I was captivated from the first note—this guitar was it! After sampling more than a hundred guitars in five music stores, I knew I’d found the one I’d been seeking. It was a classical guitar with a beautiful rosewood body and a tightly grained cedar top. No plywood or laminates on this instrument, only intricately constructed solid wood. The salesman watched my face light up when I played a few chords, and he knew the sale was concluded. There was no need to waste time telling me about the ebony finger board, inlaid rosette and headstock, double binding or the free plush case that was included; it was clear that I wanted this guitar. No, I needed this guitar! The tone was remarkable; the treble tones were crisp and bright, and the bass was punchy and boomy. It’s hard to describe tonal qualities such as “complex” or “woody,” but this guitar had the right blend of everything, and it looked as good as it sounded. Four hundred dollars seemed a huge sum of money in 1973, but this guitar wasn’t merely a purchase or an investment—it was to become the expression of my creativity.
While my guitar never acquired a name like BB King’s Lucille, it became my prized possession. It was actually much more than a mere possession; it became my companion. It consoled me during dark times and was by my side during revelry and festivity. I played it for profit at wedding ceremonies, on stage at bars and for tips in pizza parlors. I praised God with it at churches and spent more than a thousand hours playing it alone in my room. It found a prominent place in each home as I moved through nine US states and two foreign nations. I changed the strings regularly, cleaned and oiled both the tuning machines and the wood frequently. I even wiped off fingerprints before putting it away after every use. And, after more than thirty years of heavy playing, there wasn’t a scratch to be found on it.
God led my family from our ministry in the Philippine jungle to Savannah, Georgia, in the summer of 2004. We carried only a few personal items and clothes with us. My guitar, of course, came along. We shopped at garage sales and thrift shops and soon filled each room of our home with furniture and appliances. It was like we were newlyweds again, purchasing kitchen things, bedroom things, living room things, and patio stuff. And, even though we were frugal in selecting what we purchased, I mentally converted every dollar we spent into pesos, imagining how that amount would have been better spent back in the Philippines. America seemed overly materialistic, and I struggled with the transition back into my own culture. In the midst of this reverse culture shock, I vowed that I would never be owned by a possession and began to survey what we’d amassed since our return.
Almost immediately, my attention was drawn to the guitar case standing in the corner of the room. Oh no! Not my guitar! Could I possibly unhand it? It had been with me longer than my wife and children—how could I possibly part with it? But the Lord convicted me. The guitar had become an idol that had to go. That very day, a young man from our new church came to our house for guitar lessons from my son, and I overheard him saying he needed to save up to buy a better instrument. The Lord provided me with a perfect opportunity to be generous and to liberate myself from the only possession that I considered too precious to lose. The Lord made it clear to me: If a possession is too precious to part with, you don’t own it—it owns you!
Jesus says in Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (NIV)
Where is your treasure? Consider your most prized possession; could you give it away? Try it. You’ll find it liberating.