Possessing All Things
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.(Matthew 5:3)
Our Lord referred to the tyranny of things when He said to His disciples. “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.’(Matthew 16:24-25)
Breaking this truth into fragments for our better understanding, it would seem that there is within each of us an enemy which we tolerate at our peril. Jesus called it “life” and “self”, or as we would say, the self-life. It’s chief characteristic is it’s possessiveness: the words “gain” and “profit” suggest this. To allow this enemy to live is in the end to lose everything. To repudiate it and give up all for Christ’s sake is to lose nothing at last, but to preserve everything unto life eternal. And possibly also a hint is given here as to the only effective way to destroy this foe: it is by the Cross: “Let him….take up his cross and follow me.”
The way to deeper knowledge of God is through the lonely valleys of soul-poverty and abnegation of all things. The blessed ones who possess the kingdom are they who hove repudiated every external thing and have rooted from their hearts all sense of possessing. They are “poor in spirit.” They have reached an inward state paralleling the outward circumstances of the common beggar in the streets of Jerusalem; that is what the word “poor” as Christ used it actually means.
These blessed poor are no longer slaves to the tyranny of things. They have broken the yoke of the oppressor; and the they have done not by fighting but by surrendering. Through free from all sense of possessing, they yet possess all things.
“ Theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
We read that the very first conflict between humans was between two brothers. Abel, who raised sheep brought his gift to God. He chose carefully his best lamb as an offering. The picture we see is one that demonstrates the recognition that every blessing comes from God and when we give to God we place Him first and ourselves second. It is also a picture that places relationships above the possession of things. Cain, on the other hand, brings to God the leftovers. Perhaps he thought that since God already had everything, He didn’t need his best. So selfishly he kept the best for himself. We read that his offering was not accepted and indeed the offering of leftovers will never be acceptable. Unwilling to accept the responsibility for his selfishness, Cain becomes jealous and angry with Abel. God in His mercy warns Cain that if he lets those feelings go uncontrolled that “sin lies at the door.” We read that Cain finds his brother alone and kills him and buries him trying to cover up his sin.
What a sad story and yet it continues to be repeated.
It is a sad place to be enslaved by things. Please note that I’m not suggesting some vow of poverty in which we live in tents, wear rags and eat bread and water. Breaking slavery to things is an inner thing. You may have lots of things without being enslaved by them or you may possess only a few things but those things control your life. We cannot afford to make this issue just an issue of the wealthy. It is a disease that affects the whole scope of humanity. One of the temptations that Satan offered Christ in the wilderness was that of possessing the kingdoms of this world.
This is not just an issue with unbelievers for believers as well are often controlled by things.
What is at stake is how we view God. Do we see Him as our source or do we find our security in what we possess? The very idea of tithe and offering hinges on our answer to this question. We do not give because God in some way needs what we bring. Cain’s failure was tied to this idea. I need my things more than God does. Once having things becomes important to us, Satan uses that desire to draw us away from trusting God and relying on our abilities and strength. Rather than seeing ourselves as stewards we view ourselves as owners. Our giving rests solely in how we view God. If God is my source, I can release my things and be at peace but if my things are my source, I will hold them with a death grip, be fiercely protective of them and live with the fear of losing them. It is great freedom to enjoy all the things that God blesses us with while recognizing His ownership.
Paul says, “For I am persuaded He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him…..” This is the secret to true peace. Trusting God with our souls, our life, our family, and our stuff leaves us to walk in peace that passes all understanding.
As we see all the turmoil in the world, much of it can be attributed to the drive to possess more and more of things. Those who are wealthy want to keep and increase their wealth. Those who are poor want a piece of that wealth. Nations envy and desire the things their neighbors possess so they invade hoping to gain things. Families often disintegrate as one member wants the most of things and the other members not only resist that but wish to receive the most things for themselves. Even in the church, most conflict is over things and who controls them.
Working with hospice patients affirmed for me the understanding that in the end things are really unimportant. I talked with those who had accomplished great things in life, those who had accumulated large possessions, and those who exercised great power as leaders. I also talked with those who had done none of these things. As both groups approached the end of their days, it became obvious that things didn’t matter, whether they had any or not. Life’s accomplishments or the lack thereof no longer mattered and their status in the community became unimportant. Two things became the subject of pursuit. First was their relationship with God. Second was their relationships with other people. There were those who expressed regret that they had lived their lives pursuing things without having a relationship with God. There were those who were thankful for all their possessions they had enjoyed but were glad they had made their relationship with God a priority. Those who literally had nothing expressed the same feelings. It wasn’t the amount of things in either case, it was their place of importance. I remember one man who had worked all his life but accumulated little expressing regret that while his family went to church and enjoyed times together he was working and missed all those things. I remember one woman,who was living in her dream home that she and her husband had sacrificed to build, who said to me, “None of this matters now. I wish I had spent more time just enjoying life rather than polishing furniture.” I remember one couple who both worked two jobs to build a house, accumulate finances for retirement with plans to travel when that day came. I will never forget sitting in their home, the husband with a neurological disease that left him speechless and unable to communicate, and hearing the wife say, “O how foolish we were to work all these years and never taking time to enjoy each other and now here we sit. My husband staring at the wall and I sit alone in the silence.”
Truly those who possess God are indeed rich. In the words of an old song:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full into His wonderful face
And the things of earth
Will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.
Dr. John Thompson