Take a moment and ask yourself: Am I controlled by the desire to own material things? Do I worry or become anxious about keeping the things I’ve acquired? If I had to move tomorrow, what would I need and what could I let go of?
Your answers to these questions speak volumes about how you view material possessions and how important they are in your life. I’ve had time to think about this in recent months as my mother-in-law is cleaning out the family home to make a permanent move to Florida.
To say that she is daunted by the task is an understatement. She is physically ill, as relatives describe her, “killing herself” with emotional stress and physical exertion. She is overwhelmed and anxiety-ridden. Although she has a home in Florida filled with furniture and personal items that she could live happily with for the rest of her life, she is insistent on going through every item in her old home and on taking much of what’s there to her already crowded Florida place.
The Bible has a lot to say about placing this level of importance on material possessions and signs of wealth or prosperity. Mark 4:19 says, “But the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.”
“Choke the word.” Think about the visual that creates in the mind. It literally means to remove the breath from the word, to take away its ability to breathe into us, to live within us, and to continue to be alive in us. The focus on preserving things that represent what is important to the world pulls our focus away from God and his word, causing us to suffer.
One of my favorite Bible verses, a life verse for me, actually, is , “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” If you treasure your collections, your labels, your jewelry, your paintings, that is where your heart will be – in amongst your things. It won’t be on people, contentment, and happiness because you will spend all your time trying to hold on to what you have bought and surrounded yourself with your entire life. You will lose your grip on what is really important, and the scary thing is that it will happen slowly, insidiously, when you’re not paying attention.
In my mother-in-law’s case, she fell victim to the “more is better” philosophy of the world as soon as she had the money to do so. She wanted to “keep up with the Joneses” and give herself a sense of security by buying more, storing more, stockpiling goods. Now she is 84 and just wants to rest. She is tired and ready to be comfortable. But she can’t walk away from her things. They are controlling her, her husband, and her life.
When I suggest that she just sell her house “as is” and walk out the door, never looking back, she gasps in disbelief. “How can I leave all my things here? This couch is worth a fortune and these paintings are valuable and this jewelry is too good to donate.” I hear the words coming out of her mouth and I see her racked with exhaustion and stuck where she is… all because she is a slave to her things.
In we learn that “those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” Lives truly are destroyed when material possessions become more important than health and well-being. They don’t just trip and fall into ruin, they “plunge” into it forcefully and head-first.
I was fortunate to have moved many times in my lifetime. Despite the logistical hassle and the emotional toll moves tend to exact on those who would prefer to stay right where they are, a blessed side effect is the need to assess the practicality of household items. It’s hard to justify moving items that are never used when you are paying movers by the pound. I’ve left behind furniture I’ve loved because it just wouldn’t fit in the new house, and guess what? I never missed it. I really never thought about it again. That’s when I realized that none of it mattered. It was all just things, and definitely not worth losing sleep over.
As Christmas approaches and we are once again faced with the decision of making it a material holiday or a blessed one, I hope you will consider all that Scripture says about greed and personal possessions. It’s way too easy to fall victim to the accumulation mindset of society. Don’t allow yourself to be enslaved. If you had to leave tomorrow, have the peace and knowledge that you could do so with a few treasured items, your eyes forward, your heart trusting in God.