In her book, Sisterhood of Saints, Melanie Rigney writes of Syncletica, a single woman who grew up in a wealthy family during the fourth century. Upon her parents’ deaths, gave her riches to the poor to focus on serving God. Syncletica’s wealth didn’t consist of things that wear with use or are a lure for thieves. Her true treasure was her relationship with God. She didn’t see what she did as a sacrifice.
Neither, I’m sure, did Angie, a friend from my high school days.
For the past several years, her mother’s declining health was a major concern for Angie, her only child. That she lived in another state didn’t stop Angie from making the four-hour drive one way every two weeks to visit her mother and tend to her needs. When it became obvious her mother required full-time care, Angie wasn’t satisfied until she found a personal care home that met her standards.
The cost was a whopping $6,000 a month. Angie, who’d already retired, returned to work to pay the bill. When that wasn’t enough, she sold her jewelry.
It makes me stop and think: What are my true treasures? People or possessions?
The obvious answer is easy. But living that answer isn’t.
When I was nine, my father was laid off from his job at the local steel mill. The following years were tough, with my parents struggling to provide for a family of five, and me wrestling with my self-esteem.
Imagine going through your teen years with your mother placing a roll of toilet paper where the box of facial tissues used to be. Everyone else had wall-to-wall carpeting. We had bare wood floors. Everyone else had paneled walls and aluminum siding. We had walls waiting to be plastered (my parents’ remodeling project got put on hold when my father lost his job) and old-fashioned clapboard siding. Other girls had hair dryers. I washed my hair, wrapped it around rollers, and lay in front of the heat register. Everyone else had a gas furnace. We still burned coal.
I didn’t invite too many friends to my house in those days. I felt too poor. It was a feeling I never quite overcame. Even though I knew better.
I still struggle with that "poor" feeling, although I know that “a person’s life doesn’t consist of the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). That when I do something kind for another, it’s like I’m doing it for Jesus Himself (Matthew 25:40). That chasing after wealth is like chasing after the wind – “meaningless,” said Solomon.
“Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income,” he wrote (Ecclesiastes 5:10).
Ah, that’s the key – love. I need daily to remind myself that people, not possessions, give my life meaning.
Help me, Lord, not to be so possessive about my possessions. Remind me to use things and love people. Amen.
Special-Tea: Read Luke 12:13–34