The sheer amount of stuff two people can accumulate in a few years is just flabbergasting. I know this because my wife and I have been married for just under three years now, and it recently fell to me to fit all of our earthly possessions into a moving truck. (That’s also the reason this blog has been so silent for the past month. If you haven’t already heard, I was hired to work as a writer/editor at my church’s headquarters in Texas, which of course meant packing up and moving!)
But the hard part wasn’t stacking the boxes. The hard part came right before stacking the boxes—a process I affectionately call “The Purge.” A friend once told me that moving three times is the equivalent of a house fire, and I’m inclined to agree. We wanted to travel as light as possible, which meant sifting through every belonging, every scrap of paper, every last trinket and asking, “Is this worth taking?”
Again and again, our answer was, “Not really.” I lost count of how many boxes and bags of our things made their way to either Goodwill or the local dump. At the end of the day, so many of the things my wife and I had held on to for years just weren’t important enough to haul halfway across the country.
Like I said, loading the trailer was the easy part. I’ve played a lot of Tetris, so the concept of hurriedly stacking boxes within a giant rectangle felt almost natural. The only strange part came once I’d finished—my wife and I stepped backed and realized, Wow. That’s it. That’s everything. Everything we own, stuffed into a nine-foot cube.
The verse that kept coming to mind was Paul’s admonition to young Timothy: “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out” (1 Timothy 6:6-7). All this stuff of ours, this little cube of belongings, could only come with us so far. We took it all the way to Texas, sure. We could take it all the way around the world if we had the inclination and the money. But one day, my physical life is going to end, and not a single scrap from my little nine-foot cube of stuff gets to come with me. As the saying goes, “I’ve never seen a hearse with a trailer hitch.”
The problem with our personal cubes of stuff, no matter their size, is that they’re temporary. Eventually, everything falls apart. The things you own can break, they can wear out—they can even be stolen. Even if your possessions outlast your life, they’re not going to outlast the universe. Everything ends.
Not that this life is all for nothing! Christ warned His disciples, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Mathew 6:19-20). What Christ is telling us here is that there is a special kind of treasure we can store up—treasures that exist outside of this physical world; treasures that don’t break, that don’t wear out, that can’t be stolen—treasures that will outlast both this temporary life and the universe itself.
The catch is, these treasures are a little less tangible than the ones we might be used to. We can’t pick them up, we can’t touch them, and we can’t look directly at them—and yet they have more value than all the gold in all the storehouses of the world.
I’m talking about the treasure of Godly character. It’s why we’re here: to follow in the footsteps of our older Brother and become more like our heavenly Father. When this age is over—when the elements have melted with fervent heat, when heaven and earth have passed away—the only thing we’ll still have from this life is the character we’re building today. No amount of possessions, no bank account could ever carry so much worth. “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36, English Standard Version).
The best part is, the process of building that character isn’t complicated at all. I won’t say it’s not hard, because this is a journey that requires a lifetime of dedication and overcoming. But it’s certainly not complicated. The prophet Micah lays out three simple steps for us:
He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?
That’s it. That’s everything. Everything we need to be doing, stuffed into three short points. Of course, entire books could be authored on each of those points and the ground they cover, but this is what they look like in their simplest form:
Do justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God.
When it’s all said and done, the thing that’s going to count for something—the thing that’s really going to matter—is the person you and I are becoming in this very moment. Not cubes of stuff, not bank accounts, not anything else.
My wife and I unloaded our trailer with the help of some friends just a couple days ago. Even with help, the whole process has been a mammoth chore—and this isn’t the last time we’ll have to go through it, either. One day, we’re going to have to box it all up again—sifting through a different set of stuff and deciding what to keep and what to throw away.
But that’s the nature of stuff. You get more of it, you get rid of some it, you sell it, you buy it, you trade it, you throw it away and try something new. You only have it so long before it disappears.
Character, though…that’s something worth holding on to. Because at the end of the day, that’s all we really have.
Until next time,