A recent conversation among friends on Facebook got me thinking. Consider the original question:
How many articles of clothing (not including underwear, workout items, and pajamas) do you think you need? How many do you own? No condemnation…just a question.
Does the question make you squirm? Is your closet overflowing? Do you have more than one closet full of clothes?
Maybe clothes aren’t your thing. Maybe it’s jewelry. Or books. Or kitchen gadgets. Or collectible knick knacks. Or trips to the beach or the mountains.
The basic question remains the same: How much is enough?
The American Mindset
For years, the thinking around America has been some variation of I deserve it. Listen for it in these thoughts and marketing slogans:
- I work hard.
- I sacrifice so much.
- I’m worth it.
- I don’t go out drinking/ gambling/cheating/etc.
- I take care of my family.
- I can afford it.
While these statements may be true of you, they all avoid the real question I asked above. How much is enough?
The Minimalist Mindset
Several books hit the market over the last few years encouraging us to think differently. Minimally.
Full disclosure: I’ve not read any of the books, although one is on my To Read list. I have read posts by some of the authors, and I like much of what I’ve seen.
After all, having less reduces stress in a lot of ways. Owning less means:
- less financial concern about replacing broken or worn out items, or less worry about wasting money I put into buying items.
- less effort to keep things clean and orderly.
- less thought to put into what to wear, where to go, or what/who is getting neglected.
Jesus tells an interesting parable in Luke chapter 12.
Speaking to the people, he went on, “Take care! Protect yourself against the least bit of greed. Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot.”
Then he told them this story: “The farm of a certain rich man produced a terrific crop. He talked to himself: ‘What can I do? My barn isn’t big enough for this harvest.’ Then he said, ‘Here’s what I’ll do: I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll gather in all my grain and goods, and I’ll say to myself, Self, you’ve done well! You’ve got it made and can now retire. Take it easy and have the time of your life!’
“Just then God showed up and said, ‘Fool! Tonight you die. And your barnful of goods—who gets it?’
“That’s what happens when you fill your barn with Self and not with God.” ~Luke 12:15-21, The Message
In this story, Jesus reminds us that our attitude about stuff is intimately tied to our priorities. How much we accumulate and what we are willing to do with it indicates our true heart toward God and His priorities.
While owning less is attractive to me, I don’t believe we all need to sell everything we have and live in stark barrenness. God wants to bless us with good things—even material things.
After looking at the way things are on this earth, here’s what I’ve decided is the best way to live: Take care of yourself, have a good time, and make the most of whatever job you have for as long as God gives you life. And that’s about it. That’s the human lot. Yes, we should make the most of what God gives, both the bounty and the capacity to enjoy it, accepting what’s given and delighting in the work. It’s God’s gift! God deals out joy in the present, the now. ~Ecclesiastes 5:18-19, The Message
But we must watch our attitude so that the stuff doesn’t begin to own us.
How Much is Enough?
Here are some questions to consider:
- Does walking into any room or closet or drawer of your house cause you stress—not from the memories associated with it but from the thought of decluttering or organizing it?
- If someone wanted to borrow a book or kitchen gadget, could you let them walk out the door with it?
- What if a three-year-old walked into your room of beloved breakables? How much would this panic you? What if this child broke something?
- Could you cancel your next trip out of town so you could minister to someone in your church?
Let’s be clear. I’m not suggesting that you hand over a $250 appliance to someone you know is irresponsible, or loan out your favorite autographed book to a lady you just met. You shouldn’t prove your Christianity by never taking time for yourself or by only buying the cheapest options available to you. That’s not true Christianity.
But stuff should be a blessing. Not a stressor.
So, how much is enough?