What's the difference between trash, stuff, and a collection?
If it gets in the way, and you see no use for it, then it's...
trash -- and you throw it out!
If it gets in the way, and you might have a use for it one
day, then it's... stuff -- and you shove it in a corner until later.
But if you think it's valuable, for whatever strange reason,
then it's... a collection -- and you store it away carefully, after examining
and analyzing and cataloging it.
So what's the difference? Why, the difference between being a
slob (or at least a messy person) and -- trumpets, please! -- a
Of course, there are different kinds of collectors. First,
there are the casual collectors -- of clothes, shoes, books, magazines, audio
tapes, video tapes, and the like. These are "things" we use, have used, or will
use again; "things" we enjoy and perhaps want to share with others. Nothing too
strange there. Or is there?
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.
And finally there is the passionate, or "crazy" collector. He
wants everything in a particular genre. This desire becomes a fixation, an
obsession; and he is willing to spend time and money -- a lot of it -- to
satisfy that desire. (It's always an interesting exercise to decide where to
draw the line between "serious" and "crazy". One rule of thumb: "crazy" is
always just a couple of stages beyond where I am at any given moment.)
Exactly what do collectors collect? The answer is: anything
and everything. Besides collections of things that can be used, there are
collections of items that remind their owners of special vacations or happy
times. There are "collectibles" like fine furniture, crystal, china, dolls,
commemorative plates, and the complete set of 130 bound volumes of The
Christadelphian magazine. Then there are collections for the profit motive: old
comic books, old baseball cards out of bubble gum packs, autographs of famous
people, first editions of best-sellers, paintings and other works of art,
antiques. There is no end to what someone, somewhere, will consider worth
collecting, and what someone else, properly motivated, will consider worth
And 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. And a partridge in a pear tree!
In "Magnificent Obsession", a book about 20 obsessive
collectors extraordinaire, 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. It's a poison that enters
your bloodstream. I'm less addicted to it now than I used to be, because I've
traded up so that everything I collect or used to collect is too expensive for
me to buy any more, and I'm not satisfied with the cheap stuff."
Later, Fleischer describes what she believes would be an
appropriate ending to her life's story: "A Viking ship burial, that's what I
want. I want to be loaded up on a great big barge with all my collections, put
out to sea, and the whole thing set alight. Oh, sure, but my barge would
probably sink before it got a foot from the shore."
The Bible describes men whose wealth and power allowed them to
become serious (or "crazy") collectors:
King Solomon collected hundreds of wives (1Ki 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 (Ecc 7:28). And when he died, his
one son proved a disaster on his father's 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).
Paul equated covetousness with idolatry (Col 3:5). And Jesus warned against the
evil of covetousness:
In the parable that Jesus told to accompany his warning, a
rich man says to himself:
"Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not
consist in the abundance of his possessions" (Luke 12:15).
"What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops... This is what I'll 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 didn't really need and
couldn't 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).
By contrast to this sad tale, Jesus also said:
"Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn;
yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!... Consider
how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon
in all his splendor was dressed like one of these... But seek his kingdom, and
these things will be given to you as well" (vv
In the long run, almost every "crazy" 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" (Mat
24:43,44; Luke 12:39,40; 1Th 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, boats, 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.
In the view of eternity, many "collections" are truly
worthless. But some "collections" have real value:
* The "collection" of God's 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.
"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
"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" (2Pe 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" (1Th 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 God's special and ultimate
"collection", when His Son returns.
"The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom
everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the
fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the
righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has
ears, let him hear" (Mat 13:41-43).