“He went away sorrowful, for he had many possessions.”
We are a materialistic society. Ownership, possession, acquisition, are givens for us. We are not unique, of course. We have simply elevated the possession of things and experiences to the level of a cosmic virtue. As a result we have created vast marketing enterprises to convince ourselves of our continuing deficiency. Just when you thought you had finally gotten hold of the big thing, the next big thing comes along. Neighbors cast a wary, envious glance at the new car in the driveway next door, the fear of inadequacy sets in and the planning for an even better car begins. You get the picture. You may be in it.
What lies at the heart of our insatiable need to have, to acquire? Fear. Fear of what other people think of us, fear of the future and our need to hedge ourselves against its uncertainties, fear of that emptiness into which many pour possessions and experiences, as if filling a void. But it doesn’t work. Take a good, long look at those you envy, those who reach the pinnacles of financial and material comfort. They imprison themselves within gated communities, squadrons of security guards, compounds and estates, fearing the loss of possessions, person and privacy. Self-reliance does nothing to eradicate fear. Fear simply changes its forms.
We all know the story. A wealthy young man asked Jesus what it would take to have eternal life. Jesus answer was short, simple and terrifying; Sell what you have and give the money to the poor, and follow me. The man walked away from Jesus, full of sorrow. The fear of giving up what he possessed paralyzed him with grief.
The meaning in Jesus story is clear: what we pride ourselves on, our self-reliance, is actually the great sin of unbelief – and that includes certain forms of free-will Christianity which is nothing more than self-reliance gone to church. For unbelief is not the refusal to give assent to certain doctrines, catechisms, or Biblical truths. Unbelief is nothing more than the refusal to count on God, to trust Him.
Confidence rooted in self-reliance, religious or otherwise, never shakes the fear that my efforts and willing may not deliver the goods. Confidence rooted in God’s promises results in a faith which moves with assurance through the day into God’s promised future, whether God delivers the goods or not. For reliance on God means reliance on His will, and not our own.
“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”