I had a hard time finding a name for an incident that I came across one morning. What could I call it? Obsession with possessions? Selfish materialism? Or maybe just call it greed? Would I be judging what I had witnessed? Or perhaps God was purposely revealing something to me and teaching me how to be on the out-look for things which appear valuable, but have no eternal worth.
“Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life.” (Romans 8:6)
One morning my dear friend came over and picked me up to go for a walk in a nearby canyon. The day was going to be a hot one, so when we arrived, my friend looked for a shady spot to park her car. At the end of the lot she found one and parked.
As we got out of the car, we gathered our bottles of water, our phones and began gearing up for our walk. Suddenly, the voice of a man drew our attention. He was probably in his seventies, and standing next to a vintage Ford Mustang automobile, perhaps a 1967 model. He was carefully polishing the front hood of his car, and we realized that he was talking to us. He said, “Can I ask you something?” We both turned around and said, “Sure!” He said, “Why did you park right next to my car?” We looked at each other with surprise, but responded back calmly and gently, “Because here there is shade?” He said, “There is shade right across the lot too.” He continued, “I always park at the back of parking lots whenever I go anywhere, so that no one will park next to me.” When we pulled in, we were so busy talking that we didn’t even notice him or his shiny blue car. We asked him if he wanted us to move our car. We told him we didn’t mind, in fact, we’d be glad to do it. Our calm response surprised the man – It was like a bucket of cold water washing away his anger. He even seemed to regret saying anything to us. Our pleasant response changed his attitude and he became more at ease.
I thank the prophet Solomon for his words of wisdom!
“A gentle answer turns away madness, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
He said, “Don’t bother, it’s okay.” As we started walking away, I said, “Nice car!” He patted it, saying, “This is my baby. This is my girlfriend and my wife. This is my everything.” We laughed and waved goodbye, but my friend and I were dismayed. We discussed the incident as we walked.
I believe there is a reason for everything that happens around us. So I wondered what was God telling us in that very moment. The first thing we noticed was that possessions can make a person become selfish and greedy. The man didn’t want anyone to come near his precious car and didn’t even want to share the surrounding space with anyone! His car was his world. I say this not to pass judgement on him. It was with sadness that I realized he was worshiping an idol.
“Do not worship any other gods besides me. Do not make idols of any kind, whether in the shape of birds or animals or fish. You must never worship or bow down to them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not share your affection with any other god!”
God says in (Matthew 6:24)
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
My friend and I believe that God revealed something to all three of us that day. This man who invested so much of his time and energy into material things, had unexpectedly taught us something important. We learned that attaching ourselves to material things robs us of our relationship with God and others. It was apparent that idol worship (or in this case, auto worship) caused this man to stay away from forming relationships, even possibly a relationship with God. I pray that God spoke to the man’s heart through this experience and our reaction toward him.
It is unfortunate when we grasp onto worldly things, even though we know that when we die, we will take with us only our dignity, name, and love.
When I got home that day, I opened the Bible to see what it says about obsession. Did Jesus say, “Go ahead and store up stuff on earth?” No! He said that life is not about storing up things here on earth. Life is about storing up things in Heaven.
The Bible says, “Don’t store up a bunch of stuff here on Earth where thieves can steal it and rust and moths can destroy it. Store your treasure in Heaven. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:29-21)
That makes sense. Because our lives here on earth are temporary. We are going to spend the eternity in heaven. The things that last forever are the word of God and people.
Here is what I learned from the studies that I took. How can we store up treasure in heaven?
* Develop a closer walk with God.
* Grow deeper in your faith.
* Focus on serving others, rather than ourselves. Even small acts of service do not go unnoticed by God.
To store up treasure in heaven means to invest in the things which are boundless in the kingdom of God. Our love, generosity and sacrifice of time in order to help others will be highly rewarded in heaven. Next time you encounter a difficult person or situation, look for opportunities to connect and show some love. You might say, “I can’t love a stranger.” God says, “Yes you can.” Showing respect is an act of love. God sees and hears all.