For the past two weeks our church has been preparing for a monster garage sale and silent auction to be held this weekend. Several scriptures immediately come to mind as we prepare for this biennial event. “How long O Lord, how long?” “Get behind me, Satan!” “Your ways are not my ways.”
I used to be totally against church garage sales as a way to make money for the church. After all, what about the challenge of good stewardship and sacrificial giving to show our commitment to the Body of Christ, the Church? After observing and participating in the preparation for several sales, I have come to believe that this is not about making money. Sure we make some money, but the true purpose comes in the spiritual education we receive.
At Crosslake Presbyterian we call them “Monster Sales” instead of garage or yard sales. That is partly because of the monstrous size of the sale. It is also because it helps bring out the potential monsters within each of us. Our internal monsters are held in check as the preparation and sales become stressful and exhausting. More people participate in donating to, preparing for, and working at these monster sales than any other single church activity… including worship. We don’t argue or fight, but there is much self-control that we each have to learn as we see our very prized possessions devalued by those who are doing the pricing, as well as by those doing the shopping.
Seriously! That beautiful 4’X 3’ painting of Jesus holding a lamb was $50 back in 1972 when it was purchased. The frame itself should make worth more than the $3 that some cheapskate church person put on it! After all, those little mold spots which accumulated when it was stored in my garage for 30 years could easily be cleaned off with a little elbow grease. But heavens no, I don’t want it and would never hang it in my own home. But it is sure worth more than $3!
Hmmmmm. Anything wrong with this picture? I mean the picture where we don’t value things enough to keep them, but think that someone else should value them more. The first lesson we learn as we prepare for the sale is that of humility. You must humbly work this dilemma out in your own heart in order to be part of this event. Working this out is a spiritual discipline. It goes right along with Jesus words in Matthew 6:19 that says “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth… but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” Another place Jesus essentially says to the rich young ruler, “If your junk causes you to possess, accumulate, and over value... throw it out.”
There are few more profound hands-on lessons for the church community truly working together than the preparation for a monster sale. When we go on mission trips, we work on other people’s projects and are prepared to do them “their” way. Majority rules when we decide on the color of carpet in the sanctuary. But at the monster sale, we work side by side, trying very hard not to be critical of the person pricing things right next to us; or judging the person who has undervalued the precious items we have donated.
Here we learn true lessons in letting go, humility, kindness, patience, endurance and love. All are values we hear a lot about from Jesus, our example, teacher, and Savior.