“THE MAN WITH THE MOST TOYS WINS.”

Did I read that right? Those were the words written in fluorescent orange on the bumper sticker ahead of me. The funny thing is, it was plastered on a 1993 Ford Bronco that looked like it had recently been in an off-road demolition test. But the message wasn’t lost in the context—you win if you accumulate the most! In stark contrast, I remembered a church in Buenos Aires that espoused the value: “He owns it, and we use it.” So the people in the church who had homes saw themselves as people who made beds for God—their doors were always open to a sojourner. Others in the church who had cars looked upon themselves as chauffeurs for God, willing at any time to drive someone to a doctor’s appointment.

The clash of perspectives instantly sent my heart into self-examination. How is my attitude toward stuff? The question to be answered was, “Does stuff own me, or do I manage stuff with an eternal perspective?”

I was surprised by what surfaced in my soul. Clearly, I was being motivated by a fear of poverty defined as “the fear of not having,” and lived out with the attitude, “I can’t give or I won’t have.” If I put myself in the shoes of the little boy who offered Jesus his five loaves and two fish, the multitude may not have been fed. Fear would say to me, “Keep your lunch so you will have enough to satisfy your hunger.” When I considered the churches in Macedonia who insisted that Paul take their offering to the church in Jerusalem, I was amazed at their passionate faith. Paul references this in 2 Corinthians 8:3 (NLT), where he states, “they gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will.” I had to deeply consider my position and weigh it in light of Proverbs 11:24: “Give freely and become more wealthy; be stingy and lose everything.” It was evident God was calling me to a new level of trust and confidence in His promises and to a place of generosity that would build new character in my life.

The great missionary to the Auca Indians, Jim Elliot, wrote in his senior yearbook, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Though eloquently written, it wasn’t the first time this truth was revealed. It was simply a reflection of the contrasting stories of the rich young ruler (Matthew 19:16–22) and the widow who gave her last meal to the prophet (1 Kings 17:7–24). The young man’s possessions held him captive and squelched his opportunity to enter the kingdom. Yet on the other hand, the elderly woman was willing to give out of her poverty, which in turn yielded a bountiful harvest for her and her family. 

Matthew 6:19–21 (ESV) says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Simply put, the battle between accumulating the most and stewarding what we posses is a matter of the heart. I love what Wayne Myers, a man considered to be a missionary father to Mexico, said to a graduating class of Christ For The Nations Institute, “When you give because you cannot help it, you will be blessed because you cannot stop it.”

Now, that’s a bumper sticker I can get behind. 

Bobby Bogard is an associate senior pastor and has been on staff at Gateway since 2005.