Americans fixate on material things this time of year. Thanksgiving gives way to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Christmas has become a primarily commercial holiday. It is important that disciples remember Jesus’ perspective: “Take care, and be on your guard against covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions”(Luke 12:15). You are more than your stuff.
We spend much of our time and energy in pursuit of money and possessions. Jesus tells a story about a man with this same ambition: “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry’”(Luke 12:16-18). The man’s ideal life involves having so much that he never again has to worry or work. He can simply spend his time enjoying his work.
Yet what is lost in this story (which probably sounds pretty good to modern Americans!) is the cost of this goal. What about the years of life lost in working so hard for stuff? What about the neglect of more important things along the way? What about when nest eggs are wiped out by market downturns (or, in Jesus’ words, moth and rust destroy it)? What about the relationships we allow to languish in our pursuit of the ever-elusive comfortable life? What about the kids whose childhoods we miss? What about the sharing we refuse to do because we are saving for “someday”? “But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God”(Luke 12:20-21). The man suddenly comes to the end of his life and only realizes then how terribly he has miscalculated.
You are more than your stuff. Your job is not all that matters about you. The pleasure that comes from possessions is fleeting and incomplete. The time will come when your net worth not be measured in dollars. Accept possessions as blessings from God. Use them to bless others and to honor God. Prepare not just for retirement, but for the future when your soul—your true life—is required of you.