I have been very convicted of my vain lifestyle lately! I am reading the Bible more than I used to, and I am amazed at how much it says about our use of money. For example:
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible. Matt 19:23-26 (KJV)
Many of you are reading this thinking, "Bethany, you are hardly a rich person. You can't even buy food, propane, and blankets." BUT, I say to you that I am wealthy. If only we could change our perspective on the issue! So many of us Americans/Western Europeans read the Bible through the goggles of our excess/comfort/wealth! So often we try to make the Bible say what we want it to say. And, we want the Bible to say that "wealth is a blessing." We want the Bible to say "live comfortably." But, who is the one deciding what comfort is?
And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
Matt 19:16-22 (KJV)
Jesus is telling this young man that it isn't enough to keep the commandments. He was asking the man to give up what he held dear, his great possessions! I am not going to wrangle with you, Reader, over how literally to take this for yourself. But, I am going to say that these verses cause me great discomfort (as they should!). We need to ask ourselves where we are laying up our treasures!
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Matt 6:19-21 (KJV)
What does this look like in my life? How am I changed because of what I am reading? Well, for starters, my heart is broken for those that have less than myself! One of my heart's desires (and Paul's) is to adopt children in need. These can be American, Ethiopian, Chinese, it does not matter to us the ethnicity. We hope that someday we will be in a position to help others financially. I don't mean just "adopt" a child by paying a certain amount per year (though that is helpful too!). I mean that I want to bring children into our home and love and nurture them in the fear of the Lord! (I plan to post more about Ethiopian adoption in another post very soon)
How else are these convictions of my own wealth affecting me? Well, little by little we are purging our home of excess. Last week I sorted through the toy box. We did not have very many toys before, by American standards, but now we have a more moderate amount. (We still have too many, by my thinking.) I plan to go through the toys again in another month and re-evaluate. I did notice that the kids play with the toys more, now that there are less of them!
This week we looked through the bookcases. We picked out 2 big bags of books that we will be giving away locally. I am surprised that Paul was willing to part with so many books! I am very proud of him. We still have more books than we will likely ever read. And, I hope to re-evaluate the bookcases soon.
Another thing that I am going to be getting out of my home is my stamping/scrapbooking stuff. Here me when I say that doing crafts is NOT in and of itself bad! But, many of us have a propensity to take a good thing and make it sinful! For years I have spent money (that I should not have) on scrapbooking stuff (that was not a necessity) that I almost never even use! I was in love with the idea of scrapping and making note cards. But, it never seemed to work out in reality. The stuff just sits in boxes waiting to be used. What's worse - many times when I did use it I would be so focused that I would ignore my kids or yell at them for touching the sacred stamps. You see, now, why I am so content to give it all away.
CDs is another thing we sorted through this week. We piled up all of the CDs we don't listen to or kept around for mere sentimental reasons. We RARELY listen to music in the home! When we do listen to it, it is to be enjoyed - not just background noise. We make enough noise on our own! So, we kept some CDs - but I would like to re-evaluate again soon!
This has been just a small start. It may sound like a lot, but I assure you that my house is still brimming with useless junk. I have not even touched the attic yet! When we moved in here, we put oodles of boxes in the attic. If I don't miss it, while it is in a box in the attic, then chances are that I do not really need it! I do plan to keep all the kids clothes for future children. I see this as being good stewardship. BUT, if the Lord takes us to a smaller home, then I am comfortable giving those clothes away. (Until that time, we will keep the clothes for our own use).
But, all of the other stuff in the attic - ugh! Why do we feel the need to keep so much stuff??? Do you realize that there is an whole industry in America built upon our greed and excess?! I am speaking of storage units. Some people may have a legitimate need for storage. But, most people keep their excess junk in storage. (Or, maybe just your garage). Maybe it is seasonal decorations, or sentimental stuff, or books you may want to read someday - but it rarely gets used. Do we really need all this excess? No.
Let's rethink our possessions. Do we need all that we have?