Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."
Most of us would not say that we were greedy people. In fact, we probably see ourselves as pretty generous; and in some ways we are. But there is a side of greed that is too easy for us to overlook; that is uncontrolled accumulation. Most of us have been caught up in the pursuit of things. We don’t recognize it at first, because it takes place gradually. We become aware of it when we run out of space to put things.
I discovered some interesting facts on a website called becomingminimalist. The average American home contains 300,000 items. The size of the American home has tripled in the last 50 years, yet 1 out of 10 Americans rent offsite storage to contain their stuff. The average American woman owns 30 outfits. In 1930, that number was nine. The average American family spends $1,700 on clothes annually and throws away 65 pounds of clothes per year. It looks like we have a problem. Jesus addressed the issue of uncontrolled accumulation in a parable, found in Luke 12:13-21.
Someone in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me."
Jesus replied, "Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?" Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."
And he told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.'
"Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." '
"But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'
"This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God."
It is all too easy for us to get caught up in accumulating the things of this world and be poor toward God. That which is tangible seems all too real and that which is intangible does not. Yet it is the intangible that is of greatest value. There is nothing wrong with having things, as long as they don’t dominate your life.
One day a rich, young man came to Jesus, sincerely seeking spiritual guidance. Jesus saw right away that the main issue in his life was stuff. When Jesus confronted him in this area, the man went away sad, because he had a lot of stuff.
Our stuff can get in the way of our walk with Christ. It can weigh us down and hold us back. One of the main goals of the classic spiritual disciples is to free us from the control of our stuff. The more loosely we can hold onto things, the less control they have in our lives. Paul expressed this in 1 Timothy 6:6-10. But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
We can choose to declutter our lives just for the sake of getting rid of stuff. When we do that, it is a little like dieting. In a short time we fill our lives again with more stuff. Or we can choose to declutter our lives so that we can get closer to Christ and serve Him better. When we do that, we will learn how to use and enjoy the things of this world, without being slaves to them.
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. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.