As I drive by the Anchorage Good Will, I notice a decent trail of cars waiting to drop off their donations. It seems like there has been an uptick in people wanting to donate their clothes and household goods lately. I’d wager that it has less to do with a heightened spirit of giving, and perhaps more to do with a growing cultural disgust with excess, flamed hotter by the likes of Marie Kondo and Joshua Becker.
How quickly the pendulum swings. Americans old enough to remember the Great Depression must be scratching their heads at us millennials. We have come to the monumental epiphany that less is more. With the frenzied enthusiasm of the “woke” culture, we are gutting our homes and closets and our jewelry boxes, in search of more simplicity, time, and peace. These aren’t bad aims. Not at all. But let’s not forget that years ago, many a family was starving for just “enough” to get through. And when the tides of the economy shifted back to normalcy after those deep lows, the seared memories of many Americans caused them to demand of themselves frugal saving, collecting and storing against the next big crash. These Depression-era survivors found satisfaction and stability in a well-stocked life and thoughtful provision for the future. They must have been whispering “never again” under their breaths.
But now, nine decades later, we are marching to a new drumbeat. We have so much excess that the seams are beginning to strain at the bulge. Many of us are overtired, overfed, over-marketed, shopped-out, over-drafted and out of spaces to put everything that we bought but don’t even really need. Something has to give. And so the pendulum swings. We begin to declutter and organize and live minimalist lives, releasing just enough pressure at the gasket to sigh at some level of relief.
But is less truly more? Or did our great-grandparents have it right, saving everything—pennies, twist-ties, and plastic grocery bags included? Where is life’s peace to be found? Is it in having less or having more? Now I’m furrowing my brow and scratching my right temple. I don’t think we are asking the right questions.
Almost 2,000 years ago, the wisest man said, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” He didn’t condemn stuff- he cautioned against greed. He didn’t condemn having possessions, Jesus just plainly taught that a persons’ life is not defined, or measured, or even summed up by how much wealth they have. Frankly, he went further. Life isn’t found in stuff at all. It doesn’t consist there. You can’t take it with you when you go. True life is found somewhere else entirely. Put bluntly, it’s found in someone else. Someone should have told King Tut.
Yep, plain and simple. It’s possible to be the most technologically advanced, decked-out and wealthiest bankrupt people on all the earth.
I’d also venture that you can have the most minimal of minimalist lives, and be equally destitute of peace. Your life can be crisp and clean and low-maintenance. It can be perfectly ordered and manageable and easy on the eyes. But even then, with all of its starch and simplicity, it can be devoid of true life- of true peace.
As Jesus so wisely conveyed, life is not about stuff. It’s not about more or less. It’s not about whether or not you caved and bought the latest iPhone or car, or handbag. True life is in Christ. Period. He said it. “I am the way, the truth, and the life…”
So perhaps we can dispense with the guilt and the confusion about where true, lasting peace and satisfaction really come from. Let’s not get so entangled with how many sweaters we have or don’t have, or how many boxes we got rid of or accumulated- seeking those marginal efforts of our own to bare any real, lasting fruit. If you want to declutter- great! If you want a well-furnished home- great! Now, let’s get this conversation started with the real stuff of life.
Do you have Him?