King Solomon was the richest, wisest man who ever lived, and yet his greedy, proud, lusty heart poisoned his abundant life. The king who had everything developed a divided heart that ultimately led to a divided kingdom. The nation of Israel would never be the same again.
So what can we learn from the king’s poor choices? Is his story too ancient and his wealth too vast to glean anything for our lives? I don’t think so. In fact, I was really surprised as I was studying his life how many parallels there were for me…for us. No, I don’t have millions of dollars. But if I did, would I act any differently than he did? I don’t know. I’d like to think I would.
But much like Solomon, I like stuff…and my love for any new high-tech device can drown me in a sea of debt.
Isn’t that what we do today? The conversation in our day is not really about money is it? Our pursuit is no longer to get money or build wealth. Our pursuit is for stuff. As soon as we get money or start to build wealth we exchange it for stuff.
What’s more the stuff we buy isn’t made to last like it was back in the day. It’s made to breakdown. It’s called Planned Obsolescence, a term coined in the 1950’s for products that were strategically made to wear out or go out of style so we would have to buy more. It’s a strategy now at the core of our economy. It’s built into the consumption engine. It’s even worse today because now we have Perceived Obsolescence, a strategy driven by intense marketing to persuade us to buy the latest and greatest before planned obsolescence kicks in and breaks the product down. We are barraged by thousands of advertisements a day that tell us our car is old, our clothes are out of style, our technology is outdated and our hair is uglier than sin.
How successful are these strategies? Well, in the United States we consume 100% more stuff than we did in the 1950’s. Our volume of garbage, the stuff we throw away, has doubled just since 1980. Did you know that, for every pound of garbage we put in our personal dumpsters, about 70 pounds of garbage was created at the manufacturing level to make the stuff that we’re throwing away? In America, we have 5% of the world’s population, but we produce 30% of the world’s waste. But what’s saddest is that polls show that our national happiness peaked in the 1950’s right before this consumption engine got cranked up and has been declining ever since.
We were happier as a people when we had less stuff.
The apostle Paul writes in 1 Timothy 6:17 (English Standard Version)
On a global scale, in consideration of the 6.8 billion people on this planet, those who are poorer than you & I outnumber those who are richer by about 6.75 billion. Paul teaches us that we need to rely on God and not on stuff.
This verse is a promise. It says if we put our hope in God we’ll live a rich life. It doesn’t say we’ll be materially rich – this is not a prosperity gospel. The promise is for a life rich with meaning and purpose because our relationship with God is rich. The question is not “What’s in your wallet?” It’s “What’s in your heart?
When Solomon was young and needed God and relied on him the kingdom prospered. But when he accumulated riches for himself, he relied on his stuff and the kingdom withered. As a people of God, the more we rely on him – the more our identity is found in him and not our stuff – the more we’re going to enjoy our lives. It’s a promise.
Paul continues his instruction in verse 18:
“They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.”
He’s saying not only do we need to rely on God and not on our stuff, but also we are to be generous with the stuff we have.
Now that sounds easy enough, but here’s the problem, my stuff doesn’t want me to be generous. My stuff wants me to keep it…forever…and to get more stuff. Because my stuff gets lonely, and it seems to need more stuff to keep it company. It’s like a little community – it needs friends. Here’s a picture of the community living in my attic.
What’s in your attic…or your garage…or storage facility? You know, I find the more stuff I have the less generous I am. At this point in my life when I’ve collected a lot of stuff, I may be the least generous I’ve ever been.
Why should I be generous? Paul writes in 1 Timothy 6:18d
“…so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.” Real life is not found in stuff. Stuff gets in the way. Stuff clogs hearts made for God. Stuff creates a lifestyle not a life. Real life is to do good, to be generous and ready to share. The stuff we accumulate actually takes life away it doesn’t give it. Often the more lifestyle we have the less life we have. The more stuff we have the more it owns us. We don’t own it.
Solomon spent his life creating a lifestyle and yet wrote these words from Ecclesiastes 5:10-12:
10 “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless. As goods increase, so do hose who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owner except to feast his eyes on them? The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether he eats little or much, but the abundance of a rich man permits him no sleep.”
My guess is Solomon didn’t sleep too well at the end of his life.
So what should we do with this instruction from God? Well, unlike Solomon, I think we should follow it. Money and the stuff it can buy are great gifts from God. But they were never meant to take the place of him in our hearts. I love Francis Chan’s quote on this. He says:
“How we spend our money, is equivalent to choosing God or rejecting him.” Francis Chan
Let’s choose God with our money because when we do we have life not just a lifestyle.
Here are a few practical applications of this instruction I want you to consider:
· Invest in stuff that lasts.
Buy quality not junk so you don’t have keep replacing it. Buy stuff that’s reusable and not made to just be thrown away.
· Keep your stuff longer.
Get off the “latest & greatest” merry-go-round and be satisfied with what you have.
· Sell some of your stuff.
Give the proceeds to the poor.
· Get your heart checked.
Spend some time this week in this 1 Timothy passage and ask God to show you how well you’re doing at this. Find a place where you can be alone with God and not distracted by your stuff – where you can silence its screams in order to hear the still small voice of God.
Jesus said, “Where your treasure is there your heart will be also.” What’s in your heart?”