Thursday, October 29, 2009

Earthly Posessions

I found myself reading II Timothy this week. At the end of the letter Paul tells Timothy to bring him a few items when he comes for what is probably his last visit with Paul:

II Timothy 4: 13 - When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments.

My guess is these are Paul's only worldly possessions. He did not own a house, he rented when he was not in prison:

Acts 28: 30 - For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him.

As I read this the thought came to mind, have I ever heard anyone say I think I have enough stuff? I think I have finally accumulated everything I need. I don't need another car, I don't need another shirt, I don't need another home, I think I have finally reached the pinnacle of accumulation! Nope, and I probably never will. The pursuit of stuff will run us ragged, it is never ending when we buy into it. At the end of II Timothy Paul mentions that Luke is with him. Probably visiting him in prison with food, friendship and encouragement. Ministering to him for probably the last time. I wonder if they talked about this, I wonder if they talked about materialism and what is really important in life. Luke recorded several verses on materialism in his Gospel. As a matter of fact, Luke did hear someone say I think I have enough stuff. Listen to this parable that Christ used:

Luke 12: 16-21 - 16And he told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. 17He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.' 18"Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." ' 20"But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?' 21"This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God."

This guy thought he had it all, he had enough or so he thought. Paul however had the right perspective on this. Earlier in II Timothy he is giving Timothy his marching orders. When he gets to the end of what he is charging Timothy with he makes a profound statement that shows he had a proper perspective on this:

II Timothy 4: 6-8 - 6For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure.7I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

Paul has stored up his treasures in heavenly places, he had his reward, his crown of righteousness, waiting on him when he got to heaven. He did not store up anything here on earth. He did not say "Timothy, I have enough money for you, your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice to live off of down at the First National of Jerusalem, here is the account number, go see Josephus, the branch investment banker, he will know what to do" He did not say "Timothy, I want you to have the little ocean front villa down by the Mediterranean, you and your family will love it down there, the shops have great deals and the restaurant have the freshest seafood platters around." What he left Timothy was far more valuable than any material possession. He left Timothy wisdom and advice for fighting the good fight, for remaining faithful to Christ. He left Timothy encouraging words that he could reflect on when things got tough or when he got discouraged. I wonder if we are doing the same for our kids and grandkids. Are we as interested in teaching our kids the things of God as we are teaching them how to run the family business? Are we as interested in showing them how to store up treasures in heaven as we are in showing them how to shelter future stock dividends from taxes?

I wonder if when Timothy brought the cloak, scrolls and parchments to Paul if he did not tell Timothy to keep them. Maybe there was a story behind the cloak, maybe it was torn and blood stained and it would remind Timothy of what Paul wen through for the Gospel. Maybe he gave Timothy the scrolls and parchments and asked him to teach the contents to everyone he could. Maybe Paul kept them for himself as a reminder of the faithfulness of God. Paul fought the good fight for over thirty years. Maybe he looked at the holes in the cloak and remembered where he was every time his cloak was torn, maybe he knew that no one and nothing would comfort him in his last few days on earth like the Word of God written on those scrolls.

Paul got it. Paul realized what was truly important. And the beauty is that he shared it with us. He left us an inheritance that will never fade, tarnish or lose value, he left us the story of faithfulness.

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