One of the greatest dangers for any Christian is being subsumed by his culture. Every person is a member of his culture and this membership shapes the way he thinks and lives. Often there is no harm in this, but when the culture espouses something counter to the Gospel, then it becomes quite dangerous. Here in America, Christians must fight against many anti-Christian trends in the culture, especially those which are anti-life. But there is another cultural force which I believe can be even more dangerous because it is less obvious: materialism.
Our culture is so prosperous that our standard of what it means to be poor has radically changed over the past century. Someone who felt financially well-off a hundred years ago would be considered dirt-poor today. By just about any historical standard, the vast majority of modern Americans are rich. Yet Christ time and time again warned that the rich will have a very difficult time in obtaining salvation. In fact, there is one particular parable Christ told that applies to most of us today:
“Take care to guard against all greed,
for though one may be rich,
one’s life does not consist of possessions.”
Then he told them a parable.
“There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest.
He asked himself, ‘What shall I do,
for I do not have space to store my harvest?’
And he said, ‘This is what I shall do:
I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones.
There I shall store all my grain and other goods
and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you,
you have so many good things stored up for many years,
rest, eat, drink, be merry!”’
But God said to him,
‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you;
and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’
Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves
but are not rich in what matters to God.” (Luke 12:15-21)
I would argue that the primary problem most of us have today is not making a lot of money (by historical standards), but in having a lot of possessions. In other words, what do we buy with our money? Are our houses filled to the brim with our things? Is our security found in the Lord or in our possessions?
The 100 Thing Challenge has been my little way to personalize my efforts to fight American-style consumerism…
The goal of the 100 Thing Challenge is to break free from the confining habits of American-style consumerism. A lot [of] people around the world feel “stuck in stuff.” They feel like their closets and garages are too full of things that don’t really make their lives much better. But how to get unstuck?
Reduce (get rid of some of your stuff)
Refuse (to get more new stuff)
Rejigger (your priorities)
I totally believe that living without abundance of personal possessions for an extended period of time is the first step we ought to take in order to realize that we don’t need ever-more stuff. If you do this — if you will give up your stuff for a while — I am sure you’ll never go back. You’ll spend the rest of your life creating a more valuable life, instead of wasting your money and time on stuff. You will be glad. And best of all, the people around you will be blessed by your efforts to prioritize more meaningful pursuits.
Dave decided to live with only 100 “things,” which includes ALL his possessions: clothes, gadgets, books, etc. I think this is a great idea and one everyone could try. It doesn’t have to be exactly 100 things, but I’m willing to bet each of us could look through our possessions and realize that many are not needed. And going forward, I’m sure there are a large number of things we want to buy that are not really needed. In doing so, we might end up putting more faith in the Lord instead of our possessions to make us happy and fulfilled.
So, how many things do you have? How many do you actually need?