Contentment Series: The Weight of 'Stuff' (Part 1)
Updated: Jan 16, 2019
It is the air we breathe. In the twenty-first century, ‘stuff’ is the context in which we conduct almost all of our interactions — the accumulation of stuff and the maintenance of that stuff.
It has created for us a never-ending cycle of more that weighs us down from dawn to dusk. How is my stuff doing? Do we have enough stuff to make it to the next major milestone in our life? What will happen if we can't get more stuff in the case of an emergency or accident? Will I have enough stuff when I retire?
And we're exhausted.
In his book, "The Empire of Things," Frank Trentmann said this: “In the last few hundred years, the acquisition, flow and use of things — in short, consumption — has become a defining feature of our lives” (p 1). Over the next 600 pages he shows us exactly how and why that has happened.
If you’re a Christian, you might be wondering if this is the life Jesus intended when he said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt 11:29). With the continual stirring for more, rest seems out of reach. How many sleepless nights are spent catching up with work (email inbox?) or worried about work or anxious about the future of your financial portfolio?
The psalmist pointed out that “the Lord gives sleep to those whom he loves” (Ps. 130). So what are we missing?
I have found in my own journey — both being the son of an accountant and in full-time ministry — that personal finance has always been a sore spot, fraught with both guilt for not being more disciplined and worry for feeling like there's never enough. I compulsively budget, in hopes that it will help the dollar stretch. I worry. For me, fear of not having enough dominates my financial horizon.
For you, it might be the opposite. Maybe you don't think twice about your finances. You might have concerns about your consumer debt, but feel generally optimistic about your ability to repay it… some day. Or you might be Dave Ramsey's best compadre and be debt-free, but still be running yourself into the ground, worried about not having enough when the kids hit college or when you hit retirement.
In either case, the same challenge is present for both parties (and any one in between):
How do we avoid finding our security and satisfaction in the accumulation of stuff — i.e. material wealth?
The Bible constantly calls us to find our security in God, but why is this kind of faith so incessantly illusive?
I bring all this to the forefront not to cast judgment or to bring a moral ruling on how much stuff is too much stuff. Honestly, I see nowhere in the Bible that wealth and riches are associated with evil. It’s the love of money that is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:11).
The issue for God is always our hearts and what possesses them.
But it’s not until we can understand our surroundings that we can begin to challenge the assumptions latent within that context.
I want to challenge the air we breath.
I want us to reconsider how we relate to material resources, from a spiritual perspective. Just as Jesus commanded so many times in his ministry, the call still stands to be “rich toward God.”
It is a matter of the heart, but it must begin with new eyes to see how God is our ultimate source of security, not the number displaying in a bank account. Our task is great, but there are greater riches to be discovered.