I don’t know what I dislike most – having a root canal or redoing my “last” will and testament. The former is unpleasant, but usually relieves pain. The latter is also unpleasant, and usually causes pain.
Making or redoing a will forces one to acknowledge that they are going to die. The document is filled with words like death and deceased “death” and deceased.” Those references refer to the one making the will; in this case that would be me. If bringing up death wasn’t bad enough, I had to go through the lengthy process of making a list of all the stuff I had accumulated. Then I had to find the deeds and documents that proved all that stuff was really mine – “now where did I put the deed to this house I bought 40 years ago?”
The really hard part in doing a will is the very last part, “Who will get all your stuff?” Over the course of our lifetimes we may graduate from many schools; be involved in many organizations; be a significant part of many churches; and, of course, have children, who will have children, who will have children; and on it goes. The bottom line is just about all included in the above list want to remember you by getting some of your stuff. Ha!
This week as I was unsuccessfully wrestling with this “distribution question” for what seemed like the umpteenth time, I called out loud, “Lord help me!”
Because I have made this petition many times before in other situations, I knew what His response would be. “Joe, go look it up.”
Feeling a bit better, I immediately went to my 2017 research library, Google, and spent the next hour “searching.” I found that the Bible doesn’t say a whole lot about wills, living wills and durable power of attorney, but there are many stories of people who planned ahead. Well, that’s what I was doing, but I needed the answer to my big question, “Who gets my stuff?” I knew Jesus would have the answer!
Jesus says nothing about wills, but he has plenty to say about our stuff and what to do with it. Jesus didn’t care much about having stuff, but he did care about the power our stuff has over us. The story of the Prodigal Son and the Rich Young Ruler are just two of many chilling examples of the power of stuff. Jesus didn’t have a will, which makes sense, since he didn’t have any stuff to leave behind – just a robe.
What I hear Jesus saying is that we won’t need a will if we give our stuff away on the front end. I hope that was Jesus using hyperbole to make a point about how our stuff can imprison us, whereas giving it away frees us.
For me, now I hear Jesus telling me to be a good steward of my stuff, but give away all that I don’t need or want. The operative word I hear is “balance.” For me, that is the path to freedom.
OK, back to the drawing board.
The Rev. Joe Bowden is the assisting priest at Church of the Good Shepherd.