J.H. Moore (1846-1935) served as Editor of the Church of the Brethren’s Gospel Messenger from 1883-1884 and again from 1891-1915. The Brethren Encyclopedia says of Brother Moore’s formative years: “As he grew older his determination to learn sparked a tremendous interest in books, and he read widely on many subjects” (Page 874). During his long and productive life, J.H. Moore accumulated many, many books. It is said that as he approached the end of life, however, he made a conscious, but not easy, decision to distance himself from his beloved books in an attempt not to be “chained” to them. Brother Moore knew this world was not his home, but that he was just “passing through.”
Said Jesus, “Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns” (Matthew 6:26). If you’ve ever come across an abandoned bird nest, look at its intricacy and be intrigued by the amount of work that went into building it. But amazingly, after the bird is finished using the nest, it flies away—leaving it behind forever. The ability to forever fly away from the very nest which a bird worked hard to create is a quality I truly admire.
Brethren writer Frank Ramirez picks up on this thought:
“We humans not only gather and build and build up, but we keep and have a hard time walking away. We are almost chained by our possessions.” He continues: “Look around at your stuff today. What do you need? Why do you keep what you keep? Is there something someone else might now enjoy?” (A Guide for Biblical Studies, Fall 2011 Series, Page 97).
According to Jesus, as recorded in Luke 12:15, a person’s life is not defined by what he or she owns, or by what has been amassed. In our crazed society, one would think our lives do consist in the things we possess. Yet we all know that God measures us by what we are, and not by what we own.
J.H. Moore wisely distanced himself from his beloved books. Birds fly away forever from the nests they created. And since you and I are “just passing through,” we too want to make our transition to the next life as easy as possible. Let’s hold our possessions loosely!
—Paul W. Brubaker