(2 Corinthians 3:3, “clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart.”)
What possessions do I really need? Something I have come to realize is that my little Cambridge New Testament is my constant companion. So, I guess I need it. I have many other Bibles that are finer, with more features, but this one is convenient and is “well trained” by usage and handling. Using Power Point presentations in sermons for many years now, and knowing how effective imagery like that can be in preaching, there is still something to be said about standing before an audience to preach the word with no aids at all but a faithful Bible like this without fear of the power going out! I have it with me always and get kind of panicky if I misplace it. Ask most preachers and you will find that my little quirk is not so rare.
My grandfather told me about forty years ago he never travelled without at least $200.00 in his wallet and advised me to always do the same. That advice seems quaint, now. My father had favorite Bibles, too, but never left the house without his pocket knife and I have rued the times I have not heeded his practical advice. Then there is American Express which apparently does not think much about Bibles because they tell us never to leave home without their credit card! On the subject of having a few key things, laughingly I remember just a bit of a wacky poem by Jeff Cooper (now deceased, an old master of skills-at-arms) which goes, “…ain’t many troubles that a man cain’t fix, with seven hundred dollars and his thirty ought six.” That is just a little bit more prepared than I usually need to be for the life I have chosen, but you get the idea!
The better part of wisdom seems to indicate that a few material things, like Bibles (!) might be very useful to have. I was just looking at my two large suitcases containing everything I will need while I am here in India teaching classes for preacher students half a world away from my home, when another stray thought came to mind. What struck me was an old Latin quote of all things, which has rattled around in the kind of cobwebby areas of the old cranium for a long time. “Omnia mea mecum porto.” If you are not familiar with this quote, please allow me to explain further. I remembered it, believe it or not from my scouting days, as it is one of the wise sayings supporting the concept of “Be Prepared,” the famous motto of the Boy Scouts. And then learning in adulthood where the quote is derived, I now am rounding out my comprehension and hope you too will appreciate it.
Not really all that obscure, the great Seneca of Rome wrote (in his Epistulae Morales 9.18-19), about a remark made by the highly esteemed Greek philosopher, Stilpon (c. 380-300 B.C.). His home city of Megara was besieged and destroyed, not untypically, by the army of a fellow Greek, named Demetrius (nicknamed Poliorcetes, because he was a destroyer of cities). Perhaps, wishing to gloat a bit, Demetrius did not assault him, but did verbally confront Stilpon as the venerable thinker calmly walked away from his city in total ruin, the flames of the burning city leaping high in the sky behind him. Sadly, he had lost the city of his birth, his home and his family, a disaster which almost no one could ever recover.
Noticing that Stilpon had nothing with him but what was on his back and nothing in his hands, Demetrius sardonically asked him if he had lost anything. Stilpon calmly said, “I carry all my property about me.” In other words, “I have lost nothing.” Stunned, this made Demetrius actually doubt whether he had really conquered anything. Seneca writing of this historic statement interpreted Stilpon’s remark, in Latin, as “Omnia mea mecum porto,” or “All of my goods are with me”: justice, virtue, prudence, the very fact that he considered nothing good that could be snatched away; material things being transient and impermanent but the classical Greek principles he revered were in the mind and character of the man.
What we have here is the concept of the man who is fully furnished with all he needs, within his heart or mind. The Book of Proverbs says, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he…” (23:7a). Naturally, this made me think, standing there looking at the two bags, what if this was all I had in the whole wide world? And this reminded me of Paul’s words in, 2 Timothy 3:15, to his son in the spirit, Timothy, “and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” All of us who have taken the Lord’s word to heart like this and have lived with the word for a long time appreciate anyone else who is dedicated to the scriptures and have made them at home in our hearts. But even more this passage tells us 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
As Christians we know that nothing we accumulate here will travel with us to the next life except what resides in the heart or soul. Matthew 6:19-20, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 “but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Yes, I can conclude; I have everything I need right inside my heart.