Being or Having?


I was watching a TV advert the other day. It was promoting a new smart TV that could display even more colors than its competitors. It made me sad to imagine that people would be throwing away their perfectly useful and functional televisions so that they could be sure that they were watching as many colors as possible.

Is this where we have got to in our modern Western society? It is not necessary to believe that we are personally responsible for every vulnerable and needy person in the world, but we are certainly and surely responsible for some of them, not least those nearest to us in our own towns. Is it really possible to justify buying a new television because it has more colors? Will we watch news reports about those in desperate need around the world, and in our own neighborhoods, with more interest because we can see the reality of their plight in greater technicolor clarity?

It seems impossible for me to believe that Christians can act in such a way. To desire things above and before the desire for God and the service of others is to choose a master whose worldly and fading rewards will not pass through the grave nor be able to bear witness on our behalf at the judgement.

We are not those things we have. And to desire things is to be possessed by them. We are not more valuable as human persons if our houses, our cars, our holidays, our wealth, our possessions and even the qualifications we have gained are greater than those belonging to others. None of these are of any consequence in the seeking after the Kingdom of God, and they may be a hindrance and an obstacle.

What would it mean to us if the Lord said clearly, Go sell all that you have and follow me? Would we also walk away slowly and sorrowfully because we have many possessions?

I could not be further from a communist. The enforced surrender of property to a totalitarian state is not Christian. But we are only freed from a spiritual bondage to what we have when we freely and absolutely surrender it all, with our heart and soul, to God, for him to use as he chooses or allow us to steward for him as he wills.

The modern cult of possessions and consumption is fundamentally anti-Christian. It makes those who submit to its glittery attractions less and less truly human. It dries up the fruit of the Spirit and hardens the soil of the heart so that the seed of the Word cannot take root.

To abandon all to God for his service and stewardship is a great freedom indeed. It releases the soul from bondage to having and holding and invites faith, hope and trust in God to blossom. Who we are, our being and becoming, is all that matters. And this being and becoming is only possible in relationship with God and with others. I cannot learn to be loving in relationship to my car or my house, and if I love my car more than people then there is truly a sickness in my heart. I can only learn to be loving, to become love, in relationship with God and with those around me, even the challenging people.

I cannot fulfill or experience the Christian life other than in relation to God and to others, and it is in such relations that the person I am and am becoming is made known. God is not impressed by the things we have. What are they? They are either blessings from God we have turned into possessions, as if they were the fruit of our own self-sufficient activity, or they are distractions which lead us away from God, and are the fruit of selfish desires for worldly satisfaction.

The one who has nothing has only God and is blessed. The one who knows he has been blessed with much and offers all that he has received to God with his whole heart is blessed. But the one who is surrounded by possessions and finds comfort in them is bound by them with invisible chains that are not easily broken and which prevent the heart rising to the heavenly places. May the Lord save us all from such bondage.

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