Tuesday, November 19, 2013
I've had a "thing" about things since I was in seminary and studying the words of Jesus on the dangers of possessions and godlike mammon. It seemed clear that following Jesus meant living simply. I read John Yoder and the Lausanne documents on Simple Lifestyle and Ron Sider's book Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger and they had a big influence on our lives (my wife and mine). We moved into inner city Philadelphia and participated in an intentional community there. The members were intentional in their practice of a simpler lifestyle. I worked with Ron Sider and spoke at churches who were interested in exploring these issues. Later on we left to pastor a church and we had a family and we tried to keep this idea of "living simply so others might simply live" as one of our core principles. Of course, on a pastors salary, and raising four children, living simply was not an option but we knew we were pretty well off compared to the rest of the world. Mission trips to Haiti and the Dominican Republic as well as our own country's rural and inner city pockets of poverty kept us in mind of our abundance for which we were thankful and tried to be good stewards of. Two times we moved cross country - from New York to Alaska and then from Alaska to Florida and we had to sort through our stuff to move only what we needed. How much stuff we accumulated that we did not need! We made trips to the Salvation Army and the dump. We had yard sales. We made decisions about what we needed to keep. It seemed on both major moves we left behind half our stuff. Now we live in a much smaller house sized for the two of us. I look around at the things we kept. There are books, of course, although I got rid of plenty. There are photo albums, and pictures to hang on our walls. There are bread pans and favorite coffee mugs and one set of dishes. We brought a couple of old tables and chairs that have value only to us. And several keepsakes that preserve memories from the various chapters of our lives. Most of the things we have kept tell a story. They are part of us. I guess I have become comfortable with that, with things. I have made peace with having things; I believe what the Bible teaches that God is the owner of everything. We don't own anything. So we try to hold on to things lightly (I confess I have a pretty tight grip on the bread pans, a couple of coffee mugs and a few books). Things are temporary and for sharing. God made stuff and said it was good. When I look around at some of our stuff which made the long trip with us it makes me feel good, too.