Proper 14(C): It’s Just Stuff!
By: The Rev. Kevin W. Cravens-Koch
“Do you think he really meant that?” a classmate asked the professor as we discussed this passage one day in a seminary class.
“Yes, I do think he really meant that. Give half of your possessions to the poor. Why wouldn’t he have really meant that? It seems idealistic, yes. I’m not there yet and I hope one day I will be, but I think it’s something we should absolutely be striving for,” my professor responded.
I don’t think that was really the answer that anyone really wanted to hear, but it was an honest answer nonetheless. It is our humanity getting the best of us. We want the Gospel to be easy, but rarely ever is the Gospel easy. We know that when Jesus taught, it was rarely straightforward; there was always some larger meaning behind his teachings.
Recently my husband and I moved. It wasn’t quite cross-country, but it was a 9-hour drive from our old home to our new residence. Packing was an absolute nightmare. We didn’t have enough boxes for all of our things. The boxes we did have weren’t big enough. And at one point, the movers came back in the house and said, “Well, we’re almost out of room. What would you like to make sure we get on the truck?” I looked around and noticed that all of our bedroom furniture and all of our dining room furniture was still in the house sitting by the door. I panicked. As I was pacing back and forth, my family reassured me that it was going to be okay.
On the day that the landlord was set to come do a walkthrough of the house with us, I sat in the living room looking at all the stuff that we had left, looking out the window at my tiny subcompact car sitting in the driveway, back at the stuff, and back at the driveway before I just broke down. “How am I going to get all of that into there?!” Truthfully, I wasn’t. There was simply no way that even the most strategic of packers could get everything into my car. Calling my husband in a near breakdown, he said, “Relax. It’s just stuff…It can all be donated. We don’t need it anyway.”
He was right. We didn’t (and still don’t) need all of it. “It’s just stuff” is a mantra that we continue to repeat to ourselves as we unpack our boxes and decide what to keep, what to donate, and what to get rid of. But it’s a mantra that has played itself out in our everyday spending too.
The reality is this: we all have a lot of stuff, figuratively and literally. This scripture is reminding us that it isn’t any of the stuff that actually matters. It is the experience. Experiencing each other through relationships, experiencing life without distractions, experiencing creation, and experiencing God through all of those things. We’ve all heard the saying, “You can’t take it with you when you go,” which reiterates that the stuff of real value is not what you can possess, but what you can do for yourself, do for others, and do for God.
It seems like a very eschatological idea to think of the kin-dom. It seems very other worldly to think about Jesus coming back. Perhaps that isn’t really what is at the heart of this passage at all. Perhaps it has very little to do with the afterlife. Perhaps this passage is drawing from the part in the Lord’s Prayer that suggests that “thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.”
Maybe, we are being called into deeper relationship through this text. Maybe really, at the core of this scripture, there is a call for repentance—a changing of hearts and minds to shift the focus back to God where it has gotten distracted by materialism. Because, perhaps the kin-dom isn’t so far away after all.
The kin-dom of which the text speaks is one of love and grace. Be alert, be prepared, we know not when those times will find us; when we are called to speak up and live out the Gospel, but when we live by love, through love, and in love, we are much closer to that kin-dom.
I wonder if, perhaps, this is not even a command as much as it is an invitation—an invitation to live into and to be. How will we respond?
The Rev. Kevin W. Cravens-Koch is ordained in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and lives in Erlanger, Kentucky with his husband, Ryan, and their three dogs, Bailey, Rey and Lexi. He was born and raised in Northern Kentucky and attended college at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky where he earned his BA in Religion. He received his MDiv from Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. His passions include Chipotle, ice cream, reality television, bowties, family, and animals.