Stuff is just stuff. If you’ve lived a few years and have yielded to the claims of the gospel, you’ve probably already come to this conclusion. Although it sounds simple enough, the underpinnings of this statement are profound and inform our discipleship at a very practical level. We don’t live for stuff. We don’t find deep and lasting meaning through stuff. We need, use, and even enjoy stuff. But at the end of each day, stuff remains, well, just stuff.
Of course, stuff is also a big target for preachers. Many hermeneutical miles have been driven in the pulpit railing against too much stuff or the misuse of stuff or the wrong kind of stuff. When I was a young preacher, I spent many miles on this highway. It was just too hard to resist something that preached so easily and related so well to the congregation. The result, however, was that stuff became my preaching punching bag. I could pull it out whenever my sermon sagged and I needed a quick flurry of jabs and uppercuts. I beat up stuff for my listeners.
These days, though, I’ve been noticing in Scripture how stuff is the means through which God accomplishes redemption. Take, for example, the story of Ruth. Naomi’s nearest kinsman begs off on the cost and risk of receiving Ruth the Moabite into his family. He falls over himself declaring that he’s out, and that kinsman Boaz is more than welcome to step up—and, more importantly, pony up.
The awkward truth in this story is that it is really about stuff! The reluctant nearest relative can’t see his life and well-being beyond his stuff, so he keeps it firmly in his grasp. Boaz, however, wonders what might be around the corner for his family. He yields his stuff in service to what God might have in store.
When stuff is just stuff, anything is possible. Nobody imagined what would happen as a result of Ruth gleaning in Boaz’s field. Nobody imagined what would come from the home that Ruth and Boaz would make together. Nobody imagined that Ruth would bear Obed, the father of Jesse, the father of David, whose royal dynasty would produce the Messiah. Most importantly, nobody imagined that this Messiah, who was from eternity, would become the very stuff of this world in order to redeem it.
Stuff is just stuff. But here’s the thing: It’s God’s stuff, and it matters to God—a lot. So I wonder what might change if I begin to see the stuff of my life as more than just stuff? What if it’s the stuff that helps bring about God’s mercy and justice? What might become of the leftovers that I “accidentally on purpose” leave behind for others? What greater design of God might be discovered by risking some of my stuff? What if my stuff was more than just stuff?
I imagine endless possibilities. No matter how small, stuff of any kind becomes a powerful instrument of shalom whenever it’s yielded in service to God, through Christ our Lord.
- As you reflect on all the stuff in your home, would you characterize it as “too much”? Why or why not?
- Do you agree that stuff matters to God? Why or why not?
- What might “risking some of my stuff” for God’s greater design look like?
- If we do not use stuff as an instrument of God’s shalom, what might we otherwise be tempted to use it for?
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