Sunday, November 3, 2019

Life Does Not Consist in the Abundance of Possessions

I love beautiful things-I love all of the pretty things for my home and all of the pretty clothes, shoes and purses. When I was a child, I flipped through the glossy pages of the catalogs that came in our mail from Sears and Montgomery Wards and JCPenney's, dreaming about and wishing for all the pretty things. Oh, how simple and innocent those days seem compared to the present. Now, I am bombarded with a constant display of all the pretty things on my Facebook and Instagram feeds, through the way Amazon seems to read my mind with their pop-up ads and through the social media influencers who take me along on their shopping trips and online try-on sessions and tell me that I MUST GET TO TARGET RIGHT NOW OR I'LL MISS OUT ON ALL THE PRETTY THINGS.

On the other hand, on those same social media platforms, I see an opposite trend happening-the opposing trend away from excess toward minimalism. I look at the media feeds of minimalists and I love the peaceful, clean, organized surroundings I see and the clean closets with their simple capsule wardrobes. I begin to long for more simplicity.

The scripture above from Luke chapter twelve is in the context of a parable that Jesus told about a rich man who lived his life on a quest for more and more. He had to build more storehouses in order to house all of his stuff. It reminds me of the numerous new storage facilities springing up in our city. When our houses and garages and backyard storage sheds can no longer store our possessions we can now rent more and more and more storage space for our more and more and more stuff. Jesus brought the parable to a close with a hard dose of reality. Jesus said that the rich man was going to die that very night and then Jesus asked, "...all the things you have prepared, whose will they be?" It reminds me of going through the possessions of my in-laws after they passed away. They had accumulated so much stuff, so many pretty things, but most of it ended up being donated or taken to the garbage dump. Times and tastes change and there were very few of their things that their descendants wanted to hold onto.

The other day I was home all day while waiting for a service visit from the gas company. I used the time at home to do some pre-holiday deep cleaning. As I cleaned, I gathered some things I no longer wanted or needed to donate to the Salvation Army. As I did, I had a bit of epiphany. I got the same feeling of temporary excitement when I got rid of some of those pretty things that I used to love as I get when I find a new pretty thing to buy. What a weirdly vicious cycle that is! I buy some new trinket and am excited about it for a little while until I no longer love it, then I get excited about getting rid of it. Why? Is it so I can make room for more new stuff? The cycle goes on and on....

In The Message Bible version of this parable, Jesus brings the parable to a conclusion saying, “That’s what happens when you fill your barn with Self and not with God.” My heart's longing for all the pretty things should be a prompt to ask myself where this longing comes from. Am I trying to fill up some inner lack with more stuff? Am I bored? Am I lonely? Am I trying to compete with others? My longing for more simplicity and less stuff should also be a prompt for some self-evaluation. The truth is that possessions do not equal happiness and in the depths of my innermost being I know that.

We are seven weeks away from Christmas. In truth, more than at any other time of the year we will be bombarded with the temptation to overindulge our appetite for things. It's a good time to remind ourselves of the truth of this verse. "...the things that are visible are temporal (brief and fleeting), but the things that are invisible are deathless and everlasting. 2 Corinthians 4:18 AMPC  Temporal things will only give us temporary joy, and may, in fact, become a burden as we have to clean, repair, organize and store our accumulation of stuff. But, focusing on the things of eternal value, focusing on our relationship with God, brings deep and abiding joy-blessing with no sorrow added to it.

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