(Bible Study - February 2001) Whats the difference between accumulated trash and stuff and a "collection"? It depends.
If it gets in the way, and you see no use for it, then its trash and you throw it out!
If it gets in the way, and you might have a use for it one day, then its stuff and you shove it in a corner until later.
But if you think its valuable, for whatever strange reason, then its a collection and you store it away carefully, after examining and analyzing and cataloging it, for you are a collector.
Then there are the serious collectors again, perhaps of the same clothes, shoes, books, magazines, tapes, and so forth. But the serious collector wants more than he and all of his friends can use in a lifetime; he wants to collect for the sheer pleasure of accumulating and possessing. He may join clubs, subscribe to newsletters, and attend conferences where others of similar bent study, discuss, and add to their collections.
Finally there is the passionate, or "crazy," collector. He wants everything in a particular genre. This desire becomes an obsession, and he is willing to spend time and money a lot of it to satisfy that desire.
Then there are the truly "unbelievable" collections: 18,000 puzzles, 150 varied images of the last supper, 5,000 Lionel toy trains, 40,000 swizzle sticks, 5,000 spinning tops, 1 million aluminum pop tops, 125 restored Studebaker automobiles. In Magnificent Obsession, a book about 20 obsessive collectors, author Mitch Tuchman quotes Leonore Fleischer, a collector of antique American beadwork, china, linens, Disneyana, and man-in-the-moon graphics: "Collecting is a disease. Its a poison that enters your bloodstream. Im less addicted to it now than I used to be, because Ive traded up so that everything I collect or used to collect is too expensive for me to buy any more, and Im not satisfied with the cheap stuff."
The Bible describes men whose wealth and power allowed them to become serious collectors: King Solomon collected hundreds of wives (I Kings 11:3), who brought him untold grief. Near the end of his life, he could write that he had not found one upright woman among a thousand (Eccl. 7:28). And when he died, his one son proved a disaster on his fathers throne. King Nebuchadnezzar collected cities and kingdoms like so many coffee mugs, boasted of his mighty accomplishments, and then under the hand of Almighty God lost all reason and lived like an animal for seven years before the same God restored his sanity (Dan. 4).
In the parable Jesus told to accompany his warning, a rich man says to himself: "What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops...This is what Ill do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods" (vv. 17,18). The poor "rich" man the foolish "collector" of wealth died that very night, while planning the immense reconstruction project that would provide space to store all the crops and goods he didnt really need and couldnt really use. Jesus added the postscript: "This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God" (v. 21).
In the long run, almost every collection has value (sentimental, if not monetary) to the collector or to his heirs. But in the longest run, no collection of "things" has any real value. Jesus, and then Paul, compare the second coming to a visitation by a "thief in the night" (Matt. 24:43,44; Luke 12:39,40; I Thess. 5:2; Rev. 3:3; 16:15). Why? Because a thief comes unexpectedly, and can steal away anything and everything which the homeowner considers valuable: clothes, cars, furs, jewelry, TV sets, sports equipment, musical instruments. And this "thief," Jesus (!), can steal away even those intangible things upon which the possessor has placed value: jobs, vacations, friends, families, power, prestige, pride, political influence.
How? Because, standing before the Lord at his return, the "collector" will realize that all the "things" for which he has striven and sacrificed in this life suddenly have no value whatsoever. And they well may mark his funeral pyre, their final blaze a brief memorial to a lifetime of wasted days.
The "collection" of Gods words and teachings, treasured up in the mind: "I have hidden (collected, preserved) your word in my heart that I might not sin against you" (Psa. 119:11).
The "collection" of credits in the bank account of heaven. Jesus said: "Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Luke 12:33,34).
The "collection" of godly qualities of character. Peter wrote: "Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love" (I Pet. 1:5-7).
And the "collection" of friends and family who believe in the same God and hold the same hope. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians: "For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy" (I Thess. 2:19,20).
One day, when God sends His Son Jesus back to the earth, it will be for the purpose of helping the Father complete the greatest "collection" of all time:
"Then those who feared the LORD...will be mine, says the LORD Almighty, in the day when I make up my treasured possession (jewels: KJV). I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him" (Mal. 3:16,17).
May we be a treasured part of Gods special and ultimate "collection," when His Son returns.