“You ain’t never seen a hearse with luggage on the top.” Elvin Bishop speaks a profound truth here, or does he? Common wisdom asserts that when you die, “you can’t take it with you.” But Jesus thinks otherwise. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus exhorts us: "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:19–21) The exhortation begs a question: “How might this wealth exchange from earthly to heavenly be accomplished?” When grilled by a pious young man wanting a clear path to shalom, Jesus replies: “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions." (Matthew 19:21-22) Most of us Americans have “many possessions.” The proliferation of rental storage units is prima facie evidence of this. It is ironic that so many of us park our $20,000-$50,000 automobiles on our driveway, leaving our garages stuffed with junk. Arguably, our possessions have flipped and now possess us, and it is a demonic possession. a spiritual malaise. I suspect that this malaise is a trickle-down fear from the Great Depression: the fear was that there could come a time when there would not be enough to go around. Or as my mom put it, “Root, hog, or die.”
An antidote to such negativity is to honestly appreciate the blessings, however meager or abundant, that we have. It takes only a modest pause to contemplate the abundant grace that has been showered upon us. To see these blessings as grace is to acknowledge that we did not “earn” this all by ourselves.
Thus, we engage in the economics of: grace leads to gratitude, gratitude leads to generosity, and generosity leads to yet more grace. You cannot become poor by being generous, cf, George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
"A generous person will be enriched, and one who gives water will get water." (Proverbs 11:25)
Another antidote lies in Margareta Magnusson’s book “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning.” While “death cleaning” may sound morbid, it is in fact liberating and spiritually fulfilling. Since the recent death of my wife of 55 years, I find myself deep in “death cleaning.”
Simply put, death cleaning is getting rid of things no longer useful or being used; to simplify life to have more time and focus on what is important; to leave less mess behind for my family; to enjoy gifting to others what has been of value and pleasure to me.
And so we return to the circle: Grace leads to Gratitude leads to Generosity leads to Grace.