After writing about Romans 12, I have begun to think about the templates I possess in my own life. One template that I know I need to destroy is my love of material goods. Materialism is a template that moves like a cancer from the eyes to the heart. The result is an active, self-motivated act of getting more and more ‘stuff.’ It is the stuff in our lives that become idols of worship, never satisfied, always wanting more stuff. What really is the big deal though? Is it wrong to own stuff?
There is nothing wrong with owning stuff. My parents live in a nice home. They drive nice cars. We have nice things in our home that allow us to enjoy our life here on earth. We have money in our bank accounts and we have plenty of food. There is nothing wrong with that.
The problem lies in the over abundance of what we have and our inability to share our abundance of stuff with others. I guess I have just been thinking a lot about the story in the Bible where this new church was born in the book of Acts. They shared everything they had in common and no one was in need. It makes me sick to think that because of my inability to share my ‘stuff’ with others, there are people who are in need. So often, we turn a blind eye to our neighbor in need though, accumulating more stuff that we honestly do not need. When we have no more room to store the ‘stuff’ we have accumulated, we pay someone a ton of money each month to rent out a storage area to put more stuff or we build monstrous sheds or barns to hold our crap. The Bible is clear though – the stuff we gather up – the material stuff we store – will rust and rot away. It will lose its value within a short period of time. Meanwhile, as we continued to consume our stuff, our neighbors suffer and are left in need.
I remember being a young kid and getting a tugboat for Christmas one year. It was a decent size. With yellow, blue, and red all over the boat, I used to purposively make man-made lakes in my back yard, using a hose and making a damn to hold the water. I would drag the boat all over the lake and make the tugboat noise (I said I was young and no – I will not make the sound for you in public). The following Christmas, I got a new toy and the year after that, I got a new toy. As I got older, I was getting more ‘mature’ toys to play with. I remember looking at that tugboat and wondered what I ever saw in that piece of plastic. My newer toys were so much better than that tugboat. Eventually, I lost the boat and never thought about it until I started writing this post. To me, it had lost its value to me. I wanted the bigger and better stuff.
I keep going back to the Jesus Creed, asking myself the same question over and over again. How can I love others and yet not share with others what I have? If I truly love my neighbor as myself, why do I possess more and more stuff and my neighbor remains in need? Do I truly hold to the precepts of the Jesus Creed or am I living a lie behind closed doors? This is serious. When are we going to be who we are called to be in Christ? When will we put other people before ourselves and bless other people in their time of need? When will we decide to be content with what we have and be thankful for all God has given us? We have been given so much. Isn’t that worth sharing what we have with others? I believe it is.
So what can we do to destroy the template of materialism in our life? First, make a decision to bless others and share what we have been given with others so that no one is left in need. Go through your clothes and pull out stuff you haven’t worn within the past two years and give them to the poor. The next time you are considering a run to the mall to buy some new clothes, take that amount of money you would have spent on new clothes and give it to the poor. You have enough clothes – why not help out others who do not? Finally, know your community and your community’s needs. Find out creative ways in which you can support their efforts and give of your time to make things happen.
If we make a decision to destroy the template of materialism within us, we grow one step closer to being the kind of people Christ has called us to be. As the patterns of the world begin to fade away, our ability to be transformed increases. We are so blessed. Let us take some time to bless others.