“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, NRSV
Take a look at the picture below. You see an ordinary garage door – a door like so many around this country. Now take a guess: what’s behind that door?
Are you sitting there, thinking, duh, it’s a car? Well, according to a comment someone made on the radio recently, there is only a 25% chance that this garage actually holds a car. It is much more likely that this garage is filled with ‘stuff’. According to the radio show, 75% of all garages in America are filled up with furniture, boxes, toys, etc. to the point that there’s no room for a car (I know, these numbers are probably much different for San Francisco, where parking is scarce and very coveted).
Now I cannot back up this claim with official data (how do you determine how many of the millions of garages in this country are filled with junk?). It didn’t really surprise me to hear that, in a country where we even have storage facilities as big as apartment complexes, folks would fill their garages with the things they don’t use on a regular basis – or don’t use at all. But the high percentage of garages used for storage seems like an exaggeration to me. My husband Fred vehemently denies it, but I think our garage technically is one of those many garages used for junk– yes, there are two cars parked in the garage, but it is a HUGE garage, and about 50% of it is filled with stuff, mainly with furniture we ought to get rid of – which would be a case in point.
What’s in your garage?
As we are about to give each other presents once more at Christmas, maybe we should consider: is this gift I am about to make really a thoughtful gift? Will it just end up in someone’s garage, or replace something that then will end up in the garage, more ‘stuff’? Will my kids, my grandkids, really have joy with this toy I am thinking about getting? When my kids were little, they were showered with gifts at Christmas time by their grandparents, and we soon found out that there definitely is the ‘junk toy’ category –toys that are interesting for a few minutes, but then either get abandoned forever or break.
I can’t emphasize enough that there are better ways of giving gifts. Make a donation to a charity (or your church!) in someone’s honor – and let them know about how this gift makes a difference in the life of others. Or give ‘good gifts’ through one of the many organizations which help communities in the developing world get independent through farm crops, animals, water wells, or small business credits. Some of those organizations would be the Heifer Project or the ELCA. Sponsor a child in the developing world. Whenever you make such a gift in honor of someone, this person will receive a note, talking about the special gifts made. Even kids get the idea and get really excited about how ‘they’ make a difference in someone else’s life.
But then I think the garage is a very good symbol for our lives as well. ‘There’s no room in the garage,’ sounds a lot like, ‘There was no room in the inn.’ Our garages often are quite symptomatic for our lives. We’ve never been busier, we’ve never been more distracted by TV, gadgets, and computers. There is so much stuff that occupies our lives that we might forget what the true treasures are: relationships. Our physical and mental health. Our work for the good of the broader community. And, most importantly, our relationship with God. How often do we leave God out in the cold, because there’s just no room in our lives? Do we tend to allow God a little time only, when it is convenient for us?
What’s in your ‘garage’?
God is about to enter human existence once more. This is it. And this is the time to reflect on all the stuff that occupies our lives, and to make mindful and faithful decisions about what to throw out in order to give more room, much more room, to our God.