Monday, February 23, 2009

Stuff vs. Substance

“Better to be nobody and yet have a servant than pretend to be somebody and have no food.” Proverbs 12:9

The book of Proverbs is rich. Whenever I read it, I find so many nuggets of wisdom. When I was reading today, I came across the verse highlighted above, and it spoke to me, it said, “Stop fronting!” “Be for real!” “Stop perpetrating!”

And I began to wonder whether the reason our country, so many businesses and so many families are in the economic mess that we are in is because we were trying to pretend like we had something or perhaps because we on some level believe that our possessions make us “somebody.”

And I can’t help but wonder whether instead of being honest with our financial circumstances or learning to be content with what we have, we haven’t acted like we can live on credit today and keep rolling over our debt for tomorrow. Except now the bills have come due and we find ourselves bankrupt. We have, as the scripture says, “no food.”

For we seem to have valued stuff more than substance.

Far too many of us have lived above our means, trying to keep up with Joneses often unaware that the Joneses were themselves often drowning in debt.

What’s amazing to me is I have met truly wealthy people. People who had Picassos hanging on their walls. People who didn’t just have a job, but who owned the company. And you couldn’t tell that they were rich. They drove an old Chevy, not a Ferrari. They weren’t dripping in excess.

But I know grown folks who don’t live in their own house but drive luxury cars. From the wardrobes of some I have seen, you would have thought they were a millionaire, but they could barely pay their bills.

Sometimes my children and I walk around our neighborhood when the weather is nice. The kids are amazed by some of the houses. “Look at that house. Oooh, they have a swimming pool. They got a big house.”

In those times, I remind them that it’s all right to admire nice things but not to be enthralled by or in awe of stuff, because in the end, that’s all it is, just stuff. I tell them to be grateful for their house, because it is God’s blessing to us. I remind them that somebody out there simply wishes they had a roof over their head. That some family is living in a car. That someone is living under a bridge.

And this much I remind myself: My house may not be as large as the home of R. Kelly who happens to live in my neighborhood. But I wouldn’t trade my “mansion” for his any day. I wouldn’t trade my small patch of garden and roses in my backyard for someone else’s emerald acres. I love my fireplace in the winter time and my sun porch in the summer. But more importantly, I wouldn’t trade the love and peace that fill the space God has blessed the Fountain family to occupy. I thank God for house and food and all things in between.

And I thank Him that I am somebody, not because of my stuff, but because of whose I am.

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