For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. 1 John 2:16
I shared this story at small group last night and it seemed worth re-telling.
My godmother gave me a little extra money for Christmas last year. Before I started my internship this past summer, I used it to buy a bag (pictured above). As you can see, this is a cute bag. I got a ton of compliments on it and I felt fashionable walking into work with it everyday. Even though I bought it for work, I kept thinking I couldn’t wait to carry it onto campus once school started back up. I sometimes see girls on campus who look all fashionable and wonder why I can never pull that off.
So, while I was recently in Hawaii, I went to a small baptist church one Sunday evening. Truthfully, I had slept in and missed all morning services at the churches I was intending to go to and this was the only evening service I could find. This was a real old-fashioned church. Everyone knew each other, they sang from hymnals, there was not AC and I was handed a paper fan to fan myself.
The pastor at this church did his sermon on sacrifice and giving. He lamented the fact that many churches have stopped doing donation boxes because the items that were donated were always cast offs that weren’t wanted and usually too low quality to be sent to someone in need. He challenged us to truly sacrifice. We show Jesus how we feel about him when we sacrifice and give.
Initially I thought I should buy something brand new to donate but that really doesn’t inconvenience me. I don’t mind spending money and I don’t struggle financially so I really wouldn’t miss it. So I decided I would give up my bag.
In the meantime, the school I was volunteering at actually gave me a teacher bag. How cool is that? I firmly believe that when God knew I would give up my nice bag, he arranged a new (admittedly not as cute) bag so I would still have something to carry my belongings in. He really does provide.
So one night, I emptied out my bag, cleaned it all off and then started putting other items to donate into it. I had just finished a book and wrote a note in it telling whomever received it that I hoped they would enjoy it as much as I did. I added some gift cards and various items.
The next morning, as I’m leaving I looked at myself in the mirror carrying my teacher bag instead of the fancy bag and I cried. I was so tempted to grab that nice bag and go back to carrying it. I literally cried about this for a while and then cried harder because I realized how unrighteous it was to be crying over no longer wearing a cute bag. I was mad at myself for being so upset.
Last night at small group, my friend made an observation that I had not previously noticed. She said I was tying my identity to belongings. It’s true. I was thinking of myself in a different way because I was carrying this great looking bag. I was more confident and felt like I had it all together (or at least looked like I did). I did that without even realizing it. I know in my heart that my identity is in being a Christ-follower but somehow material worldly possessions have snuck in and claimed some of my identity.
That same pastor at the church in Hawaii had talked extensively about telling the world that “I am not for sale”. He meant that when we know God’s mission for our lives, no matter if a job offer or opportunity to make a million dollars comes along from the world, we should refuse to stray from the path God is guiding us on. However, I think this applies to possession too. My identity is not for sale. It is in Jesus no matter how cute of bags this world offers.