Like many people, I had to clear out a family home after my mum died. For many this task is overwhelming in both volume and emotion, but at some stage it has to be faced. It’s always easier with some help but what if the helper is the opposite to you? They want to chuck out everything and you want to keep, remember and reflect.
In recent decades, for most families, there has been an economic change from carefully managed weekly budgets to a world of credit cards, buying on a whim, stocking up and collecting whatever they fancy. This transformation has led to homes overflowing with clutter and clothing, collectibles and cast-offs, often to the bewilderment of later, more minimalist generations.
What does it say about us when we have surrounded ourselves with the trappings, luxuries or even excesses of this life? As followers of Jesus, what does it say about our trust in his provision, the content and direction of our hearts or the principles by which we have lived? I find this very challenging. Even as I have worked with people to clear their homes of clutter, spoken to church groups (mainly women’s groups as the men seem too scared of the subject!) or sought to reduce what goes to landfill, I am amazed by, and ashamed of, my houseful of stuff!
Challenges from the gospels
Matthew 6:19-20 tell us:
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.
The anxiety addressed in the following verses is surely a core reason why we buy more than we need and stock up for some future ‘rainy day’. Have you ever thought about the things that will appear when your life is over when others will have to deal with what you have left behind?
The rich young ruler (Matt. 19:16-30) needed to choose between his wealth or following Jesus. This might not be the choice facing us, unless our things have become an idol too. If family gifts or photos, handmade artifacts or our collection of shoes* (replace * with whatever you collect) are taking up heart-space that should be occupied by devotion to Jesus, then perhaps it is time to take a closer look.
Ask the tough questions
The reality is that it is often easier to clear someone else’s belongings than our own. Save your relatives or friends from a huge task by starting now. I usually say, ‘Start with a drawer,’ but here I want to say, ‘Start with prayer.’ Pray that God will reveal to you where you are ‘holding tight’ to things rather than to him. Pray that he will help you to recognise his ample provision so that you can let things go rather than fearing that ‘rainy day/what if?’ syndrome. Trust the one who holds the future, rather than hoping your hoard will relieve some future disaster.
Ask questions like, ‘Do I need it?’ ‘Have I worn it?’ ‘Do I like it?’ ‘Is this taking up heart-space when it shouldn’t?’ Some things will bring up regret or guilt – don’t keep it, be reminded that God has forgiven us. Don’t shy away from the task or the questions until, over a period of time, you have made an impact in your home and can honestly say that your heart and devotion to Jesus have been challenged as well.
Enjoy the feeling of space, be thankful for God’s many blessings and remember that in eternity we will be filled to overflowing with all the best things!