Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Curious Phenomenon of Creeping Possessivism

If you've been around folks with money, then I'm guessing you've at some point observed the phenomenon I've termed "creeping possessivism."

What do I mean by this? Simply this: the more goods and money one gets in this world, the more one tends to hold onto them, and the less generous one tends to become. This is not always the case, of course. I'll give you a notable example below. But I can say with confidence that it is often the case. What a curious thing. One would think that the more one was given, the more one would give. Yet the opposite seems to happen. The more one gets, the more tightly one holds onto one's money and possessions. Where one would think a free-flowing, exuberant generosity would develop, a narrow-eyed, tight-fisted spirit often prevails. This is in fact not so much of a phenomenon as it is a natural law. Before I gain possessions and money, I am happy in my poverty, finding meaning in many things. After I gain possessions and money, I am bitter in my plenty, finding meaning in my many things.

We Christians need to cultivate a large-hearted spirit of generosity no matter what stage of life we are in. This matter closely ties to the issue of tithing, a subject I'll cover tomorrow. For today, I'll share the example of one well-heeled man who is perhaps the most generous person I know. My former pastor, Mark Dever, is known for showering people with kindness, some who he knows, some who he does not know. Mark is no millionaire--not by a long stretch--but he has means, and yet I have observed him giving generously to others too many times to count. As his means have increased, he has rebelled against the natural law of creeping possessivism, and has instead increased his generosity along with his means. His close friend C. J. Mahaney follows along very similar lines.

These are merely two examples of Christians who avoided the trap of possessivism. What is it about the human heart that causes us, in times of plenty, to guard our possessions most jealously? What a strange phenomenon. Do you see this in yourself? I see it in myself, and I want to counteract it. How foolish that in the very season God gives us much, we would act as if He has given little. What is given to us is not ours to grip with a tight fist. Such behavior will have a powerful evangelistic effect in a consumerist culture that has little concept of "others." For many today, particularly the monied class, life is all about indulging oneself and pampering oneself and making oneself happy. Little if any thought is given to those in need, or perhaps just those who have less. After all, life is about status, and status is predicated upon goods, and so in order to keep up, one must spend lots to buy goods, and so one ends up a selfish consumer. As Christians, we need to show the world that this is a terrible bargain. So think: how can I be generous? How can I not fall prey to creeping possessivism? Who can I buy lunch for today? Most importantly, can I who am rich in possessions become one who is rich in faith and generosity?

The way you answer that question does not simply reflect your mindset. According to the Bible, it determines the very direction of your soul.


Blogger Dad said...

Very true!

Al (Not Owen's dad or that other "Al".)

4:07 AM  

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