Sunday Night Musing: Generosity & Possessive Pronouns

When I was growing up sometimes the people in church (especially the older ones) would refer to the building as "God's House." And usually when they referred to church as God's House it was to impart to us a sense of reverence in how we behaved in the church building: no running, climbing over the pews, or general horsing around.

Granted, they probably at times were a little too rule-focused and uptight (at least it felt that way as a child), but having a healthy view of church as God's House could be a good thing. It would mean that our own political and theological agendas would be pointless. It would mean that the church building would be used to help those whom God would help: the orphans, aliens, widows, the sick, the outcast, the homeless.

Too often we refer to the building as "my church" or "our church." We tend to use those possessive pronouns simply to indicate that it's the specific church we attend. I wonder, though, if our use of possessive pronouns sometimes has adverse effects on how we view things.

Tonight we heard a story from Luke 12:13-21 in which Jesus told about a farmer who was already quite wealthy. This season his crops were doing spectacularly well, and he realized that he didn't have enough storage space for them all. So he decides to build bigger barns, and since he'll have enough stored up to live off of for years he can take it easy. "Eat, drink, and be merry." A rather Old-Testament God shows up who tells the man he is being foolish and that his life will end that very night and he won't be able to enjoy all the things he's saved up for himself.

Jesus tells this story to illustrate how foolish greed is. We like to amass material possessions and wealth for ourselves, but it does us little good eternally.

Recently I've been around several discussions at church and other places that are directly related to things I wrote about in my book. This is another of those topics. It's a good thing they keep coming up, because I need reminders to keep living more abundantly.

I wrote about how the possessive pronouns we use to describe possessions effect how we use them. If we tend to use "mine" and "my" a lot, then we're probably a bit more tight-fisted with our stuff. What if we referred to our own house--not church--as God's house? How would that change our life in it? Would we be more likely to open it up to people in need? Would we create warm, relaxing spaces of beauty?

What about our car? Our money? Our time? What if we referred to them all as God's? We we be more respectful of them? Would we be more generous with them?

I think the more possessions we cling to, the more fear we have--fear of them being stolen or taken away. More stuff does not give us more security. Stability in life comes from being rooted in belonging to God. And when we belong to God we acknowledge that all we have is His. All around us is His. All creation is His. And when we see things that way, we tend to be a little more generous and a little better at stewardship.

I can be a little too possessive of the things I own. One area of success we have is trying to keep a guest room in our house (which means the boys share a room). Right now we have a guy staying in it whom I had never met before yesterday. He's an acquaintance of Beth's whom she had met at a couple professional conferences. He's in town for a conference. The guest room is his.

It's been used by several different people in the three years we've lived here. By plenty of family members visiting, of course. By an aunt in town for a funeral. By a former summer staff member from Bible camp when I worked there who was taking a class for a week. By the family of one of Beth's former co-workers who stayed the night before their flight from the airport. It's open for those in need of a bed.

I hope to be more generous with other parts of my life. And that's the key word: generous. Give, not gather. Seek stability, not security. Greed says "mine." Generosity says "Yours."

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