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Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016

Look to the spiritual -- not material -- for joy

Friday, September 7, 2012

My husband Dave and I have begun the arduous process of downsizing. It has been torture. Dave puts an item in the giveaway pile and I retrieve it. I toss something in the trashcan and the next day find it tucked away in Dave's sock drawer. Broken pieces are kept with excuses like "Someday I will glue them together and make a nifty Christmas ornament," or "As soon as I get rid of it, I'll need it." It's pathetic.

Matthew cautions us. "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is there your heart will be also." Read that last line again.

"For where your treasure is there your heart will be also."

Dave and I have spent years stockpiling "things": my antiques, each with a unique story of a garage sale or auction; Dave's baseball cards -- dust-collectors in my eyes -- but to him, memories from the era of bicycle spoke noise-makers and more recently, photos of friends and opponents; Little League trophies -- some missing arms or letters; framed pictures of our five children and seven grandchildren; my Precious Moments nativity set (never packed away -- isn't EVERY day Christmas?); and heirlooms handed down from my widowed mother and deceased grandmother.

As I pack them away, I question how these personal "treasures" have made an eternal difference in anyone's life.

After all, my accumulation of Christian books far surpasses the number of trophies our family has amassed, yet visitors want details on the awards, never a book recommendation. Our guests "ooh" and "aah" over the pictures of Dave with Goldie Hawn, Tom Selleck and Nolan Ryan, but few mention my wonderful Santa-bowing-down-to-baby-Jesus statue.

Spiritually speaking, something is wrong with this picture.

If I simply used guests' reactions as my criteria for what is expendable, would I be able to part with all of my treasures? More importantly, do I get as much of a thrill when I think of eternal matters as I do when I recall the excitement my "stuff" brings me?

A.W. Tozer warns us of not having our priorities in line. In The Pursuit of God, he writes, "There is within the human heart a tough, fibrous root of fallen life whose nature is to possess, always to possess. It covets things with a deep and fierce passion. The pronouns my and mine look innocent enough in print, but their constant and universal use is significant. They express the real nature of the old Adamic man better than a thousand volumes of theology could do. They are verbal symptoms of our deep disease." (Get that? Disease.) Tozer continues.

"Things have become necessary to us, a development never originally intended. God's gifts now take the place of God, and the whole course of nature is upset by the monstrous substitution."

Another last line that deserves merit. "God's gifts now take the place of God." Is that my problem? Could it be that I have substituted earth's pleasures for my delight in spiritual matters? No Godly person in scripture served as such an example. Moses gave up the palace luxuries for a few dozen trips around the mountain; Paul gave up his position of exterminating power to gladly be stoned, imprisoned and ship-wrecked; and the disciples lived sacrificially, being martyred for their beliefs. We never read of them being infatuated with family photographs or autographed urns. It wasn't about their "things." It was about bringing glory to God.

I need to remember that. Nifty Christmas decoration or not.

Patty LaRoche
Patty LaRoche: Face to Face