I had been at the hardware store looking for a new garden hose reel for the backyard just the day before, but I wasn’t quite ready to pay that much for one. So, it was to my surprise when I saw one on the side of the road next to my neighbor’s house. He was getting rid of a bunch of stuff but couldn’t take it to Goodwill during the stay-at-home order of the pandemic.
A time-honored tradition in Baton Rouge, when we want to get rid of stuff but don’t want to take it to a donation center, we put it out on the side of the road for others to decide its ultimate fate.
We have a weird relationship with our old stuff that we no longer want anymore. We often take it to places like Goodwill in hopes that someone else can use it and so that we can get that tax write-off. Sometimes, we might even find ourselves inside that store buying someone else’s old stuff.
Have you ever bought something from a secondhand store, only to realize that it was an item you had donated a year or two before?
How much of our charity is stuff we don’t need or use anymore? That’s a tricky question to ask and an even harder one to consider.
Jesus had an encounter with a young man in the Gospels, in which Jesus invited him to sell his possessions, give the money to the poor, then follow Jesus. The Gospel writers told us that the young man went away very sad because he had many things.
But this wasn’t the only time that the intersection of someone’s faith collided with their stuff. In the story of Zacchaeus, we see it, just one chapter after the young man, in Luke 19. And then there is this particular pattern in the early church, Acts 2 and 4, in which they were selling their possessions for the sake of those in need.
Jesus is inviting us to reconsider our relationship with our stuff, not just the things we don’t want or use anymore. Instead of being a hindrance to our growth, Jesus invites us to see our abundant resources as an opportunity to bless others and transform the world.
Does that mean we enter into poverty for the sake of the Gospel? No, not for most of us. However, in our willingness to redefine a want and a need, scarcity and abundance, God’s good work through us can occur.
We are in the season of Lent, a 40-day journey with Jesus to Jerusalem and his gruesome death for our sake. In this season, participants are invited to prayer and repentance, fasting and contemplation, and sacrifice and giving. Lent is the ultimate season of renewal as we are transformed by drawing closer to Jesus.
Are you on this intentional journey? If not, are you not sure where to begin?
May the words of John Bunyan beckon us forward into generosity this Lenten season as a spiritual method of drawing closer to God, “You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”