May 2, 2010
The Possessive Life
“Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing” (Luke 12:23).
Whatever possessions we may acquire in this world, these were never meant to be anything more than tools to be used in the service of spiritual priorities. As mere “things,” our possessions were intended to take their character from our character. But we tend to let the tail wag the dog. We attach so much significance to our things that they begin to define us and our character begins to be determined by our possessions, rather than vice versa. We find ourselves living “possessive” lives, as if the main object of our existence was to stockpile belongings.
Over and over again, Jesus appealed to His listeners to lift their sights to the higher concerns. “Life is more than food,” He said, “and the body is more than clothing.” “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15). Then as now, the average person needed to be reminded that the main concern of human life is the Creator, and not the possession of any of those things the Creator has made. Whatever has been created is for our use, but the Creator alone is for our devotion.
When we drift away from a worshipful concern for God, we soon lose our way searching for something else to take God’s place. We desperately need to have something that defines our identity and determines the value of our lives, and if God’s deeds are not allowed to do these things, then it’s only a matter of time before we begin looking to our own deeds to fill the gap.
The consequences of living possessively are fraught with pain, not only for ourselves but for those around us. “A life without a quiet center easily becomes destructive. When we cling to the results of our actions as our only way of self-identification, then we become possessive and defensive and tend to look at our fellow human beings more as enemies to be kept at a distance then as friends with whom we share the gifts of life” (Henri J. M. Nouwen). In the age of the affluent, upwardly mobile “consumer,” there is no harder lesson to learn. Our possessions pull on our hearts so powerfully, the Giver of all good gifts is easily forgotten.
“Theirs is an endless road, a hopeless maze, who seek for goods before they seek for God” (Bernard of Clairvaux).