Our Closets Judge Us

“But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:20,21).
A friend and I were discussing the economic classification of countries in the world. What determines whether a given nation is “First World”, or “Third World”? We realized that it is tied to issues of technological development and economic health, but where precisely is the line drawn? When does a country truly qualify as “poor”? Who exactly are the “have nots”?
Having traveled in several parts of the world considered poor by virtually everyone, I offer one observation. Generally speaking the poor people I have seen have no closets. Think about that. Their homes contain no storage capacity of any kind. No basements, no attics, no stuffed garages, no closets. If you have no possessions besides what you wear or carry on your person, you need nowhere to put them. That is getting very close to a definition of poor. The poor are those who have only the bare minimum of the direst necessities for life, OR LESS!
Consider this statement from the Law of Moses:
“If you ever take your neighbor’s garment as a pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down. For that is his only covering, it is his garment for his skin. What will he sleep in?” (Exodus 22:26,27a).
It is his only garment! He has nothing else even in which to sleep. Note that it was the presumption of the Law that many (most?) people in Israel would fit in that category. This is the Scriptural background of the teaching of Jesus in the instructions for the limited commission:
“He commanded them to take nothing for the journey except a staff ? no bag, no bread, no copper in their money belts ? but to wear sandals, and not to put on two tunics” (Mark 6:8,9).
The disciples would be preaching among people who had nothing extra and they were not to flaunt wealth among them. Whether they had it to flaunt is another question, but Matthew (Levi) had been a tax collector; Peter and the sons of Zebedee were fishermen who at least seem to have owned boats and nets. Perhaps others of the disciples had means of their own. If so, they were commanded to identify with those they were attempting to reach, who certainly included the poor. That meant not to take so much as a change of clothing on their journey.
When we get to the parable in Luke 12 of the man whom we so superciliously call “the rich fool”, the application becomes quite personal. What precisely was his sin? He had extra possessions, given by the graciousness of God. What did he do with them? He put them in barns (i.e., storage rooms, attics, closets?) for future use, rather than to use them for the benefit of others. He “la[id] up treasure for himself, and [was] not rich towards God.”
When we in America build or buy a house, one of the most desired features is usually abundant storage space. We want lots of closets. Should that become a guideline for us in answering the question, “who are the poor?” And conversely, “who are the rich?” Biblical evidence points strongly in that direction. It is long past time for us to listen to the judgment pronounced by our overfilled closets and to be rich towards God, through being generous to the poor who are his people. Listen to his warning as given by Moses:
“And it will be that when he cries to me, I will hear, for I am gracious” (Exodus 22:27b).

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Michael Brooks

Since 1988 Mike and his wife Brenda have been involved in foreign missions in South America, Africa, and South Asia. Beginning in 1999 they devoted full time to missions, primarily in Bangladesh and Nepal.

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