“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
If our treasures steer our hearts, what does it mean when women can tote boxes and bags of clothes, books, baby items, canned food and other miscellaneous objects to donate and still have a houseful of goodies? It’s surely a generous act to think of others in need; however, what does it say about us that we possess that much overflowing our closets and homes? That we can give away items we will miss as much as the $5.00 we drop at Starbucks without a second thought.
Almost the length of one wall in this massive room was piled with items going to 8 different organizations within the community and beyond: Crisis Pregnancy Center, My Sister’s Closet, Honduras, New Leaf New Life, Kirkwood Mealshare, Salvation Army, Shalom Center and Backstreet Missions. The idea behind “possessions” week, the 3rd chapter in the Jen Hatmaker study, The 7 Experiment, involved giving away our castoffs to those less fortunate.
To get the back story regarding this particular study, read these earlier posts about food and clothes. The premise about possessions, according to Jen, is this: “How do we manage our wealth, financial priorities, and possessions with godliness and integrity?” Instantly convicting when I consider how American culture impacts and influences my decisions regarding the belongings with which I simply can’t survive. With brimming food pantries, bulging closets, bursting toy chests and wall-to-wall furniture, what possesses me to shove more into my four walls? And, just how large are my four walls?
Just think about it for a minute. When we get married, we most likely first reside in an itty bitty apartment with one bedroom, one bath, a kitchen and living room. We can’t buy too much or our furniture will push us out the door. My son and daughter-in-law live in an apartment like that with just barely enough room for a table that seats four and a small sectional.
However, as typical Americans, we save money so that someday we can purchase a larger space for our expanding family. God forbid we should live in an apartment for the rest of our lives and waste rent money. We need an investment and more acreage. After all, when we birth our children, they each need their own rooms and a colossal yard with a swing set and trampoline (with an enclosure, of course). Our new place will need a play room otherwise their bedrooms will be overrun with toys. Oh, and we need a bathroom for mommy and daddy, one for guests and perhaps a jack and jill for the little ones. We buy into this mentality because we drink the Kool-Aid, we live in America, and frankly, this is just how we do it here. So, we move into our new place after living in an apartment the size of an anthill, and immediately, our one table with 4 chairs and sectional look lonely in that colossal castle. More house means more stuff to collect. And so, the vicious cycle of buying, filling, purging, buying, filling, purging begins.
Lest you think I’m censuring everyone that lives in a nice house with a bedroom for each child and a big backyard with a playground, I’m looking at my own reflection. I bought into the American dream with a mammoth mansion of 5 bedrooms and four baths. Can you say crazy? Actually, it didn’t seem that big when all 5 of us filled the place, and it certainly came in handy for those big family gatherings—once a year. But, could we have been just as happy in a smaller, more conservative house boasting three bedrooms and fewer bathrooms? In terms of cleaning, I shout a resounding yes!
Happiness doesn’t depend on the size of my house or the number of possessions I own; instead, it’s found within relationships—of my husband and my children and those whom I welcome inside these walls. Who cares about the wall art, the furniture and the décor? Do those who walk through my door feel love, acceptance and kindness? Or, do I apologize for the cluttered counter, the dog’s diarrhea stain on the carpet or the mound of unfolded clothes still on the sofa? Do I convey to guests that I am embarrassed that our master bedroom and bathroom are as large as our living room and kitchen combined—that it seems grossly extravagant? Why do I feel this need to explain, justify, and apologize when friends come over to connect not criticize?
I’d like to think that stuff isn’t that important to me, but I believe down deep I’m just deceiving myself. I freely donate my daughter’s clothes to one of her friends; I’ve given away many books, furniture and other things our family doesn’t use; we support various non-profit organizations; we sponsor a World Vision child in Africa; and yet, we still accumulate. Our culture tells us we need the latest gadgets and gismos. We covet what our friends’ purchase. Going to the mall fuels our desire for more. It becomes an insatiable thirst to keep up with others.
Jen says, “Darkness is never more dangerous than when we’re plunged in it and think we can see.” The question lingers: do I think I have good eyes, but a 2x4 blocks my vision? Without my contacts, people appear like blurry blobs of flesh. Occasionally, my hubby will ask me as we prepare for bed if my “eyes” are still in so I can give my opinion about his clothing choice for the next morning. If I’ve already removed my contacts, I scoot about two inches from what he’s holding, squint to bring the objects into focus and give him a yes or no. Those with horrible eyesight understand the significant impact contacts or glasses make in bringing objects into focus. Without them, a world is formless and a mesh of colors blending together.
If I acknowledge my physical eyesight is no good without correction, what about my spiritual eyesight? What are the lies with which I convince myself about money and possessions?
“I’m doing enough already.”
“Someone else will help.”
“I’ve worked hard, so I deserve this.”
“I’m buying this for a good reason.”
So, now what? Do we put our houses on the market and sell everything we own because of the pile of guilt in our front yard? Most likely not, unless God has directed you to. Or, do we carry on as usual, accumulating assets, ignoring the great needs around us? Nope, not this either! Actually, change begins when we remove the scales from our eyes to see the needs around us. We make small steps in the direction of giving, serving and helping whenever and wherever we see an opportunity.
“Every day we have incremental chances to store up heavenly treasures, to foster good eyes, to be filled with light, to serve and love our God and His people.” Jen Hatmaker
I desperately desire to foster good eyes, how about you?
What are the lies you tell yourself about money and possessions?
What can you do this week to be generous?