by Rev. Matthew Zickler
Our culture is a culture of consumerism. We do not need to look any further than television commercials, maga- zines and webpages to see the obsession we have with our stuff. No matter where we look, we are barraged with advertisements for stuff. Even the secular world understands this. The comedian George Carlin had a routine called “A Place for My Stuff,” which underscored the humor of the way in which we accumulate possessions.
His observation was that this accumu- lation results in the need for a larger living space, which allows for the accumulation of more possessions, which requires more space . . . a vicious cycle. However, while God intends for the protection of our possessions and income (Small Catechism I 14), we also have to keep in mind whose possessions they really are. So, whose stuff is it anyway (Ps. 24:12; Ex. 19:15)?
All things in the world are the Lord’s, but what are those things specifically (Num. 33:53; Ps. 50:10; Hag. 2:8)?
Not only is material wealth the Lord’s, but what else is His (Ezek. 18:4; 1 Cor. 6:1920)?
Since our Lord has given to us all things, they are all His good gifts to us. With this in mind, how should we use these gifts? What should we do with them (Matt. 23:23; 1 Cor. 16:13; Gal. 6:610; 1 Tim. 5:1718)?
The Old Testament Israelites were commanded to give 10 percent (Lev. 27:2022; Mal. 3:10) of what they harvested and earned in their work to the church. I recently heard someone say that since we are freed from the commands of the Old Testament, we are free to give even more than that. According to our flesh, we really don’t see this as freedom, do we? However, how does our Lord call us to give as Christians (Mark 12:4144)?
In 2 Cor. 8:12, St. Paul speaks about giving: “For if the readiness is there, it is [giving] acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.” As we look at our Lord’s call- ing regarding the widow’s gift in the temple, we must realize that we always fall short of that calling and, in doing so, we are serving a false god.
As Luther says, “A god means that from which we are to expect all good and in which we are to take refuge in all distress” (LC I 2). If we are not giving as we are called, we are trusting in our stuff to provide for us rather than in God. Thanks be to God that He is “superabundantly generous in His grace” (SA III IV). Where does He give us His grace and forgive our sins, even when we fall short (Luke 24:4547; Titus 3:47; Matt. 26:2629)?
In His grace, even when we misuse His earthly gifts, our Lord continually gives us His eternal gifts and forgives us for idolizing our stuff. Even though we are con- tinually bombarded as consumers, our Lord causes us to trust that, in His mercy, He has consumed our sin on the cross and given us His righteousness through His gracious gifts. To Him alone be the glory.
About the Author: The Rev. Matthew Zickler is assistant pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church, Oak Lawn, Ill.