Monday, August 2, 2010

Too Much Stuff

Do you have “too much stuff?” Would you like to be free of having to find a place or a use for all of that “stuff?”

We live in a society of “consumerism.” We are continually in need of more things.
So, how much is “too much?” When have our possessions overtaken our life so that God is no longer in possession of our hearts? Are we “storing up” instead of “giving up”? Have we become greedy for more than we can ever possibly use, in ego, time and things?

As Americans we have more possessions than the rest of the world’s population. Even our poorest American neighbors have more than most of the worlds under privileged population. It is one of the reasons Americans are hated in other countries. We are seen as not living under the motto “one nation, under God;” but rather in building so that we are “one nation, for myself.”

Sunday’s reading is of the parable of the rich fool: Lk 12:13-21 ‘Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.” …. Then he said to the crowd, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.”
‘Then he told them a parable. “There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest.

He asked himself, ‘What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?’
And he said, ‘This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!”’ But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’ Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God.”’

Are we like the “fool” in the parable, building bigger houses, bigger closets, bigger garages, and bigger egos? Are we more concerned about building our 401k than giving to the poor; about having enough possessions to “eat, drink and be merry?”

Do we readily help those who have lost their jobs; are struggling for their next meal; who’s home has been foreclosed or those who live in underdeveloped countries? Are we sharing our possessions, including our finances, with neighbors who are living in substandard housing, who don’t own more than one pair of shoes, eat less than 3 meals a day or have less than an outfit for every occasion?

Most of you know that I love to shop, but lately that shopping has been more of an exercise to see how many times I can say, “no, I don’t really need that.” I realize that my “over full” closet needs cleaned out and my kids will attest that lately they seem to be ending up with a carload of items from the closet—food, memories, appliances and even furniture seem to be finding a “needier” home. Goodwill and the Clothes closet have become regular stops. Most of you can probably relate this to your own parents or grandparents, as they have shifted their possessions to others.

And what good does “saving it for my hayrack” -- meaning the auction when I die – do for someone who could use those “extra” possessions now?

The parable also talks about our life being “demanded.” As our priest said today, this does not necessarily mean death, but rather it is about God’s calling us to give up our ego, so that we will trust in Him rather than relying on our own self sufficient security; to live God’s way, rather than “my way.” To “… seek what is above, …. Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry….” Col 3:1-5, 9-11

What is our reason for building more storage? If my reason for building is to become self sufficient then I have taken God out of my life. I am supposed to rely on Him, and I am to use my possessions so that I can serve other people and so that others can see Christ in me.

Possessions not only include worldly possessions, but those impurities of thought that won’t allow us to spend time in prayer or in spiritual growth.

Our readings Sunday also talked about our vanity. Are there times when what I do for others, including my family, is to build my ego and seek self satisfaction or acknowledgement of my worth rather than because I am serving them as God would ask? Do I need their praise to be satisfied?

Ecc 1:2; 2:21-23 “Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth, vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!” … He must leave property. This also is vanity and a great misfortune. For what profit comes to man from all the toil and anxiety of heart …. All his days sorrow and grief are his occupation; even at night his mind is not at rest. This also is vanity.”

Greed and vanity are interconnected. If in our anxiety to acquire and to become self sufficient we cannot rest, if we are continuously striving for more of something, if it is impossible to be content, then it is because we are not TRUSTING that God will take care of us. If we followed instead, our prayer to “Our Father” to “Give us this day our DAILY bread,” not our “weekly,” “monthly,” "yearly,” or "life’s” bread—but, our DAILY bread, we would not be “storing up” belongings, but rather we could be relying on God as our provider.

If we gave up our desires and rested our vain anxieties to possess, think of the freedom and comfort we would have in knowing and trusting that God is taking care of us. He has promised He will take care of us just as he did the Israelites on their 40year journey into the desert by giving them DAILY manna as food. Not extra to store for the future, but to meet their DAILY needs.

We have an attachment to our belongings. But the 10th commandment says “do not covet your neighbor’s goods.” We are to be rich in what matters to God, not in material possessions. We are to denounce all of our material possessions and become rich in our desire to possess God’s promises. Where our treasure is, so is our heart.

Dear God: Praise be your promise to care for my daily needs, to feed me, to make my soul rich. Thank you for fulfilling my DAILY needs. Please help me to desire only that which will help others and show others your goodness. Help me to be content with what I have and to always be willing to share my earthly possessions with those who are in need. Amen.

What in my life do I “possess” that makes me rely on myself rather than on God? What in my “possessions” do I have that I should be giving up—to my neighbors, near and far? What do I seek that I am “storing” and not using daily?

Blessings for a richer life with God,


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