we want the things that glitter, that sparkle, that catch our eye? And, even worse yet, do we throw a spiritual temper tantrum when we aren’t given the things that we desire?
In Matthew 19:24 Christ says, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of the needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” To be honest, I always thought of millionaires and billionaires vacationing on their yachts and owning enough property to house the entire tribe of Benjamin. But I don’t think that anymore. The definition of who a rich man is has changed over time. Is it even possible that we, the average American middle class society, catch a glimpse of the rich man looking back at us from the mirror?
Times of famine can be times of spiritual strengthening in the heart of the believer. When times are tough your eyes are focused on heaven and on the treasure of eternal life. What on earth could possibly compare? You don’t own many possessions. You’re not certain if you’ll have any food tomorrow. This is when you are stripped down to the basics. In almost every sense of the word you are naked with only grace to cover you.
But when times are good then it’s a different story. Grace doesn’t seem as necessary when you have more than enough food in your cupboard for this week and the next. Sure, you’ll admit, spiritual things are important. But right now you have to focus on making money because that’s where everyone else is at and if you don’t keep up then you’re out of the game. So like an anteater you snuff out the minuet, the miniscule and the meaningless and you gorge. But soon you can’t stop eating and so you become an obese diabetic, craving the sweets of material things and injecting yourself with insulin shots of wealth and possession.
This is how it works. If a heartbeat is the measure of all things worthy then what is the rhythm of yours? Does it beat like this: money, must have, big house, must have, cars, must have, boats, must have. Poor heartbeat if that. It’s really the rhythm of a funeral dirge as the grave diggers shovel the dirt out of your shallow grave. You’ve actually coded and have gone B-Fib. They’re bringing out the paddles to jump start your heart, but there’s little hope. It’s time for the family to say goodbye.
Or think of it this way. If the blood in your veins flows towards that which gives you purpose then what is the direction of yours? Does it flow towards the finite, towards that which is created to perish? Does it flow towards material possession, wealth and posterity? If so then tread carefully here. These are the symptoms of a hemophiliac. One small cut and you’ll bleed out every ounce of blood in your body because one possession is never enough. Your blood will never coagulate. And so you’re back on the operating table but it’s the same old story. You’ve already flat-lined. The hearse has arrived and your casket is prepared. It’s time to start the funeral dirge once more.
I don’t want to be on the operating table. By the grace of God, I don’t want to be spiritually dying. I think you would say the same. Sometimes it takes a little self-reflection to realize that you’re heading towards the ER. And so I think about me. I can only wonder if these years have been marked by too much having and not enough sacrificing, if these years have been marked by clutter and hoarding. All my possessions, all my desires, all the things that I think I need have become stock piled. Items piled on top of items till the Mt. Kilimanjaro of my possessions has become so great that I can not see through it. Frankly speaking, I can not see God.
In Mark 8: 34 Christ says “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” How can I carry another thing? But I know it’s time for this juggling act to come to an end. By his grace I can let everything go. By his grace I can take up my cross. With my arms, yet arms that are not mine, I let everything go. I clear out my mountain. I move mountains—mountains of items I’ll never need. In one fell swoop, with his everlasting arms, I clear away every material possession down to the very atom till finally I can see.
Do you want to know what’s beyond my mountain? Now that would be cheating, wouldn’t it? You have to clear away your own mountain. But I will promise you this. What you see beyond the mountain is the perfect eternal 20/20. The beauty of it all can not be translated into the human tongue, what petty words could capture the essence of it all? But it’s the kind of beauty that makes you ache; the kind that brings you to your knees. It’s the kind of beauty that’s worth living for.