Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Use Your Material Possessions to Draw Closer to Christ

personal/ ministry resource from Whitney Hopler

Kelly is constantly thinking of stuff she doesn't have. A pastor's
wife, Kelly lives on an income that's far tighter than she would like.
She regularly reminds her husband of what a painful sacrifice it is
for her to live on their income, and she often window-shops for things
she would like to own.

Kelly feels guilty about secretly buying lottery tickets, and even
more guilty about resenting the members of her congregation who live
in large houses filled with more stuff than she has in her small

Mike is always thinking about the stuff he has. He worked and saved
for years to acquire things he dreamed of owning -- a Porshe in his
garage, a big-screen television in his living room, an extensive
collection of suits in his bedroom. Mike can't bring himself to get
rid of all his stuff, but he frequently worries about whether it's
demanding too much of his time and money.

He and his wife sense a calling to start a family someday, but Mike
doesn't see how he can make the necessary sacrifices. Then there's
giving to their church. Mike never manages to drop more than a few
dollars into the collection plate each week, despite knowing he should
contribute much more. When he finds himself feeling badly about it, he
takes a ride in his Porsche, which never fails to put him in a better

You may think you have either too little or too much stuff. But what
truly matters is how you use the stuff you have. Here are five
principles for using your stuff as tools to grow closer to Christ:

1. Don't give greater priority - as measured by your time and
attention - to your stuff than you do to your relationship with
. It's often the case that the more possessions you have, the
more they possess you. Buying, maintaining, insuring, fixing,
cleaning, and storing your stuff can eat up a considerable amount of
time. Do you really need that Oriental rug that requires you to take
off your shoes every time you walk in your house? Do you need to get a
wax job for your car every other week, or can you skip it?

More importantly, time you don't spend taking care of your stuff can
be spent in prayer or reading the Bible. Take an inventory, not of
your stuff, but of the time you spend dealing with your stuff. How
does that compare with the time you spend with Christ? If the former
number is out of balance with the latter, you'll do well to simplify.

Jesus said, "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one
and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the
other. You cannot serve both God and money" (Matthew 6:24).

2. Your attitude toward stuff should bless others. In all things -
including dealing with stuff - an attitude of love should rule your

It's not enough just to decide to get rid of extra stuff you already
own and decide not to buy more. You can sanctimoniously congratulate
yourself on not wanting or owning a lot of stuff, but still end up
sinning if you fall into the traps of ingratitude or miserliness.

For example, if friends or family members present you with gifts that
cost more than you think they should, don't criticize their generosity
by judging how they spent their money. Remember that just because a
gift is expensive doesn't make it bad. As long as the gift-givers are
sincerely expressing love through their gifts and not trying to
manipulate you through them, you should accept graciously and

Don't feel pressured to reciprocate with expensive gifts of your own
if God doesn't lead you to do so. But whenever you have stuff that you
don't truly need - and that other people could use - be willing to be
generous yourself. Acts 2:45 records that early Christians sold their
possessions, giving "to anyone as he had need." They knew that
material things are merely tools to express Christ's love and grow
closer to Him.

3. Your stuff should foster enriching experiences. Manage wisely
whatever God chooses to give you.
Stuff isn't inherently bad;
sometimes it can enable you to experience something that will draw you
closer to Christ. If you can hear God's voice more clearly out in
nature, it makes sense to own a tent and a sleeping bag so you can go

When Jesus attended the wedding in Cana, He chose to perform His first
public miracle by changing water to wine. Serving wine was an
important part of the wedding experience in that culture, and Jesus
knew that preventing the supply of wine from running out would support
the fellowship the wedding guests were enjoying.

4. Your stuff should honor Christ. In 1 Corinthians 10:23, 31, the
apostle Paul wrote, "'Everything is permissible' - but not everything
is beneficial. 'Everything is permissible' - but not everything is
constructive. ... So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do
it all for the glory of God."

Whatever stuff you choose to have should glorify God. Of course, that
means you shouldn't own stuff that is by its nature opposed to God's
teachings - such as pornographic magazines. Most of the stuff in our
lives, however, doesn't fall into that category. We should use
whatever we have in ways that honor Him. For example, you can use your
television to watch news that keeps you informed, or an inspiring show
that reflects biblical principles. Or you can use it to watch soap
operas, filling your mind with values that don't please God.

Think about how your stuff honors the Lord. If certain items don't,
it's best to give them up.

5. Your stuff shouldn't make you feel discontent. Just like Kelly and
Mike's experiences, stuff can rob us of the contentment God wants for
us. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to agree with the apostle Paul: "I
know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to be have
plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every
situations, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in
want" (Philippians 4:12)?

What is that secret? A close relationship with Christ. All of our
stuff will one day pass away from us, but a relationship with Christ
is eternal!

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