We should think rightly about the way we relate to our material possessions. We are stewards, looking after things in trust, enjoying but not owning. Obviously this is easier in theory than practice. But it is a good thing to remind ourselves that all these good things actually belong to God and not to me. I’ve found that when I actually manage this, the sense of gratitude for the incredible generosity of God brings in its wake a sense of freedom.
All things are loaned to us. All things come from God, and that includes the very body that clothes us. In this sense I have no rights and I do not possess. David Nicholl writes about this: “Once we realise that we own absolutely nothing…. a weight is lifted from us and our hearts grow lighter… at least we have made a true beginning when we can gaze around at all the possessions, qualities and capacities that are supposed to be ours and recognise that they do not really belong to us. In fact a good exercise for us beginners is to scan slowly over the world we have built around us and say of every item in it “Not mine; just on temporary loan: this house – not mine, just on temporary loan; these books – not mine, just on temporary loan; these fingers – not mine, just on temporary loan; my children – not mine, just on temporary loan.”
Getting to this level of contentment is of course not easy, especially when I realise that my beloved books are not mine but a gift from God. Contentment is attractive and surely is the best way to live. It implies I enjoy things as they are without becoming a slave to them. Since I know they are only on loan, I rejoice in them, but I also feel detachment, delighting in them when I have them but not losing my peace of mind when they are taken away.
This is real freedom from the tyranny of assertiveness. It is also freedom from the tyranny of appearing to be successful in a world which measures success by signs of outward possessions and prosperity and profit. For if I am going to [try and] live in this way I am continuously brought face to face with the fact that everything in my life is gift and I am entirely dependent on God as Creator, Giver and loving Father.