By WALTER ALBRITTON
Annually, Americans spend about $40 billion on storage units. With nearly 50,000 storage facilities across the country, there are about 7 square feet of self-storage for every person in the United States. The truth is, many of us have too much “stuff” and our possessions can become a serious problem.
That’s actually what Jesus said after a sad conversation with a wealthy man who had asked him what he must do to be sure of eternal life. When Jesus raised the question of the commandments, the rich man responds with a smirk on his face, saying “Why, I have mastered those commandments since I was a boy.” In his Gospel, Mark tells us Jesus looked at the man, and “loved him.” Then Jesus said, “One thing you lack, go sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
Realizing that the man loved his wealth more than he loved God, Jesus proposed radical surgery: Sell all your stuff and give your money to the poor. The rich man was speechless. His face fell. And without saying another word, he walked away with a heavy heart. He could not part with his stuff. Foolishly, he turns away from the greatest opportunity of his life –– to love and obey Jesus. He walks away from the Light of the world into the darkness of greed.
The problem with stuff is that you wake up one morning and realize that you don’t own your stuff, it owns you. But worse than that is the danger that your possessions can prevent you from knowing, loving and serving God. After the rich man turned away from Jesus, Jesus said to his disciples, “How difficult it is for those who have great possessions to enter the kingdom of God.”
Another sobering aspect of this story is that Jesus allows the man to walk away. He does not run after him, begging him to reconsider. He does not plead with him to change his mind nor does he cut a deal with him by reducing the demands of discipleship. I say that is sobering because since he did not lower the bar for the rich man, he does not lower the bar for the rest of us. He sets the standards. They are not subject to amendment. Life will work in only one way –– and that is the way spelled out by Jesus.
So I must ask myself: Do I love my stuff too much? Do I own my possessions or do they own me? Am I hoarding stuff instead of using stuff in order to have “treasure in heaven”? My answers to those questions have eternal significance.