First of all, I want to apologize for being MIA the past six weeks. Long story short, the past six weeks have been filled with my wife and I receiving and accepting a call to ministry at a church in Southern California. That means we both had to end our jobs in Oakland, pack everything that we own (which was more than we anticipated), say heartfelt goodbyes to friends and loved ones, drive 500 hundred miles to Goleta, CA, unpack everything that we own (which we have yet to finish) and start work in a new church community. Needless to say, we have been absolutely swamped the past few weeks. Moving has a tendency to take over your life, so my wife and I have not had a lot of time to process things, let alone sit and write a blog post.
We are both still processing through the fact that we are living in a new place, in a new community and with a new church family, so the next few posts from us will likely be in response to the wonderfully terrifying upheaval of the past six weeks.
Also, as I mentioned in an earlier post, “In the Midst,” my hope is that I remember the pain, confusion, and long nights that I spent wondering if God had forgotten my call into ministry. I promise you, the reader, that I will formulate a response to my initial tribulation, but I need time to reflect on it for myself. God has been so patient and good throughout this whole process, and I need to allow myself time to bask in the glory and wonder of this call.
In the meantime, I thought it would do me good to share some thoughts about the moving process. Whenever someone asked me how packing/unpacking was going, my answer was always the same. I told them you really don’t know how much stuff you own until you have to pack it all. And in many respects, that is completely true. My wife and I spent countless hours getting boxes, packing things, unpacking them, and then packing them in another box. It was one of the more tiring things that I have ever experienced in my life. We had So. Much. Stuff.
As usual, God has a funny way of speaking to you through different circumstances, and our move was one of them. I couldn’t help but reflect on something that Jesus said about worldly possessions. The Apostle Matthew records Jesus as saying “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)
I have always read this verse with the understanding of Jesus calling us to not put our hopes and future in things that will rot and die. That is always how I have understood this passage. But then I had to move all of my possessions from one place to another and I realized that what Jesus is saying here is actually a HUGE blessing.
Let me explain.
There is an aspect of this passage that does have to do with putting your hope and faith in worldly possessions. That is the timeless lesson of what Jesus is saying in Matthew 6. But I don’t think that is the only reason why Jesus is saying this. In the midst of moving I realized that the vast majority of my stress had to do with packing my possessions, making sure they were safe, and then unpacking them ever-so-gently as to not damage any of them. Granted, what human in their right mind wouldn’t want to make sure their stuff made the journey okay? But when I look back on the moving process, I realize that I was unnecessarily stressed out because of my possessions. I was so caught up in whether or not my TV was packed right, or whether my artwork would make it unscathed. I spent hours worrying about how my things all fit into boxes.
I was possessed by my possessions.
When Jesus tells us to not store up our treasures on earth, it is actually a liberating act. What I mean is that Jesus is freeing us from the burden of figuring out how to pack up all of our earthly possessions and transport them into heaven. He reminds us that it is not the possessions that we need to worry about. The only thing we need to set about doing is working towards the future kingdom, where the greatest possession we could ever accumulate is freely given; being in the eternal presence of God.
Jesus frees us from the exhausting task of having to worry about our earthly possessions. We don’t have to pack anything. We don’t have to itemize what we are bringing to heaven, because ultimately, none of it matters. What matters is not finite possessions, but eternal salvation.
Yes, Jesus calls us to focus more on heavenly treasures than earthly possessions. But I think this passage in Matthew’s Gospel is much more freeing than I first thought.
I thank God that I do not have to pack any of my things when I am called home.