For the first time in our married life, we have more than we need. We’ve been used to making do with what we have–the free table, the used dresser, the old shoes. Slowly, over the past year and a half, I’ve been realizing we probably don’t need to live like that anymore. We could afford to buy new furniture or replace our shoes with more stylish and comfortable options. We could finally get rid of that awful, ugly table we’ve been hauling around the country with us.
But we find ourselves torn between the values of this world (which tell us we can give and be generous if we want, but we certainly deserve to have our own little house in order first) and the values of the Kingdom of Heaven, which tell us that we should be carefree with our own possessions, giving away what we have to feed the poor and clothe the needy.
On the one extreme, we wonder if we should, as Christians, even save for retirement, or if we should give our money away and invest our treasures in heaven, trusting that our heavenly father will provide us with clothes and food for as long as we need these things. How can we store up wealth for an unknown future when there are people with sure and certain need in the present?
But, on the other extreme, I am particularly torn at Christmas, vacillating between the desire to give my children the warm, happy memories I have of tearing open a present I particularly wanted to receive and the desire to teach my children to value generosity and self-sacrifice. Can I do both? I wrestle with this every year. What do our little girls need that they do not already have? What could they want that could possibly make them any happier? How do I teach them that godliness with contentment is great gain… even greater than the thrill of opening gifts? How do I teach them that here on Earth the batteries wear out, the pieces get lost, the parts get broken, but in heaven their treasure is safe from decay, pest, and theft? How do I do all of this and still give them those happy childhood memories and that thrill of finding a gift that is just right for them?
Paul just gave an excellent sermon on this topic. I am fighting this battle in my mind every day. I want a new table so badly and yet I use this worn out table with a particular kind of sheepish, apologetic pride, knowing that it represents my ability to be content with less than the standard set by the world. I want so many things, things I see others acquiring and enjoying. I am forcing myself to look around and see that I am blessed. And we are prayerfully looking for ways to give it all away before we find a way to spend it on ourselves and justify the expense.