I watched a program yesterday where people were encouraged to downsize, keeping only those material things that “sparked joy.” It begins with taking everything of a particular classification out of your closet (such as “clothing” or “shoes”) and piling them in the center of a room in order to give you a visual impact of the material things you have accumulated over time. From there it encourages you to donate as much as possible from the pile so they can be shared with people less fortunate than you, except for those few things you actually need and use that you love. If you are undecided about a particular item or don’t use it regularly, you are encouraged to donate it. In truth, this is consistent with Christ’s teachings.
“Don’t store up treasures on earth where they can erode away or may be stolen. Store them in heaven where they will never lose their value from thieves. If your profits are in heaven, your heart will be there too.” Matthew 6:19-21
The idea is that we shouldn’t need a lot of material things to be happy and that having too many material possessions are detrimental to our mental and spiritual health. A “first world’ problem in particular, perhaps. A challenge to our soul, absolutely.
By contrast to the people on the program who, like me, live among excess material possessions, I received a thank you letter from the family of a child I had sent money to as a birthday gift. The letter was heartfelt and loving, and ended by saying simply, “With the money you sent, we were able to buy food.”
I didn’t expect that, and it awakened something within me that has been asleep for too long.
I had temporarily forgotten that all money and possessions are merely opportunities God gives us to experience and share His love. As our blessings accumulate, so does our responsibility to share them. When we hoard them or keep them to ourselves, we fail Him. When opportunities arise to keep our money and material possessions in perspective, we are wise to listen — and wiser still to act on them.
“Sell what you have and give to those in need. This will fatten your purse is in heaven! And the purses in heaven have no rips or holes in them. Your treasures there will never disappear; no thief can steal them; no moth can destroy them. Wherever your treasure is, there your heart and thoughts will be also.” Luke 12: 33
It’s easy to underestimate the power we surrender to possessions when we accumulate more than we need. It’s easy to become burdened and distracted by “things” — and to become obsessed with wanting “more.” At some point, the risk is that our possessions will begin to own us — not the other way around. As they weigh us down, they crush our ability to love ourselves, each other, and serve God.
The good news is that, with prayer and Christ’s help, we can free ourselves of the materialism that suffocates our spiritual growth and well-being. It is the freedom to experience and share God’s love that has the capacity to spark the greatest joy.
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