My favorite scene in the old Steve Martin movie, The Jerk, is right at the very end when Martin’s character, Navin Johnson, is having everything taken away. All his money, his house, his cars, his business, his possessions — he’s losing everything as the result of a class-action lawsuit against his invention. (The Opti-Grab, remember?)
Navin finally loses it in an argument with his wife (“I just heard a song that reminded me of the way we were.” “What was it?” “The Way We Were.”) and he walks out of the house declaring, “I don’t need anything! I don’t need any of this! I don’t need the money! I don’t need the house! I don’t need anything!”
And he picks up an ashtray from the corner of his desk. And then he picks up a paddle ball game from the floor. And he screams, “I don’t need anything” and picks up a remote control. “I don’t need anything!”
And he picks up a box of matches. And a lamp. “This is it! These five things. This is all I need! I don’t need anything!”
And he picks up a chair as he walks out the door and into the yard.
Navin walks down the road carrying these possessions, carrying these material things, burdened by the physical things he just can’t let go of.
I admit, this is high-brow stuff. The stinging social criticism of The Jerk goes over most peoples’ heads. But I’m convicted by the image of this man clinging to these worthless possessions with no regard for the bigger picture of what’s really happening.
We believe that everything we have comes from God and is to be used for God’s purposes and to God’s glory. We know that God promises to make us rich in every way. He promises to give us everything we need. We teach it. We sing it. “I Surrender All.” Everything I have belongs to God! I give everything to him!
Except this money I need for our vacation. And except this money I need to buy the 96-inch HDTV. The vacation and the big screen. That’s all I need. Everything else belongs to God. I give everything else to God.
Except the money I need to upgrade the family’s cell phones. And we want to re-do our kitchen. And we’re going to invest in our retirement. And buy a new car. And save for a rainy day.
Next thing you know, you’re walking down Main Street in your bathrobe, like Navin Johnson, hanging on with a white-knuckle death-grip to material things, temporary things, which Scripture says reveals a lack of faith in our God who promises to provide for your every need.
It’s a radical thing to declare that God — not me! — is responsible for everything we are and everything we have. It’s huge. It’s an insight that’s so simple, yet, it’s absolutely life-changing. God gives us everything and promises to give us everything. So it’s not that we care less about our material goods, it’s that we care much more about God’s purpose in giving us these material goods. Ironically, his purpose is that we, in turn, give these things away to others. That kind of mindset and living and giving demonstrates our continuing confidence in our God’s faithful promises to his people.
Nineteen days until the Cowboys season begins in Tampa Bay. And we’re counting down the days with a look at the second-best players in Cowboys history according to jersey number. And #19 is a punter. John Jett. He kicked for Dallas for four years, from 1993-96. He averaged 42 yards a punt. He never had one blocked in 253 kicks. And he won two Super Bowls.
The other #19s in Cowboys history have much more interesting stories. They’re more fun to talk about. Lance Rentzel. Clint Longley. Keyshawn Johnson. And while they’re more talented than Jett, even at their positions, they each played a role in ripping apart the Cowboys’ lockerroom. And none of them won any championships.
Jett’s the guy. Deal with it.