Friday, December 03, 2010

Shopping in Willmar or Poor in the Midst of Great Possessions

On an early Thursday afternoon, Judi and I had business in Willmar. Judi had some shoes that needed to be returned to the store so I sat and waited while she transacted business.

A woman, I estimated to be in her late 70’s, sat down beside me with a sigh of relief. “I sure can’t shop like I used to” she said. “Yes, there was a day when I could shop from morning to night; now I must stop and rest.” She turned out to be an agitated woman and somewhat bitter about life. I watched all the shoppers; most had a furrowed brow; most did not look happy. Am I, as a Christian, happy? Do I understand how God has blessed me?

My mind came back to a devotional entitled, “Poor in the Midst of Great Possessions.” This is my rough translation of the work of German theologian Dr. Heinrich Muller. He was a local pastor who understood the plight of his people. It is from his book, “The Hour of Refreshing.”  I quote with a rough translation:
“This is said of the miserly, and it is true. Poverty and riches are in the mind. He who wishes for nothing more is rich; and he who is always wanting something is poor. I have what I do not desire; and that which I am always longing for is lacking to me. The miser never says he has enough. He is poor in the midst of wealth, because he has what he has as though he had it not. The only benefit he derives from “his stuff” is looking at it, and anyone can do that, even the poorest. It is not forbidden for me to look at the possessions of others, but I cannot take any of them, for they are not mine. The miser will not touch his own because gold is his god. Thus the miser gets no more out of his own than I do of others’ possessions. He is so poor that he has not even himself. He may be compared to a spider who spins her own web out of her own bowels; so the miser consumes and kills himself in caring for his life. What good does wealth do to a man if he be not allowed to partake of it?”
“It suits the Christian better to be poor in the midst of great possessions. He does not consider it right to pamper his body, but uses what he has in moderation. Therefore, he may be looked upon as poor, although he may be rich. And where is the poor man whose daily necessities are not supplied? God always gives a bit of bread, often in a wonderful manner, and in a way man would never dream of. Do not ascribe your riches to your own cleverness or industry, but look upon them as a gift from the bountiful hand of thy God, which has been given in answer to your unceasing prayers; so you are in reality as poor as the beggar who daily goes from door to door to collect alms. We need to look upon our means as a loan, over which God has not appointed us lord, but only steward, so that we may give to the poor—therefore we are poor in the midst of great wealth, for who can be poorer than he who has nothing of his own? We have not set our heart on what we have, but are ready, when God wills it, to deliver it up. If we meet with losses, we do not lose courage, but are content, saying with Job, in true humility and resignation, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). So we are poor, although possessed of great riches. Temporal possessions are injurious to no man’s soul, unless the heart hangs unto them.”

I would like to summarize a statement by A.W. Tozer; “We can have everything, but we must possess nothing. For the thing we possess, we will love more than God.”

It is all a matter of our heart; yes it is but so hard to do.

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