UMC Lead | Stuff Isn’t The Question

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I am surrounded by stuff. There’s stuff on my to-do list, which I know I’m not going to get to. There’s stuff in the trunk of my car that I don’t know where to put. The cupboard is relatively full, and yet I go to a restaurant because there’s nothing to fix for supper. My children’s toy box is overflowing with stuff. The mailbox of bills never seems empty either, and my checking account never seems full enough.

As the year-end quarter begins, every nonprofit on the planet will be asking you to give: United Way, Red Cross, Salvation Army, Heifer Project, NPR, LPB, etc. Your relationship with your church is not immune. These organizations and many others are in the business of doing good. You don’t have to convince me that LPB is an awesome organization, or that the Red Cross does more with my gift than I can do alone, or that I should give my tithe to the work of God first before writing any other check. I get it. I’ve heard that sermon. You might imagine as a pastor that I would recommend only giving to the church. True that if any given congregation would actually tithe pre-tax income, a stewardship letter would be a distant memory. With that said, I’m not going to tell you to give only to the church. I’m not even going to tell you to give to the United Way or ALS Association or fill-in-the-blank.

The problem with me telling you what to do with your stuff is that stuff is still the center of the conversation. Certainly, talking about what to do with our stuff is a needed conversation, but maybe we can shift our focus so that the question need not be asked. Consider the parable Jesus offers in Luke 12. There once was a man who had an abundance of crops. He asked himself, “What should I do? I have nowhere to store my abundance?” The man decided to build a larger storehouse to keep his crop. Of course, the story didn’t work out well for the man. God appeared and said, “Hey . . . It’s time for you to die and there aren’t any pockets in heaven, so . . . you can’t take any of this with you.”

The man’s question is wrong. At least he should have stopped sooner. He asked, “What should I do? I have nowhere to store my abundance?” “What should I do?” is a fine question, but as he continues, he assumes that his problem is how to store his abundance. This assumes that he’s supposed to store and not share his wealth. It also assumes that the abundance is his!

What am I supposed to do with my stuff? Maybe a better question is, “How can God use this stuff?” Can you see the difference in the question? So I’m not going to suggest how much stuff to give to the Salvation Army or how much stuff to give to the church. However, I am going to shine a light in asking, “How are you honoring God during the day?” “How are you honoring God with the gifts you purchase?” “How are you honoring God with the meals you serve?” I don’t care about your stuff. I care about you and the Lord who created you.

Image by Flickr user Brett Jordan. Used under Creative Commons License. Cropped from Original.

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