Knick-Knacks, Wildfires, Need, and Eternity

Several weeks ago Southern California was all over the national news as wildfires swept through the area, driven by the relentless Santa Ana winds.  More than 1,000,000 people were forced to evacuate and thousands of buildings and homes were damaged or destroyed.

One TMC employee lost his home and everything in it.  Here’s something he said recently.  The first three sentences are wonderful.  The middle sentence is sad.  The last three sentences are frightening.

We have a whole new perspective on life.  The Lord has provided everything we need.  We have a rental home, beds, refrigerator, washer/dryer.  All the rest of the stuff that was in our home ended up being fuel for the fire.  We are humbled and convicted about all the money we spent on knick-knacks and so forth that could have been spent helping other people.  We are going to go about life completely differently this time.  We are changed people.

This was written by a good man.  He is faithful, hard-working, and respected.  I’m grateful for the support he’s received and the lesson’s he’s learned.  It would be easy to assume that anyone in his position would walk away with a similar lesson, but most do not.  So I’m glad to see what he’s learned.

What’s frightening is that the rest of us in America will probably not learn this lesson well enough until our own houses burn down.  And they probably never will.  And even then we probably would forget after a few months.  Which means we may never learn.  Until the day comes when we will wish more than we ever thought we could wish that we had lived differently.

It shouldn’t be hard for the rest of us to be “humbled and convicted about all the money we spend on knick-knacks and so forth that could be spent helping other people.”  We have the Bible, which says things like “Store up treasures in heaven,” “give to the poor,” and “be content with food and covering.”  We have examples of people who have lived this way, radically so, and we admire them (though, like with most heroes, we hope there’s a way to be deified in posthumous biographies while avoiding the sacrifices that all great men and women have made for what they believe).  And we recognize, from time to time, usually at funerals, that our lives are short and that we should use our resources lovingly and wisely.

So why do we have such a hard time giving and such an easy time collecting knick-knacks?  If knick-knacks doesn’t strike a chord with you, try fifteen pairs of shoes, an unnecessary collection of whatevers, the boxes in your closets, garage, attic, basement, or storage unit, and half the things you’re planning to give and hoping to receive for Christmas.

Maybe I’m pessimistic about stuff.  Maybe I struggle with Platonic dualism.  Or maybe wildfires, need, and eternity really have something to teach us about our knick-knacks.

Take a lesson from our humble Christian friend who has chosen to learn good and healthy lessons from God’s painful providence.  God allows some people’s houses to burn down so that they will “go about life completely differently.”  Others only have His Word and His Spirit (I know, it’s rough).  May the burning of our consciences and the hot conviction of the Spirit change us before it’s too late to go about life any differently.


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