Perhaps you've seen the bumper stickers: "I shop, therefore I am," or "Caution: I brake for garage sales." While we smile at these confessions, they point to a deeper reality: Our life's purpose isn't to serve God, make a living, be creative, or be a friend; it's to accumulate things.
Material things aren't inherently evil. God made everything good. We need things not only to survive, but to thrive and enjoy life as God intended. The problem is the place we give them. St. Augustine said that sin is an inordinate desire for the relative good. In other words, sin can be giving too much emphasis to something that's good but not ultimate, thereby displacing better things.
Scripture is peppered with instruction on ways to bring this into perspective and to help us live counter-culturally. For example, Jesus told us to seek God's kingdom (Matthew 6:25-33) rather than to gain security for ourselves, which makes us less dependent upon God.
But perhaps most striking is Ecclesiastes 5:10-6:9, which tells us that material possessions can make us more unhappy and anxious. That's the effect that money and possessions have on us. The awareness that what we have can so quickly be taken from us makes us cling tighter to those things. Possessions can't ultimately satisfy; only the God who provides for us can.
[Q] How long did the last big-ticket item you purchased give you pleasure? How quickly did you take it for granted, or wish for something even newer and better?
[Q] Hebrews 12:1 portrays the Christian life as a long-distance race. To reach our goal of being Christ-like, we have to discipline ourselves by casting off anything that weighs us down and keeps us from making progress. What slows you down?
Make a Change: Do you have items you could share with others? Are there things you've thought about purchasing that you might be able to borrow from someone else? Consider making a list of things that some in your church have and are willing to share with others in the congregation, and then distribute that list to everyone.
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