Monday, 29 April 2013

The Epiphany: Rethinking My Materialistic Mentality

"You have succeeded in life when all you really want is
only what you really need."
(attributed to Vernon Howard)

I came across that quote recently, and though I do not know anything about the author, I like it because to me it speaks to what I view as our society's insatiable materialistic appetite. Lately I have been asking myself more and more often, Do I really need all this stuff that I seem to insist on collecting? Do I really need to keep up with the Jones'? Do I really need this 5-bedroom house for just the two of us? Is the old adage of "he who dies with the most toys wins" really true? Maybe another advantage of a smaller house would be that we'd have less room for "toys." Perhaps it is time to start some serious down-sizing.

I remember someone I used to work with some years ago. Apparently she and her husband had a similar epiphany. They sold their home, liquidated as many possessions as possible, and put the rest into storage until they could be disposed of properly. They then bought themselves a 35-foot 4-season RV and paid a cheap monthly rate to park it at a campground by a river. I remember her telling me once how freeing it was to get rid of all that stuff.

Now I am not suggesting that's necessarily the right answer to my dilemma, but apparently the decision was right for them and it brought them great joy. I know the financial arguments against investing in a depreciating asset such as an RV, but I also know how much money we regularly waste on junk we don't really need, only to ultimately throw it away once we get bored with it or once it quits working as we expect that it should. If we really sat down and did the math, I doubt we'd find much of a difference.

From a faith perspective too, a materialistic mentality seems so unlike the Lord we profess to follow. Jesus once said of himself, "Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head" (Matthew 8:20; NIV). By saying that, I'm sure that Jesus didn't mean that we should all become homeless and live under a tree somewhere. However, I'm equally sure that He would also not endorse the wealth mentality preached by the prosperity gurus who strangely feel that God would have us all living in multi-million dollar mansions and driving expensive vehicles, and that if we didn't, we simply showed a lack of faith.

But I have digressed. To each their own. I am not here to judge the next guy; I am here to sort out my own revelation and what God may be calling me personally to do.

The story of the rich young ruler comes to mind. You remember the story. It's the story of a young man who asked Jesus what he must do in order to get eternal life. Jesus goes through some of the commandments and the man says that he had kept all of them. That in itself is pretty amazing. The problem comes with what Jesus said next. He said, "If you really want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me" (Matthew 19: 21; NIV). Upon hearing this, the guy went sad, because he had great wealth and apparently couldn't part with his stuff. In some ways I can relate to that guy; I am struggling parting with some of my stuff too.

Please understand that I am not interested in making a doctrine of this, nor am I suggesting that God is calling all Christians to a pauper's lifestyle. This has nothing to do with the gift of salvation or earning brownie points with God. However, I do think that what Jesus was saying here is that possessions can sometimes be a trap that, while not necessarily keeping us from God, can actually keep us from a fuller experience and joy of Him. Certainly it bears thinking and praying about.

Well there you have it; my latest epiphany. The only question now is what am I going to do about it? Quite frankly, I don't know. At the very least, it may be time to start clearing out some closets and perhaps hosting a garage sale or two.

Anyone want to buy a TV?

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

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