Your house is on fire.

You got out safely and there is time enough to go back in and save 5 things before everything is destroyed. What do you grab?

Photo: 111 Emergency
Photo: 111 Emergency

The number of objects you can grab may change. It could be 3 items, perhaps only 1.

In some cases your family and pets are safely out of the house with you, in other cases not. Either way, chances are you have played the Burning House game with someone at some point.

There is nothing inherently wrong with the question. Questions and situations like these put what really matters into sharp focus, helps us discern what is and is not important to us.

The difficulty, the problem with the burning house scenario is that it demands an answer. And with Christ as my guide, my Lord and Teacher, I find myself in a position where I don’t know how to answer.

Consider this portion of Scripture.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth (Matthew 6:19-21,24 NASB).”

When Jesus called me into relationship with Him, I didn’t fully realize what He was asking.

I understood that I was asked to put God before all gods, that I would worship and serve him alone.

I understood that He loved me and because of that love, I would love Him in return.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that God as Lord, the only God in my life, would affect how I valued my stuff.

I didn’t realize He would teach me that I would need to reevaluate how I valued my stuff.

But He did, and continues to.

When I understand, even for a moment, that there is a God that loves and forgives me, my X Box 360 doesn’t hold the same value as it once did.

When I am hit with the unnerving reality that I have a friend that is closer than a brother in Jesus, all my books, my music, all these things have no place on the front burner. Instead they get pushed to the back.

When I start to grasp the concept that Jesus called His disciples to build up treasures in Heaven, not on the Earth, I find myself answering the Burning House Scenario this way.

I wouldn’t go back for anything.

If my house was on fire, and I could go back in to get 5 things I value most, or 3 things, or 1, my answer would always be the same.

Nothing, as long as I have Jesus I don’t need anything else.

And this idea is consistent with the rest of Scripture.

Right after Jesus says you can’t serve God and love money, and that you should be putting your treasures into Heaven and heavenly things, Jesus tells us not to worry. Don’t worry about food, clothing or a house, because God will take care of it. We then should focus all our attentions into being in relationship with God. Not worrying about all the mundane details of the day.

There is nothing else you need, besides Jesus.


And this would be a wonderful answer to the Burning House Scenario, but there arises a problem when you read the rest of Scripture.

While Jesus tells us that we shouldn’t hold onto our stuff, while it shouldn’t be of such value that we would run into a burning house to save it, there are places in Scripture where having stuff is seen as a good thing.

For example,

Children are not supposed to save up for their parents, but parents for their children (2 Corinthians 12:14 CJB).

Bread is made for laughter, and wine gladdens life,and money answers everything (Ecclesiastes 10:19 ESV).

You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day (Deuteronomy 8:18).

Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold (Genesis 13:2).

These verses and others like it seem to fly in the very face of what Jesus taught in his Sermon on the Mount. From reading these verses it sounds like we should have money and lots of it.

Money seems to be the sign that God is blessing you. And that would imply that if you don’t have any money that God is not blessing you. Is that true?

What are we supposed to do with this?

Is this a contradiction within the teachings of the Bible? Is one teaching right and the other wrong?

Or are we meant to find some kind of balance between God and money?

What do you think?

How do you work out this difficulty within Scripture?

3 thoughts on “The Problem with the Burning House Scenario

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