Jesus once asked a very important question about our relationship to our stuff. He said, What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul (Mark 8:36)? Have you ever convinced yourself it was ok to make a purchase you didn’t really need? I know I have. Maybe we decide we deserve it. Maybe we’ve seen someone else with it, and envied it. Or, it’s been a rough week, and we know it will make us happy. But then that moment fades. We get home, and that object we were so driven to buy no longer gives us joy. We’re like a kid who plays more with the box than their new toy. Then something new catches our eye, and with it we see a new opportunity to feel that moment of joy again. Why do we want the next new thing that comes along? It’s because joy from possessions is fleeting. God did not create you to have a relationship with things; he created you to have a relationship with him and other people.
Buying something is often an easy fix. But it isn’t a sustainable cycle. Many Americans today are drowning in all of their stuff. If you combined all the self-storage facilities in the U.S., they would be almost the size of Las Vegas (83.3 square miles). Not only do we feel the drive to buy new things, we have a hard time letting go of the old. We feel driven to make more and more money to get the stuff we think we need. Thinking about material things can be a distraction from the things that really matter. That’s why Jesus said what he did about “gaining the whole world but losing your soul.”
The lack of contentment is sort of a crazy cycle, and it's one that can hurt us, our careers, our marriages, our kids, and even our hopes and dreams. It can also keep us from doing what God might be calling us to do in our lives. Jesus warns us about this.
In this season of Thanksgiving, it might be helpful to ask yourself, “Do I need stuff to make me happy?” and “How much stuff do I NEED?” Thinking through these questions will help you find balance and gratitude. Gratitude and moderation lead to contentment. And contentment is the exit gate for the cycle of consumerism. In Philippians 4:12, the Apostle Paul said, I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. What was his secret of being content? It was leaning into, and living for, Jesus who provides eternal life and joy.
Happy Thanksgiving and see you at church,