by Sherry Sommer

When my father, a native of Shiraz, Iran,
* passed away a year ago, he left me some Persian carpets made of wool.  The carpets are beautifully and intricately designed, and each of the countless knots they’re made of is individually tied by hand. These works of art took years to create, and It’s important to be vigilant and to take care that moths don’t destroy them.  On the anniversary of my father’s birthday,  I put the carpets outside to vacuum and refresh them in the sun. Because my father loved to work and take care of things, it felt fitting to remember him in this way.  As I worked, I thought about these verses:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21 NIV 

While I worked, I thought about how our possessions can be treasured but that they may decay slowly or be gone in an instant.  I saw this very graphically during the Marshall Fire in Louisville when 500 homes were burned to ashes. 

Cleaning carpets brought Jesus’ point home to me in a graphic way. We need to keep in mind that accumulating possessions comes with a price.  One reason I  enjoyed my work that sunny day was that I don’t have too many rugs to care for.  My task was manageable and was a joy, not a burden. I love how Proverbs describes “enough” as being between wealth and poverty:  

“Two things I ask of you, LORD;
    do not refuse me before I die:

 Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
    give me neither poverty nor riches,
    but give me only my daily bread.

 Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
    and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’

Or I may become poor and steal,
    and so dishonor the name of my God.” Proverbs 30:7-9

Jesus isn’t prescribing the amount of possessions we need. He’s not saying that we make sure to get by with the very barest minimum to live. However,  possessions do become a distraction when we have more than we can use and can take care of. They can make us forget that we can only be secure to the extent that we trust in God alone.

I love that Jesus came to provide freedom. He is using a strong warning about possessions, not because he doesn’t want us to enjoy them, but because he loves us. He knows how easily people turn away from loving God and turn instead to things for security and satisfaction. He wants to provide for us, and wants us to remember that he is completely able to do so. In fact, as much as I treasure the gifts my father gave me, my life has been shaped much more by Heavenly Father’s consistent provision. I’ve rarely ever shopped for new clothing. God has provided what I’ve needed very inexpensively or for free. I enjoy what I have because I didn’t have to slave away to pay for expensive items. I wouldn’t lose too much if it was taken away (although I would be sad)!  When I get dressed, I am reminded of God’s constant provision. 

My favorite verses in the Bible  (Matthew 11:20-30,) describe the “unforced rhythms of grace” that Jesus promises we can walk in with him:

“Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it.  For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them.  But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.”  Luke 12:27-31

This is the freedom Jesus wants for us. Let’s pray that we as a body can live in this freedom. 

* Note: In 1959, the year my father immigrated from his country, Its ancient name of Persia was changed to Iran.  

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