“You know, for someone that talks so often about living simply, you sure have a lot of SHTUFF,” my dad grumbled as he helped my husband hoist our furniture into his truck last weekend during our move to a new home.
He’s right, of course. We moved our family of five from a 2 bedroom townhouse to a 3 bedroom, and it’s as though our stuff simply expanded to fill our new place. What I thought was a small, manageable amount of possessions tucked away into our old home, somehow seems monstruously excessive laid bare and stacked in a pile in our new living room.
Nothing makes me reevaluate the amount of my possessions quite like picking up each and every one of them and hauling them from point A to point B.
It seems fitting, somehow, that as I write this post about possessions, I am sitting in our new third bedroom, which I’ve temporarily coined “The Project Room,” literally surrounded by my possessions. Hundreds of them sit behind me in boxes I’ve yet to unpack, despite living here quite comfortably for a week already. I may not have an operational lamp or functional furniture in this room yet, but I have easter baskets, my wedding dress, a protractor, stories I wrote when I was nine, origami paper, a star-shaped cookie cutter, an x-acto knife, felt, jingle bells, a music stand, a sketchpad, a cassette tape containing several nights worth of “The Top Nine At Nine” recorded directly from the radio when I was twelve (So much Celine Dion. So. Much.), a hammer (that’s where that hammer went!), knitting needles I haven’t used in six years, some miniature Chuck Taylors (size 2! For babies!), Elmer’s glue, three pinhole cameras, a curtain featuring birds, and books, books, and more books. That about describes the contents of one box.
I can pride myself in the fact that we don’t own a storage unit, that we barely store anything in our attic or our basement, that I haven’t yet qualified for an episode of “Hoarders” yet, but the fact remains: we have a lot of STUFF.
Is it really a bad thing to have a lot of stuff?
Sometimes it doesn’t really feel like it. Most of the time, in fact, this just feels normal. I have a lot of stuff, my neighbor has a lot of stuff, his neighbor has a lot of stuff. We all work hard so that we can afford to have a lot of stuff and we spend our time caring for and managing said stuff. If we don’t have a lot of stuff, we’re dreaming of the stuff that would make our lives just a little bit easier, and working toward obtaining that stuff. It’s just how life works in any highly civilized society. If you have a family and you want to care for them properly, you’re going to need a lot of stuff in order to do so.
This is what the world says. The Bible never says this, however. In fact, the Bible says the exact opposite
“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. (Matthew 6:19-21)
Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” (Luke 12:15)
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. (Matthew 6:24)
Sometimes I read these verses and think that God is only talking to the people who have a TON of money. The billionaires, the people living in mansions. Those are the people who are serving money instead of God. Those are the people who are storing up earthly possessions. I’m just living a normal life wherein I squirrel away what I can in order to support my family. I want to give them a comfortable and happy life. I want them to have the things they need and want always at their fingertips.
Consider God’s purpose for our labor:
Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need. (Ephesians 4:28)
I feel like I often forget that last part. I focus on providing for my family, but rarely do I consider the needs of strangers to be my concern. I gather and squirrel away until I have enough for my family, and then I continue gathering until I have more than enough. Do I willingly bless people in need with my excess? Do I use opportunities to share my things as opportunities to share the Gospel? Do I live with a spirit of generosity, trusting God to provide for me and my family? Or do I fearfully store up my earthly treasures “just in case” I need them some day?
Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. (Matthew 6:27-29
I find the earliest Christians to be inspiring when it comes to their relationship with possessions:
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need. (Acts 4:32-35)
Why don’t we live in the same spirit of generosity today? Why aren’t we running out and selling our possessions and giving the money to the needy as the early Christian Church did?
If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? (1 John 3:17)
Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." (Matthew 19:24)
God warns against the acquisition and storage of possessions for a reason. Earthly possessions distract us from our purpose as Christians. Time spent caring for, acquiring, and obsessing over our possessions is time that could be better spent loving God, caring for our neighbor, and sharing God's love with others.
As I embark on yet another “purge” of my possessions following this move, I hope to make room not only in my home, but also in my heart. I pray that God helps me to release the things that I no longer need with trust that He will provide for me. I pray he opens my eyes to those in need and allows me to give freely of what I have in a spirit of generosity. I pray that the time I no longer spend caring for and maintaining these things will be spent loving my God and caring for my neighbor.
This week’s challenge: Go through your stuff and donate what you don’t need to a shelter or person in need or sell something and give the money to someone in need. Drawing inspiration from the early Christians in Acts 4, let your stuff go with a spirit of generosity, trusting God to provide for you.