I have to admit there was a time in my life when Christina and I would walk through one of our favorite neighborhoods lined with turn of the century Victorian homes and Craftsmen style architecture.
“Wouldn’t it be nice to have that one there?”
We would often ask as we passed a particularly beautiful home.
At the time we were struggling seminary students. I had my own small painting business, trying to fit work in between seminary classes and church ministry. I would often come to class straight from work with no time to change out of my paint covered clothes. Thankfully my professors were gracious enough to allow for that transgression of school dress code!
Needless to say, our growing family, school bills, and every-day life stretched our bank account thin. Somehow we always had just enough survive but never quite enough to acquire even a small home for ourselves.
At the time we often thought of how much better our lives would be if we could get out of our small two 1.5 bedroom apartment. We thought a home would really complete our lives and we were a bit disappointed that we just couldn’t seem to make it work.
Looking back I am very grateful that God saw fit for us not to buy a home.
Looking back I can now clearly see that the addition of a home at that time in our lives would have significantly slowed my seminary education and certainly would have greatly delayed, our arrival as missionaries in Ukraine. In fact it may have even completely changed our plans and we may have not even ended up in Ukraine!
This is just one example of how stuff can significantly get in the way of the gospel in our lives if we’re not careful.
A History of hoarding
I’m convinced that a few generations down the road our great great grandchildren will write our history and it about the horrors of hoarding culture in the West. They will write about garages full of new unused sports equipment, families who have more cars than family members, and mobile telephones that have to be trashed every year or two.
What does this have to do with the gospel?
Bulge-buying, hoarding, discount disease, call it whatever you want, it’s bad enough in and of its self. However, what I’m more concerned about is the impact our overflowing storage rooms have on the gospel. And believe me it does have an impact!
Sometimes we can be very dualistic in our approach to the gospel. Stuff is physical, but gospel is spiritual, so how can one really affect the other? We need to put aside our binary ideas and realize that life and the gospel are holistic.
Your stuff is mainly the result of the desires you have and decisions you’ve made. How Biblically informed were those desires and decisions?
Your possessions can be a very good indicator of your spiritual health!
Not are your things the result of your spiritual condition, but your things can greatly influence your future relation to the gospel and ability to share the gospel with others.
Here are a few ways your stuff could be an enemy to the gospel.
1. Stuff distracts you
Very simply it keeps your mind preoccupied. The more you have the more you have to think about.
- Did you remember to call the plumber?
- What about the car, doesn’t it need an oil change?
- How are you going to pay for that new furniture?
- Where are you going to store all those Christmas decorations?
The quickest way to forget about God is to crowd him out of your heart with an overabundance of stuff. The distraction of the temporary takes our attention away from the eternal.
Materialism dulls our spiritual senses.
As with most of these it works both ways. The Christian who is distracted by his stuff is less likely to think about gospel issues and less likely to share the gospel. The unbeliever is simply too busy to listen to the gospel.
As for what was sown among the thorn bushes, this is the person who hears the word, but the worries of life and the deceitful pleasures of wealth choke the word so that it can’t produce a crop. Mat 13:22
2. Stuff temporarily hides your pain
Sometimes having a lot of stuff is great. Really, who wouldn’t enjoy a nicer car, a back yard with a pool, a newer smart-phone, or a brand new wardrobe?
The physical comfort and entertainment that our stuff offers us can temporarily hide the deeper spiritual pain and our need for forgiveness that comes only through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
As a result we don’t seek comfort from the pain of our sin in Jesus Christ because we just don’t see the need.
Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to get into the kingdom of God.” Mat 19:24
3. Stuff promises fulfillment
As all idols do, stuff promises to fulfill us and it promises to do it now. Indeed there is an initial fulfillment but it doesn’t last. It’s a promise that’s always just over the horizon and just out of our reach. It’s a promise that keeps many mindlessly grabbing for more, hoping that the next new purchase will be the one that will satisfy.
The gospel is different, it doesn’t promise a quick rush of euphoria but rather a long-lasting deep running contentment and joy that will only be completed when we meet Jesus in heaven. As a result many reject the gospel for something that will give them that quick rush.
Through faith you are being protected by God’s power for a salvation that is ready to be revealed at the end of this era. 1Pe 1:5
4. Stuff drains your resources
The more you have the more money, time, effort, space you have to give just to keep what you have. Our stuff can keep us from supporting gospel related projects (like missions). Our stuff can keep us from doing gospel related projects (like missions).
How to avoid crowding out the gospel
I don’t want you to get me wrong here and think I’m advocating that all Christians take a vow of poverty, I’m not. However, as a follower of Jesus Christ I believe I must seriously evaluate my relation to my stuff. Here’s a few questions that can be helpful to ask when evaluating whether my stuff is helpful or not.
- Can I live without this thing?
- Does this thing help me fulfill my purpose as a Christian?
- Could this thing be given to someone else as a way of showing Christian generosity and the love of Christ?
- Does this thing take time that I could be spending serving others, ministering in the church, studying God’s Word, praying, or any other spiritually beneficial activity?
- Does this thing aid my gospel witness to others?
- Why did I acquire this thing in the first place, what were my desires? Where they Biblically informed and Godly?
- Does owning this thing bring glory to God?
- Do I use this thing on a regular basis?
- Does this thing represent any kind of idol in my life?
- Would getting rid of this thing bring glory to God?
Ultimately it’s not really about the amount of stuff we have but rather about the volume that our stuff takes in our heart.