16 August 2008

Stuff & Nonsense

Do we really need all this stuff?

Luke and I are packing for college this weekend, he for Grove City and I for Hillsdale. As the clothes and shoes and books and desk lamps and pillows and stationary and coffee mugs pile up in our respective rooms, I look around and wonder: how much of this do we really need?

During my packing extravaganza, I've tried harder than ever before to reduce needless luggage. In fact, I have thrown out more clothes this summer than I've purchased, and my "hm, I might need this someday" junk drawer has shrunk considerably. My packrat tendencies sometimes get the better of me, but on the other hand, I love organizing and simplifying my life, and that usually requires me to throw things away. That's fine with me.

Still, where did all this stuff come from?

And here is where I can begin to confuse thriftiness with folly, or self-denial with ingratitude. There's a lot to be said for contentment with fewer possessions and making do with what you have. I think our society needs to lower its standards of prosperity; Americans seem to think that in order to be "well off," you've got to wear something different for three weeks straight, own two computers (not to mention a cell phone and whatever other scheduling gadget you fancy), and have extra change to spend at Starbucks. Hello, people. For most of human history, you'd be rich if you had the simple guarantee of something warm to wear and something healthy to eat. The majority of the world's population today, in fact, would be thrilled to have a fraction of what you take for granted.

Yet in my case, this attitude--while it begins as something good--can become judgmental and ungrateful. First, I start wagging my finger at people who spend money on Corvettes and copper saucepans, telling myself that if I ever had that much money, I'd be content with something less flashy and give the rest away. That's a big problem with my own heart. It is not my place to judge other people's financial decisions! Sure, buying a $500 cooking pot would be stupid for someone in my position, but maybe it isn't foolish for someone else. God has chosen to bless them in a different way than He has blessed me, and the manner in which they choose to use that blessing is a matter between them and the Lord. (Didn't I just buy a pricey Turkish carpet, anyway?) Second, I begin to feel guilty about the nice things I do have. I am not willing to accept God's kindness to me, because I think it should be more evenly distributed. In those cases, I need to remember what the wise man of Ecclesiastes says about enjoying the fruits of your labor:

"Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God."

I don't know how I'd feel about inheriting a ready-made fortune, but according to the Bible, I'm allowed to use what I earn to buy and enjoy nice possessions...perpetually thanking God for the ability to do so, and making sure to share my wealth with others.

Interesting tension here. I suppose it'll follow me as long as I live, but I want to deal with the questions of "money" and "stewardship" in a wise way!

1 comment:

  1. Rebekah - I'm not a very faithful blog-reader,but I just found this post and it's quite helpful! I struggle with this all the time; I feel like I have way too many things, and I should give more away - and then I feel guilty about the nice things that I have - it's all so confusing. I do think less is certainly better - and we can still enjoy the blessings God has given without being extravagant! I think I'll be doing a major clean out when I get home from England and am welcomed by drawers-full of clothes I couldn't take and therefore certainly don't "need" love you dear!!