C.S. Lewis writes a little book called Screwtape Letters. And if you’ve never read this little book, I highly recommend it. It’s not like a normal book because basically it’s a fiction book of a group of letters from a senior demon to a junior demon. And the senior demon is named Uncle Screwtape, and he is training the junior demon on how to destroy a Christian’s life. And so, it’s really creatively written to show us the things that our enemy does to take down Christians. In one of those letters, it really explains the mystery of why we have a hard time with letting God speak into our finances. So, this is Uncle Screwtape writing to the junior demon:
The sense of ownership in general is always to be encouraged. The humans are always putting up claims to ownership which sound equally funny in Heaven and in Hell and we must keep them doing so.
Why do we feel like we are owners when in actuality, we don’t own anything. It’s as if we were to go out and rent a car and then get a car wash, get it detailed, put new tires on it and upgrade the sound system. That makes absolutely no sense to do all that work for a car we don’t own and will have it only for a temporary amount of time. Or imagine if we stayed at a hotel, but during our stay, we decided to repaint the room, put hardwood floors in, remodeled the bathroom, and got a bigger TV. We would be treating the room as if we owned it. But those are silly extreme examples of what we do when we feel like we own what we have in our lives today. We don’t own anything. And the minute we think we do, we’ve lost our grip on reality.
I love what Bill Hybels says about this grip:
“Look at your hands. When you were just an infant, you came out with your hands closed. And every time somebody put their little finger by yours, you would wrap your hand around it, hold on tight, and not let go. As a toddler, you started grabbing rattles and little toys. When another kid came in your direction and wanted to take them away from you, you said, “Mine,” and held on tight.
When you were in junior high school, you hung on tightly to bicycle handlebars and batons and other things. In high school you hung on to the hand of Betty Lou, and you were not about to let that go. In college you hung on to a lot of different stuff – maybe some stuff we don’t even want to talk about here – but when you left, you were clutching a diploma with two hands.
When you started a career, you grabbed the lowest rung on the ladder and you hung on. Then you reached for the second one and you hung on, and then the next one. Since then, you have been climbing ladders, clutching rungs. Someday retirement with come and you’ll hang on to golf clubs or gardening tools, pension funds, and social security. When you get near the end of your life, you’ll start hanging on to canes and walkers.
And then do you know what happens to some people in the final moments of their life? They clutch the edge of a hospital bed. They hang on tightly as if to life itself. And then they die. Finally, they relax their grip.”
We’ve got to loosen our grip on this world. Or as my friend, Eugene Cho says:
Generosity is what keeps the things I own from owning me.
We have to learn to pry our hands … so that our hands would be empty to receive the things that would last forever.