Wineskins Archive

February 11, 2014

The Vital Link Between Your Possessions and Your Soul (Jul-Aug 2002)

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by Wesley K. Willmer
July – August, 2002

Comedian George Carlin routinely pokes fun at our “pursuit of stuff.” He depicts Americans as frantically buying and storing more and more “stuff.” We buy big houses so we have a place to put all of our stuff. And on our big houses we put big locks and big security systems so our stuff can be kept safe while we go to the mall and buy more stuff. Carlin is correct in reflecting on the fact that we are builders of kingdoms of stuff on this earth.

Does God care about what we do with the possessions entrusted to us on earth? Is there a link between our eternal soul and earthly possessions? Are there biblical principles that provide direction when it comes to stuff?

While we live in a culture saturated with materialism, the church, seminaries, and believers as a whole avoid the topic of possessions and our faith. It is the topic which pastors least like to preach. Lay people indicate that they do not invite visitors to church for fear of hearing a sermon on money, and few seminaries address the topic, according to a Lilly endowment study.

Despite this avoidance, how we handle possessions has a huge impact on our eternal lives. While few Christians seem to take seriously what they do with their possessions, Scripture makes it clear in Romans 14:12 and 2 Corinthians 5:10 that we are all to give an account of our lives to God at the end of our earthly life. We will be asked to answer questions about how we used our possessions such as: Where did it all go? What did you spend it on? What was accomplished for eternity through the use of all the stuff God entrusted to you here on earth?

When you examine scripture, you realize that our possessions and the spiritual development of our soul are very important to God— so important that 17 of the 38 parables of Christ are about possessions. This topic is mentioned three times more than love, seven times more than prayer, and eight times more than belief. Here are six examples of the vital link between our earthly possessions and eternal soul.

1) God calls us to account for how we use our possessions and determines what honors or crowns he grants us in heaven. Scripture points out that we will receive in eternity according to what or who we put our faith in on earth. According to at least two portraits in Scripture, it seems there are different levels of rewards in heaven (Matt. 19:27-30; Luke 14:12-14). It may come as a surprise to many Christians, but the Bible indicates not only differing levels of rewards in heaven (1 Cor. 3:12-15), but also infers that not all we hold the same position of authority in eternity (Luke 19:17, 19, 26). We will not all have treasure in heaven (Matt. 6:19-21), and unfortunately, not all will hear the Master say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt 25:23). What was the pivotal question in the story of judgment in Matthew 25:31-46? God separated the sheep and the goats according to how they used their possessions to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the sick and those in prison. Since God will ask this question, we must ask ourselves now, “Have we been good and faithful servants in the use of our possessions?”

2) Our giving is an opportunity to reciprocate (of course, never match!) God’s grace. In 1 Peter 4:10 we are instructed to be “good stewards of God’s varied grace” (RSV). Or, as other verses suggest, we are called to be responsible handlers, “good managers” (TEV) or “faithful dispensers of the magnificently varied grace of God” (Phillips). Because God is overwhelmingly generous with His grace to us, we should likewise be generous with the stuff entrusted to us. Giving provides us with the opportunity to thank God for His kindness towards us, and as imitators of God we are called to follow Him in His generosity. What evidence is there that you are a faithful dispenser of God’s grace? (1 Peter 4:10)

3) God provides possessions as a tool to bring others to Christ. All of the possessions we own are tools given to us by God to further His Kingdom here on earth. God is instructing us to use our possessions as a tool to bring others to Christ, so that when our earthly life ends and money is no longer available to us, those who have accepted Christ because or your use of possessions will be waiting with banners to greet you in the world to come. God is calling us to be responsible managers as stewards of the possessions he has entrusted to us. Wise stewards will assess all possessions entrusted to them to determine if they are being used wisely as tools on God’s behalf. Car, house, clothes, stocks, collections: are they being leveraged to glorify God? Who will greet you in heaven because they are there as the result of how you used your possessions on earth as a tool to bring them into heaven? (Luke 16:9) The point is not about giving a percentage of income or giving away what we have, but what we are doing with what we have to advance God’s kingdom.

4) The stuff entrusted to us is a test of who is master and Lord of our lives. We cannot serve both God and money. Each moment of our lives, we are making choices to leverage and use the possessions we have to either benefit our lives on earth or to invest in what we have in heaven. God is sitting next to us and sees all we do all of the time. This is why our check book and credit card statements are a better reflection of the health of our soul than the underlining in our Bibles. This life on earth is the preface, not the book. There is no cheating on this test, for God knows our attitudes and our actions better than we know them ourselves. Is God or money in charge of your life? Can you provide examples of how you use God’s stuff to demonstrate that God’s eternal kingdom is your highest priority rather than your life on this earth. (Luke 16:1-9)

5) Use of possessions indicates our trademark. We live in a culture of brand loyalty and market shares. Business spends huge amounts of money to gain our loyalty in what we drink, drive, wear, etc. Each of these products has a trademark that is well known to all of us. In fact, companies will pay up to millions of dollars for mere seconds to promote their trademark during prime time television.

One of the most visible signs of our values is our stuff. As your neighbors, friends, or colleagues look at your life, what brand or trademark do they see? Is it clear from how you use your stuff that you value your home in heaven more than your stuff on earth? Try taking an inventory of all you have? Ask, “Am I using this for God or myself?” What specific evidence is there from how you use possessions that your trademark is that of a Christian? (Luke 6:13)

Once we acknowledge and understand how God views our possessions, we can begin to grapple with our responsibility of using possessions wisely and our role as stewards in God’s kingdom. When we acknowledge that God owns everything, we realize that God’s priority is developing faithful disciples and seeing us mature spiritually through our generosity, and we realize that how we handle our possessions on-earth has far-reaching, eternal consequences. In his book Stewards in the Kingdom, R. Scott Rodin reminds us that “Giving is primarily a spiritual matter, an act of obedient worship to God.” Donald Whitney has said, “If you love Christ and the work of His Kingdom more than anything else, your giving will show that. If you are truly submitted to the lordship of Christ, if you are willing to obey Him completely in every area of your life, your giving will reveal it.”

Yes, God does care about stuff and it is linked to your eternal soul. As you strive to make your possessions and giving habits an integral part of your spiritual life and of the life of your church, keep God’s perspective on stuff in mind. Ask God for his guidance as you seek to understand the use of your earthly possessions on your eternal soul and to grow as a faithful dispenser of God’s grace.

This article was adapted from God and Your Stuff: The Vital Link Between Your Possessions and Your Soul (NavPress, 2002).New Wineskins

Wesley K. Willmer, Ph.D., is Vice President for University Advancement and Professor at Biola University. Willmer has had over 30 years of experience in Christian higher education and has contributed to 20 books, either as author or editor. His most recent book is God and Your Stuff: The Vital Link Between Your Possessions and Your Soul (NavPress, 2002). Willmer served on the Christian Stewardship Association (CSA) Board for ten years, including four years as chair. He has been recognized nationally for his research and writing.

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