Several weeks ago I saw a sign in my neighborhood advertising an estate sale. At the time, my wife and I were looking for a bed-frame to put in our guest room. So I drove to the home and entered the front door with thoughts of finding the bed-frame we needed. After a few moments of looking around, I had the sudden urge to leave. I don't know what I was expecting to see at an estate sale, but I was overwhelmed by the vision of all of the price tags on every single item in the house. It looked as if someone had simply walked out of the house one day, never to return. Shortly thereafter, the estate sale company entered the house and put a price tag on everything exactly in the spot where they found it. Everything - televisions, chairs, books, clothes, pictures, plates, utensils - you name it - had a price tag attached to it. For the few moments that I was in the house, I had the feeling that the owner was going to return at any moment and demand to know why their belongings were being sold. I left the estate sale with a strange feeling in the pit of my stomach.
A few days after visiting the estate sale, it dawned on my why I had wrestled with so many emotions. For me, the estate sale was too great a reminder that life and so much of what he hold as important in this life is temporary. Some day in the future, all of the property and belongings I have worked to acquire will have a price tag. My prize possessions will be sold for pennies on the dollar, donated to a charity, or simply thrown away.
Henri Nouwen wrote in his devotional journal entitled "Bread for the Journey," these words:
As fearful people we are inclined to develop a mind-set that makes us say, "There's
not enough food for everyone, so I better be sure I have enough for myself in case
of emergency," or "There's not enough knowledge for everyone to enjoy; so I'd better
keep my knowledge to myself, so no one else will use it," or "There's not enough love
to give to everybody, so I'd better keep my friends for myself to prevent others from
taking them away from me." This is scarcity mentality. It involves hoarding whatever
we have, fearful that we won't have enough to survive. The tragedy, however, is that
what you cling to ends up rotting in your hands.
As a follow-up, Nouwen later writes these words:
The opposite of a scarcity mentality is an abundancy mentality...what we give away
multiplies: food, knowledge, love...everything. There will even be many leftovers.
My experience at the estate sale and weeks of reflecting on that experience have convinced me to two things: First, life is not about accumulating belongings. While I know this deep down inside, I often find myself thinking about the next thing I need or want and becoming consumed by the thought of how I can acquire it. The next time I find myself shopping at the store or online, I'm going to let my mind return to that vision of price tags at the estate sale. Second, whatever I possess - no matter how great or small - is only valuable if I can share it with others. If what I buy can't be shared with my family, my friends, my neighbors or with people in-need, its value is little in the grand scheme of life.
Jesus stated it this way: Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. Matthew 6:19-20