Most people have seen the bumper sticker: HE WHO COLLECTS THE MOST STUFF WINS.
Unless the vehicle with this sticker was a garbage truck, the message was undoubtedly intended as a joke.
It’s a joke on all of us, for we are all collectors of stuff as if there was some imaginary contest to win. We have all got caught up in the need to have stuff.
Like a lot of people I remember saving up my pennies, dimes, and nickels, and a few quarters in my little coin purse. You know, the kind that you squeeze on the ends and it opens up? I would save my money until we could get to the big city of Beatrice. I would hunt for the best toy I could buy with my money. The same story has happened ever since.
One lesson this pandemic has taught us is the real treasure of this world is not in stuff. The real treasure is found in love and relationships. No one is in agony to see their stuff. Our stuff can get though the pandemic just fine.
I just saw a picture of a 90-year-old man who goes every day to the nursing home where his wife is by herself. He can only see his wife through the outside window. It’s heart wrenching to see folks trying to talk and put their hands on the window because that’s the closest they can get — one half inch apart.
Jesus didn’t have much stuff, nor did his disciples. Jesus said that if your shirt was taken from you, you should give your coat as well. “Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.” He traveled light and believed his followers should too. Nothing is particularly wrong with stuff, only if it gets in the way of our ministry to people.
The early Christians even adopted a communal way of living, where no one possessed their own things, but they had everything in common. Should we try to go back to that way of living? I don’t think that would work very well today. I think we can go back to the same spirit of sharing with others. We can act like all our stuff really belongs to God and we are only the caretakers.
The whole spirit of the early Christians can be described in Acts 4:32-34, “They were of one heart and soul…and great grace was upon them.” They had the “sweet nectar” of grace.
I’ve met many people who reported a changed attitude toward material possessions after traveling to places around the world. It changes your perspective when you see the majority of people struggling to gain the basic necessities of life. Desperate circumstances of people help us to see our own situations differently. Hopefully, it also reminds us that many of our ancestors went through the same struggles not very long ago.
Maybe we can find ways of traveling more lightly like Jesus and his disciples.
Prayer: Our Lord, may we long for the “sweet nectar” of grace shared by Jesus and his disciples who went before us. Amen.
The Rev. Dan Safarik retired as a full-time pastor at St. Luke United Methodist Church in Lincoln and now serves part time at St. Mark’s UMC in Lincoln. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Rev. Dan Safarik serves St. Luke United Methodist Church in Lincoln. Email him at email@example.com