Possessions - Monday Musing, August 22, 2022
Possessions – the state of having, owning, or controlling something. We are in the middle of a sermon series, so I have not been paying attention to the lectionary readings. I subscribe to a number of blogs that I consult as part of my sermon preparation. Not wanting to discard them without reading (tucking nuggets away for future use), but given the sermon series, I am a bit behind. A lectionary reading for July 31st caught my attention the other day, particularly one verse: “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist of an abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15).
In the full lectionary reading, Jesus is warning us against putting our trust in material matters; he goes on to tell the parable of the ‘rich fool.’ In this twelfth chapter of the Gospel of Luke, the author groups a number of pithy wisdom sayings about the perils of wealth. Jesus does not appear to subscribe to the prosperity gospel, an umbrella term for a group of ideas — popular among charismatic preachers in the evangelical tradition — that equate Christian faith with material, and particularly financial success.
The text is rich for a stewardship sermon, but by the time our stewardship campaign arrives, the lectionary will have moved on from chapter 12. This reading does give us pause. Let’s admit it – we all have a lot of possessions. It is said that there are 300,000 items in the average American household – now that’s a lot of stuff! One-quarter admit to having a ‘clutter’ problem. Why is it that we want so much stuff in the first place? Once we want something, we find ways to get what we want, then we enjoy having the latest shiny object/toy. Our possessions are so important to us, many of them are kept for a long time (thus the clutter problem). Is it a bad thing that we have a lot of possessions?
In the Luke text, we must not overlook the part of the sentence that says, “Be on guard against all kinds of greed.” Greed is an uncontrolled longing for increase in material possessions, status, or power. So it’s not possessions in-and-of-themselves that are bad, says Jesus, it’s the greed aspect that is our undoing. The wanting, acquiring, and keeping possessions, loving stuff to the exclusion of all else we should be doing in life, such as love of God and neighbor.
Eugene Peterson puts it this way, “Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot.” So whether we have a little or a lot, we all have an abundance of possessions, but our spiritual selves appreciate that our ‘stuff’ does not get in the way of our faith; living a life that matters, drawing on our faith to find opportunities for service, justice, compassion, and love. Be on guard for that! See you in church.