As I wandered through the large, extravagant rooms and hallways, I found myself surrounded by thousands of relics and jewels glistening through glass displays, and I couldn’t help but think…
this is a lot of stuff.
(Now, before you start thinking this is yet another rant on how materialism-is-bad-and-everything-is-dust-so-we-should-stop-loving-pretty-things, please, keep reading.)
My family and I were touring the Hillwood Estate in Washington, D.C., one of the homes of the late Marjorie Merriweather Post, the only daughter and heiress of C.W. Post, the founder of the Post Cereal company.
Marjorie was renowned for her fine taste, her love for all things elegant, and her enormous art collection. Paintings, fine china, jewelry, furniture, chalices, and silver-covered icons filled her Virginia home. She had turned her mansion into a museum.
And it was beautiful.
I’ve seen my fair share of museums and art galleries, so I couldn’t wrap my mind around how a single person could collect and own so much art.
But then a semi-morbid thought came to me.
Marjorie Merriweather Post is dead. She doesn’t own any of it.
We’ve all heard those tired sayings about hearses that don’t pull trailers and how “you can’t take it with you when you go,” and that one of the great ironies of life is that we live and work and struggle to accumulate things that we can only own and enjoy for a short period of time.
But perhaps an even greater irony is that we never truly own anything at all. Nothing we “possess” is really ours. Our time. Our toys. Our talents. They all belong, ultimately, to God. He’s just letting us borrow his stuff for a while.
The writer of Hebrews tells us that “everything belongs to God.” The psalmist writes, “The earth belongs to the Lord, and everything in it.” Paul teaches the Romans that “from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.”
This reality hit me even harder when I realized that my soon-to-arrive first-born child (baby Max is due Oct. 2nd!) will not really, ultimately be mine. He, too, belongs to God.
And to say we don’t really own anything doesn’t mean we don’t have to take care of it. It actually means just the opposite. It’s when you’re borrowing someone else’s stuff that you really feel the pressure and duty to keep it safe.
In Genesis, one of God’s first instructions to Adam and Eve was to take care of his creation. They were the gardeners, but the garden was all his.
It’s the same with everything else we “own.” Because God is entrusting me with one of his kids, I have all the more responsibility to love, protect, and take care of him.
And just because everything ultimately belongs to God doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy stuff. It actually means we can enjoy it more. It’s only those who aren’t owned by their things that are free to experience the pleasures they offer.
It’s only the parents who refuse to worship or control or cling to their children that can actually enjoy watching them grow up and mature and come into their own unique personalities.
I think seeing our stuff as God’s stuff helps us hold things a little more loosely, to share them with others, and to eventually experience the great joy of giving God’s stuff away.
So if you ever live in a house full of art, great. I’ll come visit. Just remember you won’t always own it. In fact, you never really will.