And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.(Genesis 1:31)
Before the Lord God made man upon the earth He first prepared for him by creating a world of useful and pleasant things for his sustenance and delight. They were made for man’s uses, but they were meant always to be external to man and subservient to him. In the deep heart of the man was a shrine where none but God was worthy to come. Within him was God; without, a thousand gifts which God had showered upon him.
But sin has introduced complications and has made those very gifts of God a potential source of ruin to the soul.
Our woes began when God was forced out of His central shrine and ‘things” were allowed to enter. Within the human heart, “things” have taken over. Men have now by nature no peace within their hearts, for God is crowned no longer there, but there in moral dusk, stubborn and aggressive usurpers fight among themselves for first place on the throne.
This is not a mere metaphor, but an accurate analysis of our real spiritual trouble. There is within the human heart a tough fibrous root of fallen life whose nature is to possess, always to possess. It covets “things” with deep and fierce passion. The pronouns “my” and “ mine” look innocent enough in print, but their constant and universal use is significant. They express the real nature of the old Adamic man better than a thousand volumes of theology could do. They are verbal symptoms of our deep disease. The roots of our hearts have grown down into things, and we dare not pull up one rootlet lest we die. Things have become necessary to us, a development never originally intended. God’s gifts now take place of God, and the whole course of nature is upset by the monstrous substitution.
Humanity hasn’t been created long before it’s tempted with things. Satan plays on Eve’s desire for the forbidden fruit. She wants to possess it and the knowledge that it brings. Forgetting that the God who walks with her everyday has created it and He is the source of wisdom, willing to give it in due season to her, she grasps it. Thus from that moment, the strategy of Satan has been to move us to desire “things” rather than the Creator of “things”. Paul in his writings tells of humanity;
“They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.”
We read that soon after the Israelites left Egypt and Moses is on the mountain with God, they created themselves a golden calf to worship. Over and over again the OT tells of idols created and worshipped rather than the true and living God.
Throughout history, mankind has been consumed with possessing things. From Lot who desired the well watered plains of Sodom to present day Wall Street Americans, people want things. Wars have been fought over things. Families have been divided over things. Churches have split and relationships severed over things. What a power things have.
This has also led some to the opposite view. Rather than viewing things as something to be desired, they see all things as evil. Again this is a strategy of Satan. In this he once again accuses God of wrongdoing. He pushes the idea that God created things but doesn’t wish humans to enjoy them. With the same method he used with Eve, he uses with us. “Did God create that thing, let you see it and desire it but withholds it from you?”
Where then is the balance? Again we can find that in the Bible. Abraham was no doubt one of the wealthiest men who ever lived. God had blessed him abundantly. But when God asked him to leave it all behind and begin a journey with him, Abraham chose to go with God. Traveling with him is his nephew Lot. As they arrive in Canaan, their herds have grown and their servants began to quarrel over grazing, Abraham who is the elder and has right of first pick, gives that to Lot and Lot chooses the best of the land. The obvious difference between Abraham and Lot was their source. Abraham’s source was God and Lots source was things. This becomes clear as the angels literally drag Lot from Sodom before the destruction and after losing his wife who has turned with longing toward their possessions begs the angels to allow him to go to the little city of Zoar. Abraham on the other hand made God the possession of his heart and God in turn blessed him with things. Some one has said, “It is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Jesus tells us to “Seek the kingdom of heaven first and all these “things” will be added unto you.”
I want us to understand that God desires us to enjoy all the things He blesses us with. I think He enjoys seeing His children play with their toys. God delights in blessing us and it give Him pleasure to “give good things to us”.
What Satan wishes is that we become possessive of and possessed by “things” rather than God Himself.
How many families have I seen who appear close only to find themselves in a bitter fight over “things” after the death of the parents.I’ve often said that maybe one of the worst things we can do is leave things for our kids, if by doing so we unintentionally create a rift.
In our world today, there is huge conflict over disparity of wealth. Everybody wants their “fair share”, whatever that is. The have nots envy the haves and the haves envy those who have more and on and on it goes. But if our source is God, we can yield to the “Lots” who demand the first and the best and we can trust God to provide all that we need and often all that we desire. Truthfully if our desire is God, our desire for things becomes less for we are content with all that God has provided us. It is a great place to be where you can enjoy the blessings of God without fear of loss or envying those who have more. Paul says, “Still, I am not ashamed; for I know Him [and I am personally acquainted with Him] whom I have believed [with absolute trust and confidence in Him and in the truth of His deity], and I am persuaded [beyond any doubt] that He is able to guard that which I have entrusted to Him until that day [when I stand before Him].
2 Timothy 1:12
To sum up these words, if we keep God as the possession of our hearts, He will keep our things.
I cannot finish this without mentioning the dark side of being possessed by things. This is not just something that unbelievers wrestle with. It’s not just something that Cain or Lot or Judas and others wrestled with. It’s not just kings and queens and the corporate world that seek things. It has also been the struggle within the church. It is said that the pope once said to Thomas Aquinas, “See all we have, we no longer need to say as Peter, ‘Silver and gold have I none.’” Thomas replied, “Neither can we say, ‘ Such as I have give I thee’.” In earlier centuries quite often the church engaged in or promoted wars for its own gain.
Two personal stories. I’ve shared this one before. There’s a local church that frequently dismisses it’s pastor. There’s usually a charge of some sort brought and the congregation votes to terminate his ministry. I know some of the members and with the recent situation I asked what were the issues. I knew something was quite wrong when they used the terms, “my church”. They had hired this pastor with the mandate to grow the church with youth and children. So he began by choosing a room for children’s ministries. Unfortunately that room had some pictures that had been donated by a member and when he removed them that person became upset. Sadly for that person and eventually the congregation “things” were more important than ministry.
Second story. We were pastoring a church and our children’s ministry began to explode with growth so we needed space. The area where the children’s department was also included a room used by the women’s ministry twice a year. It was used in the spring to store chocolate eggs and in the fall to store apple butter. Silly me thought that everyone would be happy to have and support a growing children’s ministry, but was I surprised. One lady informed me that the room was theirs and they would not give it up for any reason. She went on to say that the women of the church were more important than those kids for after all they provided a lot of financial support to the church. I must say I was blown away. In my naivety I thought every Christian valued ministry above things.
I thank God every day for all that He has blessed me with but I can honestly say that He alone possesses my heart and soul. I’m thankful that He trusts me with things and I know He only allows me to have what I can possess without them possessing me. I thank God for His church and His people. They are not mine to own, possess or control. They are His alone for He has purchased us with His own blood. All things He has given us are for the purpose of carrying out His work. Let our heart’s possession be Him and let us never be possessed by anything other than Him.
Dr. John Thompson