Yesterday’s message …
- Was delivered TWICE — once to our live outdoor service at 8:30 and then via livestream at 10 a.m.;
- Speaking of the “live” service, during the preaching of it the connection of “genealogy” and “generosity” came to me, spur of the moment, so I included it with some frequency in both iterations;
- Encouraged households to have holy conversations regarding money, possessions, and generosity;
- Landed at this bottom line: I’d rather become His possession than count up mine.
Some of you know that I have a love/hate – mostly hate – relationship with those Storage Unit places you see all around. And so I loved this headline on a recent piece so much that I hated it:
As Possessions Expand, So Does Self-Storage Business
This piece comes from UNCC and it turns out that greater Charlotte is sort of the epicenter of the storage unit building boom. In the greater Charlotte area, just before virus mania hit us, there were fourteen new such complexes under construction and six others that were under expansion. And the best part of the whole article – and least surprising – is this: (AV) “in one two mile stretch of SC 49 through Lake Wylie – Hey! That’s Us! – one facility is expanding, two more are opening, and that joins two other already there.” That’s five such businesses in two miles in the middle of US!
And these places have really upped their game – climate controlled, valet services, carpeting – a far cry from the shabby metal buildings they used to be. All these stats and all that storage luxury bling is such interesting study of personality and reveals so much about our attitudes towards our stuff. Part necessity, part luxury.
In terms of counting stuff up, did you know Jay Leno has 286 vehicles, 169 of them cars and the rest motorcylces? Or that Bernie has three houses? Or that I have about 40 vintage issues of World Tennis magazine (AV) going back well over 50 years? It’s possessions, and some of it is luxury and some of it is necessary and some are nice to have and some become junk when hoarded. And just so you know: I am the last person to lay a guilt trip on you for too much this or too much that because that comes across as so shrill out of a preacher’s mouth. And honestly, I love it when you do well and work hard and make money and even enjoy life; and I even believe that corporations are made up of people so aren’t nameless faceless agents of evil.
However, I keep coming back to Scripture, and especially to the book of Proverbs and what is says about money and stuff. And just for good measure I’m gonna throw some NT meat from I Corinthians just to round out the main course. Because I don’t want us to become so adept at accumulation, such good customers of the storage unit industry, that ultimately greed and hoarding are what run in our families. Now look at how Proverbs 11:24, 28, and 28:22 say it:
24 One person gives freely, yet gains even more;
another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.
25 A generous person will prosper;
whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.
28Those who trust in their riches will fall,
but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.
28:22 The stingy are eager to get rich
and are unaware that poverty awaits them.
Ah! So this bent toward accumulation, the priority of possession that gives little or no thought to generosity – or the wrong kind of generosity – has within it the seeds of its own destruction. Counting up your possession is really counting down to your calamity. You know this. You’ve seen this. I’ve seen this. I remember that conversation YEARS ago with a young-ish couple recently flush with cash, getting ready to build dream house. Houses are great, but something was wrong in the preoccupation. Something was missing in all this. And soon it was. The boom went bust, the house got foreclosed on, and all the possessions they’d counted up were soon counted out.
Perhaps you’ve known that story. Maybe you’ve lived that story. Maybe you know exactly what it means to be caught in the Monkey Trap. Know it? It’s a hollowed out coconut with a little rice in the bottom and a small hole in the top. The monkey reaches in to grab the rice but with clenched fist cannot get hand out. So he’s stuck because he won’t let go of his rice – HIS POSSESSION – even though doing so ensures his freedom. He is at the mercy of the trapper because he counted his rice possession & they wreck his life.
I know, I know, I know. You really want to be the exception to the rule. You want to be the “rich man” when you live and then “Lazarus” when you die … have that cake and eat it too. And I want to tell you that that is only possible with a plan, with wisdom, with knowing that your approach to money and stuff is part of a larger plan of life built on wisdom that doesn’t pity fools so much as it avoids foolishness. And understand possessions.
Because look again at Proverbs 11:24-25: READ. Oh! There is a power in generosity! There is this sense that when you commit to give it, he ensures you have it. And I love 11:25: “will be refreshed.” The cool breeze you become in a hot summer for someone else is what will come back to you. Not one-to-one necessarily; sometimes not as much and other times much, much more. I’m not talking about a crass “give to get” mentality but something much deeper than that. It’s a freedom from possession counting – how many cars? How many zeroes on the check? How many positive Google reviews? – because through it all money becomes one more way you are the … possession? The property of Jesus? And then I Corinthians 6 has this moment of genius: You are not your own. You were bought with a price.
Oh seeing those words and marinating on them crystallized for me my unease with possession counting and accumulation excellence. Here’s the cry of Proverbs and I want it to be mine and yours: I’d rather become his possession than count up mine.” Yes! For sure. When you realize you are the possessed one your possessions suddenly become much less significant. What you OWN pales in light of the fact that you ARE OWNED. It no longer matters what you acquire as long as you realize you’ve been acquired! You’ve heard of Mergers & Acquisitions from the business world? Where this ain’t no mergers because we’re not equals. The most liberating truth is that we have been acquired. Bought. Owned. The things of earth really do grow dim in the light of his glory and grace. I’d rather become his possession than count up mine.”
They say when it comes to giving and generosity – to church and beyond – people come in three types. The first is like a flint, which you have to hit hard enough to get the smallest spark out of to start a fire. The next is like a sponge which you have to squeeze tight to get the water inside to come out. But the third is a honeycomb which just oozes its own goodness. And that’s what I’m talking about! Instead of cajoling people to give more I think I’ll just encourage people to get POSSESSED more. The more you celebrate that you’re bought, the more you live into what it means to be his, the more your generosity can’t be contained.
And I’ve seen it. I’ve seen people who are becoming more and more the possession of Jesus and so their possessions become less and less significant to them. I think about the call I got right after virus shutdowns started: Can I do something to help? Who is there that I can shop for their groceries? Guess what? Found the person, connected them together, and groceries taken care of. Why? Goodness oozing out of her because she knows the best thing about her life is that she is a bought person! I’d rather become his possession than count up mine.”
Or even those three dads together at a college graduation, watching their sons walk across the stage. “Man, I hope my son gets that tryout with MLB. I’d love to see him in the bigs in 10 years.” says one dad. “I am so glad my son got his first job already. He’s on management track. I can’t wait to see him in 10 years!” says the other. “In 10 years, I hope my son is … a tither. That’s what I want. Then I know he’ll live a life of meaning and abundance.” How many of you have longed for that for your kids? Their tithing not as something rote and routine, but as a joyful response to being Jesus bought and valued primo property?! Are you delighting in our generosity can run in your genealogy? I’d rather become his possession than count up mine.”
You know how it works with me? I’ve told some of you before that achievement and accomplishment are like everything to me. This is both strength and weakness. And in my time, I won trophies, a lot of them, in tennis. A few plaques & awards in life. And so subconsciously life becomes an accumulation of these accolades; the more awards, the better the life. And yet since the virus I have realized, my trophy case doesn’t matter because I’m on Jesus’. I am his trophy, his prize, his possession. How else can I respond to that except with the best kind of generosity I can muster up? I’d rather become his possession than count up mine.”
Let me give this to you in some real brass tacks; some absolutely practical stuff. You can even write this down.
1. Live beneath your means. Don’t ever get live at your maximum mortgage, max rent, max car payment. What you can afford is not the question. What’s below that is. Like Dave Ramsey says: a paid off home mortgage has replaced the BMW as the status symbol of choice. So it has. Live beneath your means so you can give beyond your measure.
2. Your money may be a personal matter but it is not private. It’s never between you and Jesus. It’s you, Jesus, the Scripture, and people you trust in the Word who surround you. Let your kids see your commitment, whether it’s by check or automated. Let them know you want generosity running in your genealogy.
3. While generosity is always the key to financial health, some giving is unhealthy. Or even dangerous. Huh? Yeah, giving with strings is not really giving. Have you ever noticed that we don’t name ANYTHING after ANYONE at this church? No rooms, hallways, coffeemakers, pulpits, nothing. Why? It’s the worst kind of generosity that has to be recognized. So whether you give here or the CRM or Lily Pad Haven, know that you’re not giving up your possession; you’re giving as the possession of the king and he gets the credit not you.
Yeah, you know this. Both God and money make promises. The difference is that God keeps his and money doesn’t. I’d rather become his possession than count up mine.”
Because wouldn’t it be great if within the next couple of years I read a new headline from the folks at UNCC? As The Number Of Possessed Expands, Joy Abounds and Wisdom Increases. That’s the kind of thing I want running in my family and in yours.