Things here, things there, things everywhere.
Things fill our lives. By things, we do survive.
It’s part of who we are. We need bigger houses and enjoy nicer cars.
People love to consume things. Things love to consume people.
It just keeps piling it up ’til it’s as high as the church steeple.
I’ve never considered myself a poet. Although when sentences start rhyming, it’s hard for me to resist the temptation to see how long I can keep going. When I got to the word “steeple,” I felt like that was all I needed to say about how much people love their things.
The stuff that hangs on our walls, sits on our shelves, and fills bins in our storage sheds all represent something. It’s the stuff people work for all of their lives. The allure is real; possessions give people a sense of significance. That’s why millions of people spend forty to forty-five years acquiring as much as humanly possible. Then they throw away the final chapter of their lives piddling around in the sand.
While I could’ve gone the rest of my life without experiencing COVID, this season has provided some much-needed time to take inventory. I’ve spent hours and days sorting through things and making trips to Good Will. As I’ve gone through boxes, I’ve found myself lamenting the amount of useless stuff that I own which ultimately serves no purpose.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with owning things, as long as we don’t allow things to own us. I have a collection of walking sticks from different parts of the world; each one has a story. I am also a guitar enthusiast (in the process of getting rid of a few). I don’t remember a time in my life, from childhood until now, where I lived in a house that didn’t have a room filled with instruments. Music has always brought joy to my family.
The point is that it’s okay to enjoy things, as long as we understand that things do not equal life. Some possessions are helpful. For example, I believe music and literature are beneficial for the soul. Thus, instruments and books add value to the human experience. One could make a case for just about anything. But when is it enough?
The American Dream
The corporate world is investing billions of dollars on your behalf. They want you to have it all, and they’re betting big money that you can make it happen. They call it “The American Dream.” This package comes complete with your very own career, home ownership, a new car, a great family, and a well-deserved retirement, preferably in a sunny location.
I don’t want to die a slave to the American Dream. Yet, we live in a culture that shoves it down our throat 24/7. We are conditioned by consumerism; owning new things has become a way of life. We are bombarded with the idea that having more stuff is what our time on earth is all about. Too often, we interpret human value and people’s place in society through the lens of material possessions.
Sadly, regardless of how much one accumulates in this life, eventually, it’s all going to be sold at an estate sale. Have you ever been to an estate sale? It is the final landing spot for a person’s belongings before they’re tagged and sold to the public or auctioned off at bargain prices.
Estate sales typically happen after a divorce or a death. Walking through rooms once filled with life and rummaging through stuff that represents something that no longer exists can be a bit troubling. There is a sense of sorrow associated with estate sales. At least, it feels that way to me.
It is a tragedy to think that the stuff we’ve spent our lives collecting ends up in a box in the garage or attic and ultimately gets sold for next to nothing to people we’ve never met. While this scenario may seem unpleasant, maybe it’s God’s way of helping us see that our culture has fed us a lie, and we’ve taken the bait.
It is sad to think of how many people never give much thought to making their lives count. Numerous men and women, including many self-identifying Christians, are content with a respectable career, a faithful spouse, a good family, a lovely home, a nice car, a few friends, a decent retirement, a quick death, and no hell. Droves of people who fill churches across this country would be satisfied with this life, even if it didn’t include Jesus. What a sad state of affairs.
One Day Soon
The American Dream beckons people to work toward trivial diversions, slipping through life caught up with seeking temporary success, comfort, and pleasure above all else. Those who buy-in are the ones who spend their lives building bigger barns, laying up treasure on earth, and striving for approval, admiration, and acceptance.
As it relates to estate sales, Jesus might point out that a person’s life does not consist in the abundance of their possessions (Luke 12:15). In other words, no sane person on their deathbed has ever found comfort through the stuff stored away in their attic.
So remember, one day sooner than you think, all the things you’ve spent your life collecting, all the stuff sitting in boxes in your garage, will be sold at an estate sale for pennies on the dollar. Let that sink in.
“Only one life will soon be past.
Only what’s done for Christ will last”
(Sources: “Desiring God” by John Piper, James Jordan, C.T. Studd)