If you have spent much time with me in conversation, you probably already know this, but I tend to be a tad bi-polar about “stuff.” I am always either purging my “stuff,” donating my “stuff,” crying about my “stuff,” or complaining about my “stuff.” And then I buy more stuff. This is the little game I play with myself. I desire and grasp for a simple life–uncluttered calendar, uncluttered house, uncluttered closets, but I can not seem to find a balance or peace about it–ever. Enter the book “7: An Experimental Mutiny against Excess.” (Okay, for those of you whom have been on the Jen Hatmaker boat for awhile, I know I’m behind the game, but better late than never!)
So, I’ve been devouring this book, and frankly, I have never been so grumpy. In “7,” Jen identifies 7 areas of her life where she is living in excess and choosing 1 a month, she fasts in some form or another from that area. (ex. Month 1 is food, and she chooses only 7 foods to eat for the month, Month 2 is clothes, she chooses only 7 items of her closet to wear all month.) She fasts from food, clothes, waste, shopping, possessions, media, and stress. She fasts from the excess in order to rely on God more and identify more with those who don’t have the “luxury” of excess in their lives, namely the struggling, homeless, hungry, impoverished world. So, so, so many things I want to share with you that shocked me from this book, but you’d be better off just reading the book (because despite the topic, she is hilarious!). However one thing I read, which I probably already knew but ignored was the fact that if you make $30,000 you are in the top 2% richest people in the world. Scoot that number up to $50,000, and you are now among the richest 1% in the world. I don’t think of that here in my little America, friends. I call my family “middle class.” Working middle class. Boy, am I wrong….richest 1% in the world. This is a hard pill to swallow because I know what the Bible says about riches. Things like this:
For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. (Luke 18:25)
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (I Timothy 6:10)
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)
Oh my. The list could go on and on. I’ve never identified myself as “rich,” therefore skimming these verses written to me. The Bible says so much about the responsibility, the calling, to care for those who aren’t rich. It doesn’t say things like, “Hey, if you have a few dollars left over after your new clothes, books, music, shoes, eating out, kids activities–insert whatever “stuff” you like here–then send it to someone a little down and out.” No, it’s a little more serious than that. More like:
Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Now, I don’t interpret that to mean we are called to give EVERYTHING away, but I’ve been grumpy this week because of the conviction of how much more I own than just what I need. Has ever there been a generation or culture who muddies the waters of “needs” and “wants?” I justify everything by telling myself that I will “Use my blessings to bless others.” Friends, no one is being “blessed” because I have 25+ pairs of shoes or 30+ blankets floating around my house which is always kept at a comfortable 73 degrees. Ugh. Herein lies the conviction. I swear I have donated so many bags/boxes/ loads to Goodwill over the years that I have kept their shelves stocked. I dust off my hands, and say “Take that, “stuff,” I win.” But the “stuff” keeps re-appearing. Surely, someone else is bringing “stuff” to my house when I’m not around. (Ahem. No? Okay.)
I think one of the many reasons God warns us about accumulating so much is because it becomes time we rip away with him. Time spent buying the stuff, then arranging (or cramming) it into our houses, equals more time cleaning and caring for it, and soon we are overwhelmed/ suffocated by it. I can always find something to be cleaning, putting away or shopping for in my home, and you’d better bet I let that come before some quiet time reading the Word or spending time with Him in prayer. We also deny ourselves the blessing that comes from being able to truly “give” to the needy. By making sacrifices ( I use this term lightly) in our own lives, we free up so much money (and even time) to be able to truly change the lives of those in need….even save their lives.
There are a million more things I want to share about how this book is challenging me, but this is all my brain can handle…plus I need to go fill more bags in my quest to find simple.