I received a message from the church’s text brigade. It was our church’s 40th anniversary the following day, and they were asking for volunteers to bring folding tables that will be used during lunch.
Nostalgia and sentimentality struck me, as pictures of my old folding table came flashing back. It was the first legitimate piece of furniture that I bought with my salary from my first real food technology-related job. I bought it three months after writing this article. It was a 24×36 inch table made from compressed wood board, with a dark brown laminate on top that looked like lacquered wood. The edge was lined with an aluminium strip, and the black painted folding iron legs were attached by screws to the underside of the board. I saw it assembled right in front of my eyes – by a worker using a rubber mallet and a Phillips screw driver.
I can’t remember if it was 480 or 500 pesos, or if it was bought from Emilio Lim appliances or the shop beside it. I do remember renting a tricycle and riding with the table on the passenger sidecar’s roof, all the way from Balibago complex to Pulong Sta. Cruz – a 70-peso special trip. It also came with two monobloc chairs, which sat inside the sidecar.
In a way, owning that table started my penchant for folding tables. There are currently two in my room (one of them is my laptop table), although both smaller than my first one.
So, what happened to my first folding table and chairs set? I gave them away to the church’s student center after I ended my stint as a corporate sorbetero in Laguna. The student center was vacated after around 2 years, and the table was temporarily moved to a churchmate’s house, if I’m not mistaken. At present, I don’t know where it is.
What struck me most about that vivid recollection was how it stood out from my other memories of that time period. Why did I have such a blow-by-blow recollection of the history of an inanimate object that costs less than a sando bag of groceries? Why do I still yearn to get that table back, even if I already have two other tables in its place, and the money to buy another one similar to it? Is it even right for me to daydream about getting it back?
Perhaps that table meant more to me than its monetary value. For one, it was a symbol of independence – out of all my collapsible things (collapsible cabinet, rolling mattress, folding pail, etc.) , it was the one that most legitimately looked like permanent household furniture (pinaka unang napundar na gamit pang-bahay). It also represented a great find – I was never able to obtain another folding table with a price-to-surface-area ratio as low as that again. It was not just a bargain, it was hunted treasure. Tables of similar size that I found in malls went for three to five times its price.
Does sentimental value have a place in the light of eternity? Is it wrong to be attached to material possessions? How should we treat tangible assets such as these from a biblical perspective?
This is mainly a personal reflection, but I do believe the biblical principles I will be citing below will give us a good framework on our stewardship of tangible resources.
- God owns everything. Nothing is really ours. We take nothing across the grave after we pass away.
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it; (Psalm 24:1, NIV)
And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:15, (ESV)
The table was never mine to begin with. Wanting it back maybe a form of covetousness. Its sole function at that time was to help me in my daily life as a follower of Christ.
For whatever reason that I don’t quite remember, I decided to give it to the church. I knew that it would serve its purpose by being of use to the residents of the student center. If that choice was done with a clear conscience out of obedience to God, then I should have “let it go” without looking back.
2. Our focus should be on obeying God, and not on busying ourselves with life’s preoccupations.
The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. (Luke 8:14, NIV)
Our Lord Jesus could come anytime. Worrying ourselves with material things is the last thing we should be doing. Borrowing the words of Stephen Covey, we should “put first things first.” Instead of worrying about a table, I should be praying about the ISIS victims, world peace, the Philippines, and the sanctification of all believers, including myself.
3. We should invest on things that are of eternal value, things that will outlast us.
But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. (Matthew 6:20, NIV)
14 “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand. 15 We are foreigners and strangers in your sight, as were all our ancestors. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope. 16 Lord our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a temple for your Holy Name comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you. (1 Chronicles 29:14-26, NIV)
How we use our assets determine their contribution to eternal impact. Your surplus money could either be used to watch movies every weekend, or partially support a missionary. Your extra bible could be the answer to someone’s prayer. Using your car and driving talents to ferry cash strapped people to church or to ministry events may be a more meaningful investment in God’s kingdom.
Back in the Old Testament, David and the Israelites gave their “treasures” towards the building of the temple, the place where God is worshiped. They were able to give, not just because they knew everything they had was God’s, but also because they knew that their life on earth was temporary, and that the only thing that would make their riches last was if they invested towards Someone eternal.
Nowadays, we use our resources in the hopes of seeing more people worship God.
4. We should never stop thanking and praising God.
20 Then David said to the whole assembly, “Praise the Lord your God.” So they all praised the Lord, the God of their fathers; they bowed down, prostrating themselves before the Lord and the king. (1 Chronicles 29:20)
Giving is not just an obligation that we perform mechanically. It is a privilege to be able to give back to God. It is a privilege to be partners with Him in kingdom-building. God is not indebted to us because we are giving back to Him. We should therefore always be thankful, and consider our giving as a genuine act of worship.
- Do you feel extraordinarily attached to any material possession right now?
- If yes, how would you feel if God were to take away / ask that possession from you?
- Do you actively invest in things that you consider as “of eternal value”? How?
- What is your attitude towards giving back to God? Is it simply obligatory, or is there a sense of gratitude and humble praise?