This year marks the 75th anniversary of the iconic ‘Desert Island Discs’ programme. Now a favourite on Radio 4, it was first broadcast on the BBC Forces Programme on the 29th January 1942. Each week a guest, called a ‘castaway’, is asked to choose eight musical recordings, a book and a luxury item that they would take if they were to be cast away on a desert island. At the end of the programme they choose the one piece they regard most highly.
In an age and culture where our lives can be so full of ‘stuff’ I’ve often pondered how liberating it might be to be a castaway; richness in simplicity, space to appreciate and value a few basic things, more time spent looking outwards and less time looking in. In addition to the ‘Complete Works of Shakespeare’ and the Bible, which castaways are given automatically, I’d probably opt for something like ‘The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy’ and a solar powered coffee machine, in the hope I found myself on an island rammed with coffee trees! My eight recordings would be tough, and maybe the subject of a future blog, for now I’m interested in charity; what we do with what we have.
In Luke’s gospel we have the story of Jesus’ encounter with a rich man. At the end of their conversation Jesus tells the man to sell everything he owns and give the money to the poor (18:18-30). Earlier we read about the man who builds bigger barns and hoards stuff in it for his future, only to lose his life the next day. (12:15-21).
What he did sounds familiar, I think immediately of my shed and my loft! This man didn’t choose to give his stuff to the poor or even sell it, instead he decided he simply needed more room, to keep more of his grain, for himself. All so that he didn’t have to worry about working in the future.
Let’s be honest, there is only so much ‘stuff’ we genuinely need and the only treasures we should really be storing up are those in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21). Nevertheless we hold onto things because we believe they give us security. We keep them because we may just need them one day. Lives full of ‘stuff’ leave little space for properly connecting with people and their needs; worse still, they become lives distracted from growing closer to God.
The idea of selling or giving away everything we own is quite scary. But it’s not, in the majority of cases, what I believe God calls us to do. Rather we are to be responsible for caring for the needs of our families and ourselves. What he does ask though is that we get rid of those things that have become more important than him (Exodus 20:3), that we turn our whole hearts and lives over to God. Our lives should be characterised by the sharing of our time, wisdom, money, and possessions with others.
With a fairly eclectic taste in music I’d be without some much loved recordings on my desert island, but the one I’d definitely take is “Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd”. Track 10, “Money”, is about greed and hypocrisy – a guy hoarding all the money and possessions he can. The songwriter ends by reflecting on how we are often keen to see that these things are shared with people less fortunate than ourselves, as long as it’s not our ‘stash’. “Share it fairly, but don’t take a slice of my pie” the song says.
How about us?
Image Credit: Vitaly