Sunday, September 29
The Rev. Rebecca S. Myers, LSW
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Corbin, KY
There is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these.
Some of you may remember hearing this comedy routine: “…that’s all you need in life, is a little place for your stuff, ya know? I can see it on your table, everybody’s got a little place for their stuff. This is my stuff, that’s your stuff, that’ll be his stuff over there. That’s all you need in life, a little place for your stuff. That’s all your house is: a place to keep your stuff. If you didn’t have so much stuff, you wouldn’t need a house. You could just walk around all the time. A house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it. You can see that when you’re taking off in an airplane. You look down, you see everybody’s got a little pile of stuff.”
George Carlin did this routine over 25 years ago. Today in our readings and the Gospel, we hear about what happens when our love of “stuff” or our love of money goes awry.
Jesus tells a story about a rich man who feasted sumptuously every day on earth, dies and is tormented in Hades, while the man at his gates who he shunned every day is in heaven. The tables are turned after death. The rich man begs Abraham to send a messenger to family members to warn them what is coming if they continue to live the same way he did, but Jesus talks about how hard it is for the rich to hear the message, even if a dead man were to be resurrected!
And in 1 Timothy, we hear what happens when our desires for stuff and for money take control. “But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.”
Notice here, it’s not money that is the root of all evil, it is the LOVE of money…the lusting after riches.
Somehow we get attached to riches and to stuff, don’t we?
The danger of becoming overattached to things runs in my family, I fear. My paternal grandmother definitely hung on to stuff, even Land-o-Lakes butter boxes, because they had recipes in them. But then she grew up during the depression so she may have had an excuse.
When my parents were moving out of their home into a nursing home six years ago, my mother insisted that I pack so many things away. As she saw each item, they reminded her of the giver or of an event. She could not part with these things, so I dutifully wrapped each memory, placing it in a box, which still sits in my son’s basement today. That was so hard to do. I knew she’d never see these things again. I knew I would need to figure out what to do with them eventually AND I knew that in 20 years, I’d be the same way. I wanted to go home and sell all of my stuff at that point, just so my children and I would not repeat the scene.
My daughter and I sometimes watch hoarding shows together just to remind us what can happen if we become too attached to stuff.
It is hard to let go of our stuff, even when we don’t use it anymore. Even when it clutters our homes, takes up space in our lives. There is the worry about someone possibly stealing our stuff, so we do all kinds of things to protect it. I’ve paid so much money in storage and moving costs to hold on to stuff like every Christmas card ever sent to me. When I finally decided to go through and get rid of this stuff, I couldn’t even remember who the people were who’d sent me some of the cards!
Being attached to our stuff and to getting more stuff has a cost, taking up space physically, emotionally and spiritually in our lives.
Instead of our love of our stuff and our love for riches, we are offered a better way. In Jeremiah, we hear of God’s promise, that even midst the exile of the people to Babylon, they will return at some point to the land they used to live in. : “Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land,” Jeremiah prophesies. There is hope and we will have what we need. And the Psalmist exhorts us to trust in God. That God will be our shelter and our protection.
1 Timothy provides more details, encouraging us to value most our relationship with God and with each other and on our behavior towards each other. “There is great gain in godliness combined with
contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these.”
Godliness and contentment are the key. We can be content with food and clothing. It is a minimalist way of living that exposes the essence of life through eliminating all that is not essential. Good stewards of the faith know that godliness and contentment are the essence of life. That we need to eliminate all that is not essential to our lives.
When we crave riches…crave more stuff… crave more than we truly need… we are plunged into destruction…utter destruction.
Rather, we are to focus on our relationship with God and with each other, which is evident by our pursuit of righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. We are commanded not to be haughty, or to set our hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. We are to do good,to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share.
This is a tall order, isn’t it? Living in ways that are righteous, godly, faithful, loving, patient or enduring, and gentle can be challenging for us. Think about that for a minute.
Yet, this is the good fight we are asked to wage. The way of life that is godly and provides contentment. We can’t take it with us. When we pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness… when we are not haughty, don’t set our hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God… when we do good, are rich in good works, generous and ready to share, we store up for ourselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that we may take hold of the life that really is life.