I’m a self-admitted fiend for stuff. Cute stuff. I’m a woman, so I guess it comes naturally. Whenever a clothing or gift catalog arrives in the mail, I pore over it, studying the intricate details. Retail therapy works wonders on me. Every shiny, bright, colorful item is gushed over. Books are also a weakness. Each new Christian book is a gotta-have; something I need to get my life on track. When I go to Hobby Lobby, I give myself a pep-talk prior to entering the store. “You’re only going there for one thing. Nothing else,” I chant. Don’t let me go to a store during a sale. My radar is on alert for the red clearance sign. See this, and I’ll never emerge.
Whatever it is – earrings, purses, scarves, clothing, shoes, books, crafts, home décor – I want it. I’m shamefully distracted by the world’s stuff.
Maybe these aren’t your things. Maybe you’re more into cars, boats, motorcycles, RVs, and the like. Maybe it’s that shiny new model on the car lot which beckons you. Or, perhaps, you’re into fine wine, luxury furniture, brand-name clothing. Perhaps you can smell Louis Vuitton from three quarters of a mile away. You may be dreaming of that luxury gold watch and swarthy leather jacket.
Either way, the world has produced a plethora of goods to make consumers out of us all. It’s somewhat alarming when I’m convicted most by the third person in Jesus’ Parable of the Sower. The first two people hear Jesus’ words and either dismiss or reject them based on fear. Nope, I don’t have that problem (at least not presently.) The third person, on the other hand, receives the word and loves it. Hears it. Loves Jesus. However, the weeds of distraction and worry are abundant in the third person’s garden of life. He or she is anxious for many things: possessions, status, power, etc. Hence, any fruit produced by Jesus’ words is quickly choked by the precarious weeds. This, too often, is me.
I so badly wish to be the fourth person. Abundantly good soil surrounds this fruitful Christian, who receives Jesus’ word and ingests it. The word is then allowed to plant and grow uninhibited into a productive crop, from which many can feast. Jesus uses these saints mightily.
To be the fourth person, however, you must be undistracted. Free from anxiety. Not caught up in attaining material items. Unselfish and, as my previous pastor described, holding their possessions with an open hand. Unhindered and unobligated from the burdens usually accompanying wealth and belongings. These highly intuitive people see beyond the natural into the supernatural. The physical – clothing, food, shelter, transportation – is all secondary. Their eyes pierce through and see the heavenly battles, the spiritual undertones. Their souls outglow their shell.
God has so much to say about money and possessions. A quick reading of His thoughts may leave you red-faced. Glance over His heart about the matter:
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
1 Timothy 6:6-10, emphasis mine
God says if we have food and clothing, we should be content.. Food and clothing – that’s it. He didn’t mention shelter, makeup, hair dye, cars, pools, or jewelry. Only the bare essentials. Can you imagine, in our modern culture inundated with financial glitz and materialism, being fulfilled with only a few outfits and a meal from Chili’s?
A wise person once said the richest person in the room was the one who needed the least. That must be true. God says desire for money is a trap and can lead to ruin and destruction. The rich young ruler, facing Jesus on potentially the most pivotal point of his life, decided against Jesus’ admonition to sell his possessions, give to the poor, and follow Him. He wouldn’t do it. He “went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.” (Mark 10:22)
The Source of Our Stress
Much of our lives are spent gaining, keeping, and worrying about our material items. We spend at least forty hours a week working to pay for stuff. Some of it is essential: food, clothes, water, utilities, shelter, and transportation. However, how much of what we “need” is non-essential?
Our time away from work is spent maintaining our possessions. The car needs washing, the stairs need fixing, and the floor needs sweeping. The boat needs repairs and we haven’t cleaned the gutters yet. Sigh. We wonder when we’ll ever rest.
The remaining time is spent worrying about possessions. Is your retirement account gaining interest? Will it be enough? What is that knocking under the hood of the car? The grass is getting long, will we be cited by the City? Will I have enough money to buy teeth whiteners? And speaking of that, I hope my husband budgeted for Starbucks!
Next thing we know, the furrow in our brows is getting deeper, our lives are getting more self-centered, and our joy is dwindling. Relationships are shelved as we obsess over things. Our surrounding friends and neighbors are then seen as a means to an end instead of humans with emotions and needs. Rest eludes us.
Have you met a person who had abundant possessions, yet said, “I have enough. I’m done chasing after this stuff. What I have now is sufficient.” Neither have I. Most people who have much want more. We shouldn’t be surprised at this; God warned us about it in Ecclesiastes 5:10: “If you love money, you will never be satisfied; if you long to be rich, you will never get all you want. It is useless”
Who else yearns to break free from the unfulfilling life of gaining, keeping, and worrying about things that will be left behind anyway? Who else sorely desires a meaningful, purposeful, Spirit-filled life lived richly as the fourth person in the Parable of the Sower? Does anyone else wish they could be relinquished from material worries so they could flourish like the fruitful tree planted by water? That’s how Jesus envisions us.
Join me next week as we look at practical ways to live a life free from the love of possessions.