The Stuff of Life

By Fiona Mearns | 10 May 2016 | Comments (7)

 The Stuff of Life - a blog by Stewardship

The whole congregation of believers was united as one—one heart, one mind! They didn’t even claim ownership of their own possessions. No one said, “That’s mine; you can’t have it.” They shared everything. The apostles gave powerful witness to the resurrection of the Master Jesus, and grace was on all of them.  Acts 4:32-33 The Message (MSG)

I’ve recently been clearing out my mum’s house and garage.  It’s OK, she’s comfortably installed in a lovely little flat with all her essentials round her.  What’s left is the accumulated stuff of a life – some useful; some not so useful.  It’s not been an easy process because it’s challenged both of us on what we hold dear and why.  Four complete tea sets vie for their place in my cupboard; choosing which dearly loved ornaments to keep and which to give away; realising that there are only so many doilies one can use – all these things can start to make you see what’s important.

Right now, I’m bogged down in stuff; knee deep in it in fact and slowly wading my way through  rehoming it.  Charity shops, recycling centres and free ads are my spare time hobby right now.  I have to hold my nerve.  I’m doing really well but every so often I have a wobble.  “That was your Dad’s/Auntie’s/Grandma’s favourite golf club/teapot/button box!” The words ring in my ears as I hover over the charity shop box.  What do I do . . build a bigger barn?

How did we get to this stage?  We all know we’re addicted to stuff.  Even that famous Swedish flat-pack supplier admits, “In the west, we have probably hit peak stuff.” Your average Western household is bulging with more stuff than it needs, so what’s the answer – more storage?

Recently, a skip arrived in my neighbours’ drive.  It lay temptingly empty for a while then suddenly the entire contents of their garage were decanted into it.  “We put this stuff in the garage almost 10 years ago and haven’t needed any of it, so it’s going,” they said.

I applauded their decisiveness, whilst my knee-jerk reaction was to worry whether something useful might have been thrown out. 

But the question here is not about recycling or a minimalist approach to living, it’s about the way in which our things can hold us back, bog us down and generally interfere with the abundant life that Jesus came to bring us.  We can spend so much time admiring, organising, dusting or sifting through our stuff while planning to buy more new stuff to replace the stuff we’ve grown tired of that we forget what life’s really about. 

In Acts 4, the church is finding its feet but there’s one thing they’ve grasped really well – that being possessive with your own stuff is detrimental to good spiritual health; that people matter more than things and God loves a joyful giver.

The day we gave away mum’s dining table to two young people who really needed it was definitely joyful – we laughed and joked as we got stuck in doorways, accompanied by a stream of “down a bit, to the left, to you” etc and eventually manoeuvred it through the window.  I got a text later: “We ate our first meal at the table this evening . . . the first of many.” 

Since then the lawnmower has gone to a young guy who couldn’t afford a new one and a set of pans to someone who loves to cook.  All I need to find is a doily fanatic and I’ll be well on my way.

What have I learnt from all this?  That it is hard to fight the desire to accumulate stuff (whatever our reason might be) but in fact our real needs are relatively few; that God loves us sharing and blessing others with our resources; and that if we were to put some of the energy we put into loving stuff into loving God, maybe the balance would shift.

No doubt I’ve more to learn and I suspect my next lesson will come when I pluck up courage to tackle my loft.  That’s for another day.


 

Read more like this:

Can You Be Rich and Be a Christian at the Same Time?

Closed Hands and Open Hands

How to Create a Generosity Kit

 

Posted by Fiona Mearns

Fiona Mearns is the Resourcing Christian Workers Coordinator at Stewardship and part of a team committed to helping individuals build and maintain strong, sustainable support networks.  She loves to write whenever there’s an opportunity and is a fan of a well-used apostrophe.

comments:

Frances

May 14, 2016 7:33 AM
An insightful piece, especially relevant for me as we're about to move house! I've been asking myself the 'why do we
accumulate so much stuff?' question rather too frequently, but perhaps it's good to ponder that every now and again. If 'but now we can be generous to others' forms part of the answer, then even better.

p.hartley

May 15, 2016 12:00 PM
Really good blog . May I permission to publish it in our church magazine?

Phil Beckwith

May 15, 2016 4:40 PM
Yes, I tend to hoard stuff BUT my wife and I also recycle stuff to the extent that we have re-named one room in the house the Transit Room as "stuff" is always moving through to charities such as Tools With A Mission who recycle all types of tools and equipment to those who have not. I know I must also move on things from my own life which can hold back what God intends for me, Praise God for his everlasting gift of the Holy Spirit which though it leaks out, and needs topping up, is the one thing I'll never throw away.

Honor Wadsley

May 15, 2016 5:26 PM
This really struck a chord. We have a Facebook group here called 'Having Things in Common' which we use to give away unwanted things, share things and get hold of things we might need. It's been a huge success. Like you, I've experience the pleasure of giving something to a needier person, but I've also has advice on IT issues, found a lodger, and shared IKEA lists. But yes, stuff does distract from our worship and we all need to learn that one...

Judy Saunders

May 16, 2016 10:57 AM
I found this blog really uplifting and inspiring. I am also looking at moving and realised that I need to have a good clear out before I can even decorate!

I've decided on a 'memory box' that I will keep a few cherished items in. One small item can bring back such wonderful memories. However, my main task has now focused on my future and where God leads me.

Fiona Mearns

May 17, 2016 9:50 AM
It's good to know that this resonates with others and really appreciate your ideas and observations. Love the ideas of a 'transit room', 'Sharing things in common' and the 'memory box' and, most importantly, moving on where God leads.

Margaret

May 19, 2016 8:46 AM
I also have a 'transit room' But beware ! Make sure there is a steady flow OUT and don't change your mind about items when someone says 'that's useful'.make an end to stuff before it makes an end to you .Walk on with the Lord I'm trying !!

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