Addicted to stuff
As I you know, one of my outdoor loves is fly fishing. But as an urban outdoorsman, I don’t get too many opportunities to sling flies into riffles and seams. In a good year I might get out six or eight times. And I’m not a purist, the kind of guy that only fishes dry flies, or refuses to fish nymphs with a strike indicator. Heck, I even keep a fish every now and then to eat it! But I have found that I am a committed stream fisherman – I don’t have much interest in the local stocked fishing ponds, not because of some profound principle, but because it doesn’t take me anywhere. You see, I don’t fly fish for the tug on the end of the line (though I admit that can be a lot of fun). I fly fish for the places it takes me: small streams in California and New York, medium rivers in the eastern Sierra, big Idaho and Montana rivers, and the occasional high mountain lake. And I fly fish for the people it takes me there with: my kids, old friends, new friends. But especially, I fish for the solitude and time alone with my Creator.
It’s hard to put into words how I felt last summer, standing thigh-deep on the seem of a riffle in a steep canyon on the North Fork of the Clearwater River in Idaho, having caught a half dozen wild cutthroat trout in the 15- to 18-inch range that day, watching an osprey snagging Kokanee salmon just below us. Lewis and Clark passed this way more than 200 years ago. It sends chills down my arms thinking about it now.
But fly fishing slows down to a near halt in the winter months. So what else is there to do but stare at Cabela’s and Simms catalogs, salivating over the overpriced waders and the beautifully hand-tied flies, dreaming about summer? This was where I found myself this past winter, trying to keep my love of fly fishing and my fascination with fly gear in check, when I was tasked with the job of buying a new rod and reel for a colleague at work who is retiring. It was actually a really exciting assignment as I got to peruse the latest and greatest fly rods trying to find the best quality for the money. The problem was that I collected several hundred dollars from everyone at work, which meant I was shopping for really high-end gear, much nicer than anything I have ever owned, or likely ever will. As fun as it was, it was also a real struggle to keep my covetous heart in check. I told my wife more than once during this process of shopping that someday I’d like to own a rod like the ones that I was reviewing. Of course, she reminded me that I’d probably just break it in a truck tailgate!
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. – Jesus
So the battle against treasures on earth wages on in my soul, and for some reason God has allowed it to come home in a very profound way the past few months. But rather than focusing on the treasures on earth that I shouldn’t be storing up, maybe I should be trying to identify the treasures in heaven that I should be caching away.
So what exactly did Jesus mean when He said to “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven”? My good friend and mentor Doug once told me that the only things eternal in this world are people and God Himself. If that’s a true statement, then treasures in heaven must refer to investments we make in the lives of human beings and in the glory of God, which are not necessarily mutually exclusive goals. My wise wife reminds me that investing in blessing my colleague who is retiring with a new fly rod that will provide him with countless hours communing with the Creator is an investment in heavenly treasures.
It would appear, then, that sometimes choosing heavenly treasures over earthly ones is not so hard, while other times it may mean a direct substitution of one for the other. So as you ponder what your earthly treasures are, consider how you might redeem those for heavenly gems.
While I don’t think Jesus was forbidding us from owning things that we enjoy, He was certainly warning us against pouring our hearts into them. Like a drug addict that thinks he will be happier with his next hit, there is a deep freedom found in the release from our addiction to stuff.
Questions for thought
Who might you be able to bless by releasing your grip on the things of this world and turning your attention to our Creator and the people who are the apple of His eye?
What heavenly treasures are you actively, intentionally storing up, and what is your motivation?
How might you redeem your outdoor adventures specifically in a way that turns them from self-centered to others- and God-centered, converting them from earthly treasures with only short-term value into heavenly treasures with eternal value?
Father God, shine a light in our hearts and show us where we are storing up treasures on earth that will not last. Teach us how to redeem those treasures for your glory and your kingdom. Place opportunities before us this very day, Lord, to serve others and glorify you. Remove from us all covetousness for the treasures this world offers, and fill our hearts with a desire for heavenly treasures. In your Son’s Holy name. Amen.