Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Things - Material Possesions - Physical Objects

Things are really awesome, aren't they?
There are all sorts of really wonderful things in the world. Wonderful useful things and cute things. Some of my favorite things are stylish clothes, cute sandels or boots, well-written books, captivating movies, cuddly stuffed animals, nice smelling candles, large fans, fuzzy rugs, paintings of beaches, brain-teasing puzzles, fast cars, money, music cds, and things that look like butterflies. I think that many people are confused about the proper role of things in our lives. Many americans believe that things are the most important part of life - things are their goals, their comfort, their support, and ultimately, their idol. Monks, on the other hand, believe that things are bad because they distract you from the spiritual realm, and strive to give up all material possessions. I think that most people have at least heard the concept that "people are more important than things," but even though they know what things Are Not (they aren't more important than people,) they don't know what the true roles of things Are.

What is the Role of Physical Objects in our life?
Well, let's see, what would the world be like if there were no things? There would be nothing: no cars, no money, no money, no food, and we wouldn't even have bodies. All that is material. We would be souls, just, I don't know, floating around aimlessly? How would we even communicate with no sound waves (which is a physical reality)? For us people to interact with each other, grow physially, and learn through the experiences of life, it is helpful to have bodies, and live on earth, and have things like food and shelter to help us survive. I propose that things serve three main purposes:

1 - Things help us to live and survive
2 - Things help us to relate and interact with others
3 - Things help us to relate to God

The first one is pretty obvious. We do, in fact, need food and clothes to survive, and that is a reasonable role of things in our lives: To help us survive. Now, as we know, this principle can be taken way too far, to the point that people become greedy and will give up relationships with people and God for things. Things are here to help us, but when we have too many, sometimes they become a hinderance. In the case of the Rich Young Ruler that Jesus once talked too, things were so valuable to him that he gave up survival (eternal life) for things. Now obviously that's messed up, because if things are here to help us survive, it's nonsensical to give up survival for things!!!!

Things helps in relationships, and most people know that. If we didn't have bodies, voices, and common territory, we wouldn't even be able to interact at all! Those things were given to us by God to let us interact with one another. Recently, people have tried to do the same thing by creating online communities so that people can relate and interact with others who are physically far away, using virtual clothes, virtual territory, virtual gifts, etc. Things are also helpful in establishing the type of relationship. If one person is always giving, and the other person is always taking, then they have both learned what type of person the other person really is. Because of things, we can see who cares about us, and would give up the shirt on their back for someone who needs it, and who would murder to get a heap of money. We can use things to help other people survive. This is like the first goal of things that I listed, except that when you help others survive, it's interacting with them and showing love. So things really do help us define and develop relationships with other people. Ultimately, things exist so that we can show love and build each other up. Things exist to help us build good relationships with others, and so when we tear down relationships over things, that's really non-intelligent. For example, money exists mainly so that we can buy things. Therefore if someone was willing to give up all their food and housing and other material possessions so that they could have money, they would probably die. I mean, you can't eat money. The goal of money is stuff, and so to give up stuff for money is nonsensical and unhelpful. In the same way, the goal of physical objects is relationships, and so to give up relationships for stuff is nonsensical unhelpful.

Finally, interacting with things can help us to learn and grow closer to God. When hard times comes, we tend to look to God more. We also tend to learn the hard way - by hitting our head up against reality. Also, when we use things for God's glory and give tithe, our relationship with God grows stronger. The Bible helps us to understand God by using physical metaphors and explanations. God is our fortess and refuge - we are his sheep - the kingdom of God is like a priceless pearl - He is the vine and we are the branches. So interacting with God's creation here on earth really can give us insight about who God is.

In conclution:
Those who serve money don't understand that money is only a means to an end - the end of relationships with ourselves, others, and God. They throw away what is really important in life (relationships), and even throw out the true value of money (which is to help relationships) People like that end up with nothing.

The monks are also wrong. Material objects, in their proper usage, are very nessesary and helpful to survival and relationships with others and even God. Things are not evil. They are a blessing from God, and really can be wonderful!!!

I would like to explain how this applies to my life, personally. I put a lot of value on material things. I always have. Before I was a christian, I was a thief because I did love material possessions. Now that God has given me a new heart, and taught me many things, giving gifts is a major way that I show love to people. Because I still do love material possessions, I show love for other people by giving them the things that are most valuable to me. A side benefit of that is that I don't get too tied down or so attached to my stuff that I love it more than I love God or others. The whole reason things exist is to help us build relationships, and so that means that everything I own is not as valuable as a single relationship. This has been a very freeing concept to me, and a whole lot of fun! I get all the joy of enjoying thoroughly, everything that God has blessed me with, but at the same time, avoiding the heartache that comes from idolizing money.

Idolizing money, or rejecting money is a misunderstanding of money. Idolizing money assumes that money has more power than it has - it's not God, though. Rejecting money rejects the true helpful purpose of money. I hope that this little blog has helped you understand the true role of things in our lives, so that it will be easier for you to not only avoid the pitfalls of misunderstanding or idolizing it, but that you will have a more enjoyable relationships with stuff and with others!!

Praise God Forever!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's a paradox that we enjoy material things more when we don't put the hightest importance on them. Good post!

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