I was only 17 when my father died, so I never really had an adult conversation with him, and actually I don’t remember a great deal about him. Just the occasional action, or comment. One of his favourite sayings, though, which was brought to bear whenever I expressed a wish for something I didn’t have and wasn’t likely to get, was (in the language of the King James Version, which was all we had at that time) ‘A man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth’. (Lk 12:15)
Surrounded at present by the abundance of things which Muriel and I possess, mainly in the shape of boxes and piles of stuff waiting to be boxed, it can easily feel as if that abundance is precisely what our lives consist of! That kind of abundance can represent God’s blessing, of course, but it can also represent a challenge as to where our priorities really lie. What is it that fills our life, that takes up our attention, that captures our hearts?
Jesus said (again in Kings James language) ‘I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly’ (Jn 10:10) There’s His promise, and His heart for us – that we might have an abundant life. So what does He mean? What is the abundance that Jesus wants us to have, as distinct from the abundance of things that we surround ourselves with?
First, His abundance has to do with what life is really all about. Jesus came so that we could enjoy life as He originally designed it – in relationship with Himself. Our Father created human beings to be His children, to be His family, to experience the infinite joy of a close and eternal relationship with a loving Father.
Second, His abundance must include sharing His perspective on life, the world and everything. As we grow in our relationship with Him, so we are filled with His Spirit more and more, and share the love, joy and peace that come from seeing things as He does.
Third, His abundance in our hearts will certainly include a longing for more and more lost people to be found, to enter into that abundance that is available only to the children of the King.
Jesus never said that it was wrong to own an abundance of possessions; just that they are not what constitutes our life. And if the other elements of His abundance are in place, then our possessions will take their proper place in our thinking.