We Americans often have way more stuff than we actually need. The average American home has 300,000 things in it. As a country, we are constantly adding to our possessions, and building bigger and bigger homes to fit everything. No matter how much we have, we tend to think we need more.
As the AT&T commercial shows, the “more is better” mentality is instilled in us at a young age. The children in the commercial were no more than 6 years old. With this thinking already established in childhood, is there any question as to why so many of us adults have a constant want for more?
ALL THAT STUFF
Of course, the human desire for more and more is nothing new. We see it in Luke 12, when Jesus shares a parable about a guy whose farm is doing really well. So, the guy decides he’s going to tear down his old barns, build bigger ones and then basically stockpile all the food so he can relax, eat, drink and be merry.
You can almost hear the catchphrase “More is better” as this happens.
What does God then say to the man? Here’s a paraphrase: “Guess what? You actually die tonight. What’s going to happen to all that stuff ?”
What’s going to happen to all that stuff, indeed? We spend our lives accumulating it, but when we die, what happens to it? In most cases, our friends and family end up spending days, even weeks, getting rid of it. Don’t get me wrong: They may keep a few things that have meaning to them. But the bulk of it? Thrown out or donated. Same as the guy in Jesus’ story—he spent all his time stockpiling stuff, and now, it’s all going to be given away or thrown out.
You see, it’s not just about the waste of material resources. When we are so focused on accumulating stuff, we miss out on the most important things in life. The guy in Jesus’ parable misses out on spending
time with God and loved ones. And what’s left when he’s gone? Just a pile of stuff rather than shared memories, which would mean so much to his family and friends.
It’s the same for us. Because of our sin and brokenness, we believe more is always better. And our consumer society helps us buy into that (pun intended). Over and over, we hear messages that we must buy something more in order to make us prettier or more respected, or to feel like we belong. Every day we’re told: More is better.
Jesus, however, tells us there is a different way to live. Jesus knew our human tendency to think that more is better. Jesus wants us to know that being a Jesus follower means to live counterculturally— not to live our lives for the purpose of accumulating more stuff. Jesus is very clear when he says: “So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”
As Jesus reminds us, God is what really matters. When we put God first in our lives, our priorities are in the right place. Then we are more likely to prioritize our loved ones, our health and our calling from God, rather than chasing the next sale item.
The Rev. Dr. Becca Ehrlich is the author of Christian Minimalism: Simple Steps for Abundant Living (Morehouse Publishing, 2021) She serves as an adjunct professor at United Lutheran Seminary in Gettysburg and Philadelphia.
This is excerpted from the November/December 2022 issue. To read more articles like it, subscribe to Gather.
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