As I have come to know Jesus over the last couple years, He has begun to change my heart regarding many things. One of those things is caring for the poor and the oppressed. As I mentioned in an earlier post, seeing poverty in Ethiopia hit me hard. It messed me up for months. Now I’m at least able to think about it somewhat rationally, without being completely overcome with emotion, but I hope I never lose the ache in my heart when I recall what I’ve seen.
After our second trip to Ethiopia in March, Rob and I began praying and talking about what we could actually do to help. We have sponsored a little girl in Ethiopia through World Vision for the last 3 years, but it seemed like God was calling us to more. As I thought about it, I realized there were no shortage of organizations to support; if we wanted to just give money to an organization to make ourselves feel better, it would have been easy. And yet, I couldn’t shake the feeling that He had a unique opportunity for us.
One day, as I was thinking about our trip to Ethiopia in March, I realized what our opportunity was. Before we took placement of our daughter, we were able to travel to Gondar, where she was born, to visit the orphanage where she lived for 3 months. Bridge of Hope was amazing. The kids we saw were happy and well cared for. The housing was certainly adequate and each house even had its own garden. They also have a café that they run to earn money to support themselves. I later ran across this video that also shows how they even support at-risk kids in the community. Bridge of Hope is doing wonderful things. But as we learned while we were there, although they have many ways to support themselves, they still need donations. And specifically, children need sponsors. As Rob and I thought and talked about it, we realized this was at least one opportunity we had to do our part in helping fight poverty. However, we were kind of at a loss as to how we could really do that since we were down to one income and had just added a member to our family.
Shortly thereafter, we were in church one Sunday and our pastor was preaching out of Luke 12. His actual sermon was taken from verses 13-21, pertaining to the Rich Young Fool. I believe the sermon was about hoarding – or at least that’s what I got out of it – but it was what Jesus said in verse 21 that really caught my attention:
“So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
And I thought to myself, “what does He mean to be ‘rich toward God?’ I have no idea.” So I kept reading. In verses 22 through 32, He talks about how we shouldn’t be anxious, but instead trust the Father for our needs – particularly our physical needs for food and clothing. And I thought, “OK, I get that, but I’m still not understanding how I should be rich toward God.” And then I got there:
“Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Luke 12:33-34)
But unlike The Rich Young Ruler’s response (and frankly, my own response any other time I’ve read this), I didn’t walk away sad, I finally said, “YES!!” What the Holy Spirit said to me that day was that I was hoarding my possessions. We have plenty – way more than we need – and we could sell many of our possessions so that we had money to sponsor a child at Bridge of Hope.
And so we started the process of selling some of our possessions. Rob was able to sell his PS3 within a couple days of us making the decision; then we sold all of Lottie’s outgrown clothes and gear at a large consignment sale; and then we had a garage sale where we sold lots of other stuff. We still have several things to sell – some books and electronics that we think we can get more money through other avenues – but the Lord was faithful to allow us to sell almost every single thing we have attempted to sell.
So, in addition to really learning that the Lord would be faithful to complete that which He has begun, I also learned how stinkin’ materialistic I really am. As I went through the process of going through my possessions, not to simply de-clutter, but to assess what I really needed, my hoarding heart was exposed. For those of you who know me, you might be surprised at this. I used to have a family member who was a bit of a hoarder. When compared to her, I could never be called a hoarder, but with every decision, every piece of clothing put in the “sell” pile, I began to feel more and more raw, exposed. I had come face to face with the fact that I found comfort, security and
maybe even status, in my
possessions. It was then that the rest
of Jesus’s words began to sink in:
“Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
See, I thought that we were just going to sell some extra possessions so that we could give to those who were in need, but the Lord knew my heart, and He knew what needed to be done. He exposed my idolatry – because let’s call it what it is. If I found comfort in my stuff, then I wasn’t finding comfort in Him. And that’s idolatry. One of many idols in my life, I suspect.
And that’s really just the beginning of the story, I think. We still have lots of stuff in our house – lots of stuff I’m emotionally attached to, but rarely – if ever – use. There are still idols, friends. I can’t tie a pretty bow on this and tell you that the Lord has cured me of materialism and I’ll never be materialistic again. But it’s a start and He’s working on it.
So how about you? Do you find yourself, like me, storing up treasure which can be stolen, and moth and rust destroy? How has the Lord taught you about storing up treasure in Heaven?