Total Pageviews

Sunday, 4 May 2014

The Love of Our Possessions

In my previous blog, I related on the theft of a bicycle from my back yard. The cycle was a utility, not a luxury, something essential to day-to-day living, yet having owned it for such a long time, from time to time new parts were added, replacing those which were worn or broken through normal use. Tyres were a particular bane, as they were replaced more frequently than all the other parts put together. So when the bicycle was stolen, something of my heart went with it. However, praise must go to other members of our fellowship, Ascot Life Church, who must have had a round-up on my behalf, for during my absence, two gift envelopes arrived at my door, containing money to cover the cost for a new bike. This goes to show the level of goodness among fellow believers in Jesus, and I'm so thankful for their kind gesture. So with the money I bought  a new bike, together with a strong D Lock, a device which its very existence reflects the bad state of the world where honesty comes into question. Now the new bike remains secured in our back yard when not in use.
Yet nevertheless that was not the end. Back in 2005, I took Alex my wife to Inverness in Scotland, to fulfil her dream to visit Loch Ness, the largest lake, I believe, in Great Britain. We laughed about the Loch Ness Monster, a Plesiosaur-like creature nicknamed "Nessie" that was supposed to inhabit the lake. Unfortunately, we saw nothing of it, even when we boarded a fast motorboat to cruise from one end of the lake to the other. While strolling along the main shopping precinct together, we spotted a beautiful dagger on display in one of the shops. Finished with a brass handle with delicate artwork, Alex gasped at the display, and I went along and bought it for her, noting its sheer weight. It was a demonstration of my love and devotion to my beloved, and I was willing to pay a reasonable price just to see her joy in receiving it. The dagger graced our lounge sideboard since the day we arrived home, and it became so familiar, that this week I did not notice its absence until Alex 'phoned me while I was at work.

Loch Ness, Scotland
Indeed I was flabbergasted! The very previous day to the 'phone call, I arrived home from work to see Alex in a state of comatose, a seizure resembling an epileptic fit, with difficulty in breathing. Without hesitation, I dialled Emergency Services for an ambulance to call at our home. When the crew arrived, I thought I saw the male member standing right in front of the dagger, with his back turned towards it, and facing us, while one of the females were discussing with us whether it was wise to escort my wife to A&E, as the possibility of almost immediate discharge would have created big problems getting home short of an expensive taxi fare. So arrangements were made to see our local GP instead, who diagnosed an infection and prescribed antibiotics. The paramedic in question did behave rather suspiciously, but all my attention was directed towards Alex, so even a hint of a likely theft was as far from my mind as east is from west, I gave no thoughts about it. In fact, after the crew had departed, I did not even suspect anything was amiss until Alex 'phoned me the next day.
Alex informed me that the dagger was there on the day the paramedics arrived. And as far as I recall, I had no other visitor in the house except a member of our church, who comes to visit Alex nearly every week while I'm out at work, as she had done for a number of years. So that leaves only the paramedic, who was after all, a stranger in our house, who I knew nothing of, except that he was wearing his work uniform. Otherwise he was just another guy in the street who had a problem with covetousness.
Alex was upset over her loss, which certainly was no help to me. She suggested contacting the police, but the embarrassment I would have felt at the unbelief of the officer over my insistence that our house was burgled by a paramedic, caused me to remain quiet. Too bad I did not take the fellow's name. This would have given me, and the police, an important lead. Therefore I reasoned with my wife that if he wanted the dagger so badly, then let him have it. As long as we still have each other - I may be able to replace the dagger if a very similar, or even an identical one was on sale - but I cannot replace Alex if anything was to happen to her. We still have each other, that is the main thing.
And I think Jesus would have said the same thing had he been around today. He would have discouraged us from contacting the police, and simply said that I should let the thief keep the loot if he wanted it so badly. Because, as he ministered in his day, he taught that a man's life does not consist of his possessions (Luke 12:13-31). He said this when someone approached him to act as barrister to divide and settle his father's inheritance with his brother, who claimed the whole estate. He then told a parable of the rich man who had harvested so much crops, that he felt it necessary to demolish his present barns, build larger ones, and live the rest of his life at leisure, sustained by his harvest. This sort of living is a dream for many. Many times I had to stand in a queue at a newsagents, waiting to pay for a newspaper while the customer in front was filling out his national lottery voucher. The dream of being wealthy, no longer having to work to pay the bills, to own anything he wants, and to travel the world at leisure, is the dream which motivates the customer in front of me to make a twice-a-week call a the newsagents to pay what I call; "the fool's tax."

But as the rich fool is about to live out his dream, Jesus then relates of his sudden, unexpected death, leaving no heirs to inherit his wealth, bringing out the reality of our existence - to love God and to love one another, especially the spouse. Jesus had always put relationships above wealth, as the former has eternal consequences, while the latter is subject to rust and moth corrupting, and thieves breaking through to steal (Matthew 6:19-21). I recall when I first believed in 1973. When I read what Jesus had to say about possessions, I found this very hard to bear. In those days, when still living at home, I did not find it a problem to save up what I earned and bought what came into my heart. For example, a music centre which kept me entertained in my bedroom, often playing Gospel music. Then not to mention my growing desire for travel.

Often I would think of Jesus, with nowhere to lay his head, tramping up and down Galilee and Judea as he ministered to others. And I recall reading of him saying to his disciples that the servant is not greater than his master (John 13:16, 15:20) nor is he who is sent greater than him who sent him. So if Jesus was homeless, so must be his followers. This was backed up further when, on one occasion, he turned to the crowds and declared that whoever does not take up his cross, dislike his own family, forsake all that he has, he cannot be his disciple (Luke 14:25-33), and to the rich young man he said that if you want eternal life, sell all that you have, give the money to the poor, and come follow me (Matthew 19:16-26). Obviously, according to these and other Scripture passages, being a poor, homeless tramp was essential to salvation, so I thought in those days. Even Peter was aghast when he heard him talk to the rich young ruler, for he asked, "How then can anyone be saved, for we all own something?" v 25. And that was when Jesus revealed the truth of the Gospel:
What is impossible with man is possible with God.

Of course its natural and human for me to own something. And I have no desire to wander around the country without a roof over my head, particularly here in the UK with such a cool, temperate climate. Everyday I watch owners of fast cars whizz pass as I struggle up the hill on a bicycle or on foot, or the years of heavy graft put in to take on a mortgage, as opposed to renting. Yet, since I started believing in Jesus as Saviour towards the end of 1972, the desire for material riches began to lose its hold. Jesus was right - life is much more than possessions. Rather, I see it more of a preparation for eternity. I also recall, quite recently, reading a newspaper article reporting the result of a survey carried out here in Britain. According to this report, people are happier spending more on personal experiences than on tangible items. Holidays seem to top the list. The quest for foreign sunshine seems to be an obsession here, as the UK having such lousy summers is well known around the world. I am no exception. But as the majority of English families were staying at a hotel at a Spanish Costa, I went out to see a little of the world as a solo backpacker. Not following Jesus? Not hating everything in this world in order to be approved by him?

Rather I recognise that every good thing I have is a gift from God, as God so loved the world so much, that it is his desire to bless us with good things to enjoy. I believe that confessing the risen Jesus as the Christ and Lord is all that's required for salvation, according to John 3:16 and Romans 10:9-10. As for loving possessions, on a human level it is impossible to change by self effort, and Jesus himself admits this. But by being filled with the Holy Spirit after believing, priorities of the heart starts to change. I have discovered that it is not difficult to put the will of God above my own wants. For example, the loss of the dagger was upsetting, because it was a love-gift from me to my wife, who loves these sort of things. But if I were to see the thief, rather than seek revenge, I'll simply say to keep what he has, if that was what he wanted, without contacting the police. The secret to all this is realising the vanity of life, when death awaits every man. King Solomon recognised this, and wrote the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes. Solomon was no homeless tramp or street beggar. Instead he was the wealthiest king in Israel's history, and his glory was admitted by Jesus as well (Matthew 6:29). Yet he too, was aware of death approaching and recognised the vanity of earthly riches.

Alex seemed to have come to terms with the loss of the dagger, perhaps better than I did. But as people strive to gain wealth, either honestly through years of hard work, or dishonestly through theft, one thing is certain for us all - in the grave nothing we have now will be of any use or comfort.



  1. Dear Frank,
    Our pastor spoke of this very topic today and did an excellent study of the word "rich" and "riches." Our pastor admits to liking "things," and I have been an avid collector of many different things during my life. These make our life more pleasant and convenient, but ultimately, we can't take them with us. What matters is the treasures we store up in Heaven, where we will enjoy them eternally. And in the meantime, He provides for us according to His riches in glory. Thanks for the great post & God bless,

  2. Like so much in life. our attitude toward our belongings is far more important than the belongings themselves. Good article.

  3. Oh Frank, I'm sorry that this person would steal from you in a moment of your crisis! Even the theft of the bicycle is terrible, and thank the Lord that He put it into the hearts of your church family to ease that difficulty...but however I agree that the things of this life are all temporary anyway, just dust collectors in the end :) I cannot imagine how the person that stole the dagger can find any kind of joy in having it with obtaining it in such a terrible way! I could understand if it was a cloak or a shirt and he was desperately in need of clothing. This was not a desperate need, it was fully lust, and for a weapon! I cannot see how this will bless his life in any way at all, where a coat or shirt might still be a comfort and blessing even if obtained in such a way...hoping that he is stopped before he spreads his curse of his evil gift to himself and pray that the Lord stops him and convicts him day and night of such an evil deed so that he cannot use this weapon in any further evil mischief that he could conceive of in his heart.

    God bless you and Alex, and I pray that the Lord continues to shed His best blessings that are beyond anything that rusts and corrodes, and that His love to you is more and more evident through the good times as well as the trials <3