As I mentioned in last week’s “Wisdom of the Week,” my brother, Dennis, passed away suddenly from a heart attack on April 13th. He had been out golfing and wasn’t feeling well so drove himself to the hospital where they kept him overnight for observation. He was expecting to go bowling the next day, but God had another appointment for him. In the morning he suffered a massive coronary and within minutes was gone. Last week I wrote about the brevity of life and how our days are numbered and only God knows their total. We are not guaranteed having a tomorrow, so need to be sure to be ready spiritually, having assurance of eternal life through trusting in Christ’s death, burial and resurrection in payment for our sins.
We spent several days this past week in Butte, Montana (It snowed while we were there!) going through Dennis’ house and garage. We were joined by my sister and brother-in-law, Audrey and Jim Burton, and encountered an overwhelming, unbelievable amount of stuff. Dennis was a bachelor all his life and quite obviously was a hoarder, never able to throw things away. A neighbor lady, and good friend of Dennis’, who was very helpful, said that he really liked to get things in the mail. Most of the “things” were never used, read, and sometimes were even opened. Just to give you a sample of what we encountered: we bagged up 1,000 shirts, three big garbage bags of socks and one of underwear and one of shorts. We counted 216 caps. He also collected Danbury Mint figurines, of which there were at least a hundred, and model cars, and airplanes,,, We sent some 2,500 magazines to recycle and left around 750 books at the house…and the list goes on. Unfortunately we did not find one Bible. We found a Gideon New Testament given to Dennis in 1947 when he was probably a sophomore in High School.
We just couldn’t wrap our minds around what we experienced. It was sad to see how much Dennis had spent on stuff that doesn’t really matter for eternity when he could have been helping to build the Kingdom of God. There are only two things (in addition to God, of course) that are eternal and they are God’s Word and the souls of men. Everything else is temporal and we leave it all behind (for the family to deal with!) when we die. I have never seen a hearse pulling a U-Haul! Job, who had a lot of worldly goods and then lost them all overnight, when he got the message about his losses (including his ten children), “…arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away, Blessed be the name of the LORD’” (Job. 1:20,21). No matter how much of this world’s goods we are able to gain, we leave it all here when we go, and as Solomon, who was the wealthiest man of his time, pondered the future of his “things,” and wrote: “So I hated life, for the work which had been done under the sun was grievous to me; because everything is futility and striving after wind. Thus I hated all the fruit of my labor for which I had labored under the sun, for I must leave it to the man who will come after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the fruit of my labor for which I have labored by acting wisely under the sun. This too is vanity” (Eccl. 2:17-19).
Our experience really made us reexamine our priorities and recall Jesus’ admonition in His sermon on the mount: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for your selves treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also…Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness…” (Mt. 6:19-21.33).
None of us knows how many days we have left, but let’s dedicate them to building up God’s Kingdom instead of our own. In other words, though you “can’t take it with you,” you “can send it on ahead!” And, as we turn our unneeded assets into ministering God’s Word to the souls of men, not only will we be laying up treasures in heaven, but we will simplify the job for family and friends who have to go through our stuff when we die! That’s a win, win!
Well, if it weren’t for the fact that we both came down with the stomach flu, we would be busy sorting stuff to get rid of! Oh, a praise is that the neighbor lady who had befriended Dennis and helped us so much last week, is interesting in buying his house (not a fancy one!) and would be willing to deal with everything we had to leave there. We will make her a really good deal!!