The tyranny of material possessions
Possessions don’t have to be oppressive. For the most part, however, they are. Which is one reason it’s refreshing to see those who possess so much, but are completely unattached to them.
Sometime ago, I had to go and see my Pastor in his office at the church. When I got there, around 7:00 am, his car was the only one parked outside, and the main entrance to the church was open. Expecting to see one or two pastors or staff — it was too early for that, though — I went in. There was no one inside. The entire place was empty.
Now, inside that church were lots of musical and sound equipment worth millions of naira. I couldn’t imagine that anyone would keep the doors open like that, particularly as the church was right by a very busy road.
As if that wasn’t enough, beside the altar, the door to the office section of the building was equally wide open. I could even see some of the expensive computers and other office equipment from where I was standing.
All the while I kept thinking, “Who could be so careless as to keep these doors open like this?”
Well, I entered the office, still trying to see who could be in. Turning in the corridor towards my pastors office, what I saw stopped me in my tracks.
My pastors door was ajar. He was kneeling in prayer, his back to the door, completely oblivious to his surroundings. He was caught up in prayer, absorbed in his communion with God.
“Oh my!” I thought. “And here I was, worried about the safety of material things, while this man — who should have been more worried — couldn’t care any less.”
Recoiling at my carnality, I tiptoed backwards to the office entrance, and hurried back into the worship hall. There I sat down, cupped my face in my hands and began to cry out to God.
It had dawned on me that, in spite of all that my pastor possessed — the multi-million naira worth of equipment in that hall, and the Mercedes Benz parked outside — he was totally detached from them all. God was more important. The presence or loss of any of those things made little difference to him.
You can be a steward of so much material possessions without being attached and possessed by them. But don’t even imagine that you can do this simply by wishing — or, should I more accurately say, deceiving yourself into thinking– that you are unattached; because it doesn’t work that way.
It is only by consistently and sacrificially giving away your material possessions that you can break their tyranny over your soul.
In this sense, then, giving is a means to having more, not in terms of more of what you gave out, but that of the higher riches of life: happiness, peace, and fulfillment.
But, as I’ve already noted in previous posts on this matter, consistent sacrificial giving is no walk in the park. It can be quite painful.
The immediate consequence of sacrificial giving
From last week’s lesson: “In giving, you deliberately push yourself through a possible season of lack in order to develop your divine potential of abounding even in lack.”
When you give to the degree I’ve been talking about here — mind you, not a matter of amount, but that of personal cost to you — you will definitely plunge yourself into a tough and extremely challenging financial season.
No kidding here.
“Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again.”
Surely, when you ‘cast your bread upon the waters’ it will return; but that is after many days.
Think about it: it’s not going to return immediately as the materialism charlattans tell you. In fact, it may not even return at all in direct financial terms. So if you think money is going to fall from the sky overnight just because you gave a couple of hundred thousand dollars, think again.
Instead of material wealth, the immediate consequence of sacrificial giving is an often prolonged season of tough financial challenges. This draws out your capacity to depend only on God and your spiritual resources to dominate your material needs.
So, count the cost
You don’t just plunge into sacrificial giving and expect it to be a walk in the park. Think through stuff before you dabble into it. Consistent sacrificial giving is not a bed of roses; it’s not for the faint hearted. Before you venture into it, you must understand the consequences with absolute clarity.
Surely, when you cast your bread upon the waters, it will return after many days. But, exactly how long are those ‘many days’?
How long can you endure?
How far can you go?
What are the (potentially) difficult and painful consequences of your giving?
What are the very certain difficult and painful consequences of your giving?
Are you prepared to outlast them?
Furthermore, you must be clear as to why you are doing it. Consistent sacrificial giving is a tool for personal spiritual growth, not a magical shortcut to easy cash. Any other reason, and you are just fooling around.