Value of Stuff
Tony E Dillon Hansen
Sermon based upon Mark 10: 17-31, Hebrews 4:12-16, Psalm 90
For as long as I can remember, my mother loved to go to garage sales. She would pour through piles of clothes to find something for us kids and later for the grand-children. She would have entire drawers of clothes in her arms and spend maybe $2.
In my adult life, I have realized that having one of those sales takes quite a bit of effort. You sit for most of the day waiting for random people to stop, walk around, haggle over prices, and grumble as they get back into vehicles. That effort feels a bit much given I really wouldn’t “make much” in the sales (fraction of original prices).
Today, I take stuff to Goodwill or with me to UBFM.
Yet, there is something to be said in these. How do we accumulate so much stuff and why? There is a funny bit (albeit honest perspective) from George Carlin about stuff.
I look around my office and my dresser and took stock at all of these things. I started going through and paring down. Could I be a minimalist? Even though, I would look at an object and think I can find use for this and find time to give it some love. You can tell I have a ways to go.
Even so, a minimalist still has stuff. This raises the question: What love am I pouring into my stuff that is missing in the rest of life? What closet needs all this stuff when people all around me can fit their belongings in a backpack or a shopping cart.
I watched a financial advertisement years back, and they even raised the prospect that accumulating stuff is counter to raising one’s financial wealth because we are spending money on things that don’t raise in value. Look all over the house and observe. Yet, we aren’t just talking about money here.
This morning we continue our journey through Mark 10 as Jesus tells a rich person that following the commandments is just part of what Jesus asks of us. Jesus challenges us that we must be willing to give up everything because following Jesus is not always easy and comfortable.
This caused the person to grieve over their many possessions. Perhaps you know someone like this person. What value do we put in our stuff? That is to say: What love do we project over things that ought to be given to people instead?
Then Peter follows that with, “We have given everything.” Where are we on this scale? Peter’s tone of voice is important here and you can imagine an almost exacerbated feel, “We gave it all up - for you? We thought we were doing right.”
As Jesus is want to do - dives deeper. The point is not necessarily about stuff, but what is in our hearts, what we are willing to do for the sake of the good news, or gospel.
There is no loophole in this, Jesus says we must be willing to let go of everything and everyone. We must be willing to let go of status and honors of a broken world because there is a new world. The kingdom is upon us and waiting for us.
Actually, these are acts of love. Jesus said this because love means being beyond ourselves or our comforts. We should be willing to go the extra degree - like a parent does for a child.
Conversely, what do you lose if you get rid of all your stuff? This really comes down to loss of social capital and control. All the stuff I have and all the attachment I have with them is about control. I can control this part of my world.
That is why the rich person walks aways grieving. They will lose control of what they can do with their possessions. I can form a life that looks comfortable and enjoyable with my stuff, but what and who do I leave out?
Yet, why grieve because you could sell everything and distribute among the poor. Jesus in so many words asks: for whose benefit do you do this - your ego, your convenience or for justice - for the gospel? Even closer, consider what you do with the wealth you have. You could use your wealth to empower others, clothe others, comfort others, and feed others. (Great things do happen over meals). Show your love of God in your bold, generous kindness and love for people. Let great things happen.
This is not just a patronage game here either to see how we can compete with each other to see who can give more. That is ego and privilege at work.
Realistically, consider what you would do if a fire or flood destroyed everything you have. You have to start over.
When you are willing to give everything, you will gain everything. Jesus keeps setting the bar high for this reason.
God’s word is alive and sharp. Jesus challenges us to go beyond comfort-zones. That is a lot of self-sacrifice, but Jesus is building a community with an abundant way of living. You are invited.
Incidentally, all the stuff you give up, you get back with a new identity. Jesus is building and restructuring society based upon the good news. Jesus’s kingdom is a new kinship and family in community that is empowered not by stuff, privilege, or status, but empowered by God.
Thus, worry not about value of your stuff and your attachment to them. You don’t have to haggle over prices: be willing to let go of control. Be the good news. Be with God - all of yourself and find the kingdom around you with so much potential.
“For many, the first will be last and last will be first.”
With God, all things are possible.
Thanks Be to God.