This morning as we finish packing and await Altas Van Lines to move us from North Texas, I’m reminded of the late and well known Texas preacher, Robert Turner, who wrote a column called “Stuff About Things.”
The regular feature, on the back page of his bulletin “Plain Talk” which was published for 20 years, was a potpourri of thoughts, ideas and spiritual lessons from a variety of sources. Later “Stuff About Things” was published in a book, which I remember packing with all my office stuff. It was good stuff.
The word “stuff” is actually found 16 times in the King James Bible to describe goods, possessions, belongings or baggage. In I Samuel 10:22 when Saul was to be anointed as King, he could not be found. When the prophet inquired to the Lord about it, he answered, “Behold, he hath hid himself among the stuff.”
Well, I can relate to that because this morning I am surrounded by almost 200 boxes of stuff. Even at 6’7″ I could probably hide for a while and not be found.
Books. Dishes. Clothes. Furniture. Memorabilia. Reminders of childhood, High School, and College. Stuff from the kids’ childhood. Yeah, we got a lot of stuff from everywhere we’ve ever been. And of course picture albums. And more books and more dishes. And just a lot of stuff.
The irony is that we have discarded lots of stuff. It’s either been sold, given away, donated, or just tossed in the trash. Yet, there’s still plenty of stuff to move to our storage unit in Crystal River, Florida, where Kenny’s family will be living as April begins her new career as a Family Practice Physician. Thankfully, they’re taking some of our stuff.
Why do we hold on to our stuff? What makes it so important that we drag it around all over the country? And why do we rent storage units to store stuff that we may never use again? I think I figured it. At least for me.
It’s not really about the stuff. It’s about the memories the stuff brings to mind. Memories of pleasurable experiences. People we loved. Good times that we treasure. Kenny warned us, “Don’t throw anything that was Mamaw’s! Why? Because of the special place she holds in his heart. Don’t worry, Kenny, we didn’t.
My wife, Norma Jean, can still remember who gave us a plate for a wedding present 50 years ago. Or a going away present from brethren 3 churches ago. It’s really not the stuff, it’s what it represents. The feeling that it gives. The emotion it evokes when we think of folks we cherish. It’s hard to part with stuff when there’s an emotional element attached to it.
Of course, if we are not careful our stuff can become more important than people. Relationships. Or even spiritual matters. The Bible often warns us about the danger of materialism and greed.
On one occasion a man came to Christ complaining that his brother would not divide their father’s inheritance with him. Apparently, his brother got all the stuff. But Jesus admonished, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” (Lk. 12:15)
Life is not about stuff. Riches. Or our prized possessions, collections, or antiques. The life Jesus promised, one that is full, rich, and meaningful, transcends our stuff. It is God-ward. Heaven focused. And spiritually fulfilling. (Jn 10:10; Col. 3:1-2).
David Mitchell, the British author, is credited with the quip, “Whoever dies with the most stuff wins.” I don’t know if he was kidding or not. But that’s not so. Just ask the rich man in Luke 16 who ignored the pitiable plight of the beggar Lazarus. When he died and landed in the Hadean realm of Torment he would have gladden given all his stuff for one more opportunity to reorder his priorities.
One of my favorite stories is about John D. Rockefeller who was one of the world’s richest men when he died. Trying to acquire some inside information on the extent of his wealth, a reporter inquired of Mr. Rockefeller’s accountant, “How much did he leave?”
The accountant’s reply is classic, “He left it all.”
At age 70, I’m faced with the sobering reality of my own mortality. This stuff may go to Florida, but it’s not going to the home the soul. You’ve never seen a hearse pulling a u-haul trailer.
So, enjoy your stuff. Use it. Share it. But don’t get too attached to it. Because it’s all temporary.
Instead, focus on a life well lived for the Lord. In it, you will find significance, purpose and an eternal reward that will outlive all of your stuff.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman