"For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good." Titus 2:11-14
The other day my mom offered her Christmas village to my siblings and me. She's cleaning and purging out too much stuff accumulated through the years, and thought maybe someone would want her collection. I thought about it for a minute, because I don't have a Christmas village, and it's honestly never occurred to me that I might want one. The thought that literally went through my head is something along the lines of "isn't everyone supposed to have a Christmas village? Isn't that just what people put out for a decoration?" And then I had my answer. I didn't really want the village. But the mere idea that it's something you do just because everyone else does was enough for me- because that's a thought process I'm trying to eliminate. When the holidays come rolling around, we put up decorations that we want to, because they make our home look festive, and help us to feel joyful about celebrating the birth of Jesus.
Too much world and too much stuff. Now, there's nothing wrong with stuff. Stuff can be enjoyable, stuff can bring joy to someone, and it can serve a purpose- but its when we have stuff just to have stuff. When we moved several months back, I can't tell you how much stuff we actually got rid of. The piles of boxes that we donated were simply amazing- all random items that we had in the house just because that's what people do. They get stuff, they use it for a time, and then they put it away. And they save it, because you never know when you'll use that item again- or worse, they save something for their children down the road, and then the process begins all over again. We're raising our children to let go of stuff. To realize that sometimes toys and things can be wonderful and we can enjoy them, but sometimes we also need to share them.
Because that's why I think God really allows us to accumulate stuff. It isn't so that we can pile up totes in a basement or in a storage unit- it's so that at some point, we can be a blessing to someone else.
Just this week, I was the beneficiary of just such a thing. A couple had an old quilting frame- an item that makes hand-quilting a quilt much, much easier to accomplish. I've wanted one for years- since I began a quilt that I've been working on. But they are expensive- especially the larger size that I really wanted. Well, these people -who I don't even know- decided this was an item hanging around their house that was just accumulating dust. They wanted it to go to someone who could actually use it. And as I picked it up, and brought it to my home, I just felt so incredibly blessed. That this item that I have wanted, but never really thought I'd be getting, was given to me.
In fact, now that I think about that, this has happened to our family twice this week alone. Once for myself with the quilt frame, and once for my daughter, with an item that she's wanted, but we certainly never thought she'd be the recipient of such a treasure.
And yet, I'm trying to balance my mind around the idea that I don't want to get caught up in the trap of too much stuff. And more. The keeping up with the Joneses syndrome, where a neighbor has something, so we have to have something. That's the world trying to creep in and tell us we need something. Of course it does, because when we spend our money on something that we don't really need, the world rejoices, because then that money is not going to someone who could really need it. In the last several months, I've found myself in a serious case of phone envy, because it seems like everyone I know is getting newer, better cellphones while I have one that just does the basics. In order for me to get one of these new phones, I would have to shell out a pretty penny- and for what? For a phone, really, that does the exact same thing as the machine I am sitting at- only in the palm of my hand instead of on a desk. Do I really need that? No. I don't even use my phone as it is- it's almost always off, so why do I need to spend hundreds of dollars on a fancy piece of electronics that I definitely don't need. I don't. But the world wants me to think I do.
Living a self-controlled life includes not having to have the latest and greatest of everything. And I don't want this to come off like I'm sounding like I'm against having stuff. I'm not, because stuff can make life more enjoyable- and God wants us to enjoy life. But when that stuff consumes us, when that stuff becomes all we think about- that's what's wrong. In fact, the verse above talks about how we're waiting for the blessed time when Jesus returns, and maybe that stuff can help pass some of that time in an enjoyable manner. But we shouldn't hang onto that stuff like it is so important. The only real important thing is Jesus. Our thoughts should be on Him. And then, when we get something, like I got that quilt rack the other day, all I could think about was how blessed I felt, and how cool it was that God worked it out to bless me in such an unexpected way. And I also thought about how, as I get practice with quilting, how I could use that item to bless other people in turn.
I know plenty of people out there who subscribe to the ideas of many different financial gurus. I have nothing against them either, but when someones mindset about money is all about whether Mr. Smart Money would let me buy such an item, we're thinking the wrong way completely. Our thoughts should not be on Mr. Smart Money, our thoughts should be on God. When we think on God, when we train our thoughts to go to Him, then the money thoughts also get easier. When I am contemplating a bigger purchase, I don't think about what the financial people would say about that purchase, I think about what God would think about that purchase. And what's even better, is that those financial people will never answer me personally about my question- but you know what? God will. God will answer me as I'm considering a purchase. He will help make the purchase possible, or He will give me a firm feeling that I should pass something up.
I can't tell you how many times I've determined that I'm going to go shopping to just pick up a few things, and I really feel strongly that I need to stay home instead. I know that's the Holy Spirit working to tell me that today is not the day to be spending. Just because there's a great sale going on at one of my favorite stores does not mean that I need to be there shopping the sale. Especially when there are other bills still to be paid. There's always those too.
In fact, we're trying so hard to break ourselves of the worldly desires for stuff, that we've embarked on a "no-spend month" for our family. We'll pay bills,put gas in the vehicles, and buy groceries on a limited budget. But other than that, we've determined not to buy anything for the month of September. (Except for a rake for raking leaves, because we'll need that before the month is out, and we don't have one.) Do you know how hard the actual practice of this is? Just yesterday I was thinking about a few things we could use, and then I had to remind myself that we're not spending. God wants us to learn to do more without stuff. And He wants us to share the stuff that we do have. I honestly just wish we had more that was worth sharing.
If God can give His own son to redeem us from our own wickedness, the least we can do is go without a few things that we don't really need. Our desire is that as we spend time not spending, and focusing on Him, that we will break the world right off of us, and that our mindset will become more like Christ.