This month, when many churches have a stewardship focus and as we approach Thanksgiving and the holidays, I thought it might be appropriate to draw from my little book, Enough: Discovering Joy Through Simplicity and Generosity. —Adam
This week marks the anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, the 2012 storm that wreaked havoc along the United States East Coast. Sandy killed 125 people and caused at least $62 billion in damage and loss to homes and businesses, mostly in New York and New Jersey.
Hurricane Sandy and other natural disasters remind us that everything in this world is temporary. If our stuff is taken away by bankruptcy or plundered by thieves or blown away by a tornado or burned in a wildfire, we must remember that material things are only temporary.
In 2007, a large area of Southern California was ravaged by wildfires, and nearly one million people were evacuated from their homes. As I watched the tragedy unfold via television news coverage, it struck me that this was a moment in which so many people were being forced to think about their relationship to material possessions.
The words of Jesus echoed in my ears every time I saw another picture of the raging fires:
“One’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15).
So many people had very little notice that the fires were coming their direction. One family was awakened in the middle of the night by the daughter in time to look out the back window and see the fire leap across the interstate and begin a rapid climb up the hillside toward their home. They and thousands of others had ten minutes to grab everything they could take from their homes and flee.
What would you save? Imagine a wildfire is headed toward your home and you have ten minutes to grab what you can and flee. What will you take with you?
When I’m gone, most of my stuff will be outdated, worn out, or simply of no value to anyone else—either hawked in a garage sale or thrown in the trash. This is why I can say with Jesus, “[My] life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”
I believe that. I believe it, first, because Jesus said it. I also believe it because somehow I intuitively know that it’s true. But there is a problem: Everywhere I turn, the world is telling me that it’s not true.
The world continually tells me that my life does consist in the abundance of my possessions. I am bombarded with messages such as, If you had a little bit more, you’d be happier. If you had this thing that you currently do not have, you’d find more satisfaction in life. If you had a bigger house or a nicer car or more fashionable clothes, you’d be happy— at least happier than you are right now.
Each of us is bombarded with messages such as these daily. While Jesus is telling us that our lives consist of more than money or things, the culture is shouting that it’s not true. The result is a wrestling in our hearts. Despite the fact that we say we believe Jesus’ words, we still find ourselves devoting a great deal of our time, talents, and resources to the acquisition of more stuff.
We say that our lives do not consist in the abundance of our possessions, but we live as if they do.
I believe we also are afflicted with another dangerous condition: Restless Heart Syndrome. I’ll explain this more in the next post.
How are the words of Jesus in Luke 12:15 contrary to the message of the world? What steps can you take to “be on guard” against materialism and greed in your everyday life?
This post is an excerpt from Enough.