The Bishop was quite poor by worldly standards. One of his few worldly possessions of worth was a handful of silverware. When a dejected man knocked on his door, quite bereft of worldly goods and looking quite frightful, the Bishop welcomed him warmly and provided both a meal and a bed. When, during the night, the man stole his silver and departed, the Bishop took no care. When his sister and the maid cried out in dismay and indignation, he stated that it wasn’t his to begin with. It was God’s and he should have given it away a long time ago.
Stop there for a moment and think about one of your prized possessions in light of this story. I don’t know about you, but I would have been right there with the women, crying out about the unfairness of giving someone a hot meal and warm bed and then have them turn around and steal from you.
But the story gets better…and even more convicting. A few hours later, the Bishop hears a knock at the door. It is the local police with the man. They have caught him with the silver and have brought him back for arrest. Upon seeing him, the Bishop serenely welcomes them and then turns his gaze upon the thief. But he does not treat him like a thief. He proceeds to ask the wretch why he did not take the candlesticks he had offered to give him, as well. The Bishop then takes the candlesticks and hands them to the man, all the while treating him like a friend.
At this point in the story, I am starting to squirm. I am becoming aware of my unhealthy attachment to my worldly possessions. If my silver (or iPad?) had been stolen, I know that this is not how I would have reacted. I would have pressed charges immediately. I would have demanded that my things be returned to me.
Because after all, they are my things. But perhaps that is where my thinking takes a wrong turn. Are my possessions really mine? If I have given my life to Christ, wholly and fully, do I own anything? And I realize that while my mouth says, “yes, yes, it all belong to God”, my actions speak quite differently and I am ashamed.
And I wonder how it would change the world if we Christians loosened our tight grip on our stuff? Would it matter if our cars got scratched? Would it matter if we lost our cell phones? Would we be more thankful? Would we complain less? Would we be less materialistic? Would we give more? I don’t know. I am just wondering.
I do know that the Bishop– a fictional character in a story written long, long ago– has challenged my heart and my priorities. My simple re-telling of just a minute part of that classic does not do it justice, but I hope that perhaps you were challenged, as well.