Just like The Little Mermaid, I have a ton of junk. So why is it that I am still browsing Amazon for things to add to my wish list? Why do I go to Barnes and Noble when I have thirty unread books at home? Why do I clean out my closet only to fill it with more v-necks? If you live in America, you probably know what I am talking about. We know we don’t really need new tennis shoes, but wouldn’t those lime green ones look so cute on our feet? We know we already have fifteen coffee mugs, but doesn’t that one with the quirky quote fit perfectly into our palm? We know we just bought a new journal, but isn’t that one totally adorable and completely reflective of our personality?
Although I have everything I could need materially, I still have a consumer mentality. Do you ever find yourself in that same boat… or Target aisle? I know that having belongings does not make me more or less godly, but if God really has complete control of my life then what does He have to say about the way I spend my money? Recently, I have realized that I fill my life with objects more when I am not as in tune with God. When I am not following God’s heart as closely, I have a gaping chasm in my life that I try to fill with brightly colored JUNK. Sure, I could use those tennis shoes to walk to a homeless shelter and share the Gospel or use that coffee cup to share some caffeine with a friend in need of a listening ear, but do I? Nope. I hoard. I save. I keep to myself. Because in my selfish heart, those belongings were never intended to further the Gospel. My selfish heart intended those belongings to fill my empty heart so that I can wander farther away from the God of “people before things.” This is when my consumer mentality becomes dangerous: when I consume to replace God with possessions.
Even though we pretend that this is a new phenomenon, the conflict of objects before God is nothing new. From Solomon in the Old Testament to the rich young ruler in the New Testament, generations of believers have dealt with the problem of how to handle materialism. Solomon was given divine wisdom (2 Chronicles 1:6-12) by God, but he still struggled with looking for satisfaction in possessions. In Ecclesiastes 2, Solomon explains all of the material ways he tried to find satisfaction from wine and gold to houses and concubines. However, he concludes, “Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun.” (Eccl. 2:11) Did you catch that? “NO profit under the sun”! So where is the profit in life? If the profit is not under the sun, then it must be above the sun. God is the only profit. God is the only thing that will satisfy our hearts. We know this. But do we KNOW know it? In the deepest caverns of our soul, do we truly believe that only God can fulfill our life purpose and make our life profitable and worth living? I am honestly not there yet. I am still holding up my, “But it was on sale!” excuses.
So is there any hope for us? Is there hope that we can fix our Disney-amplified need for “gadgets and gizmos aplenty”?
Let’s skip ahead to the New Testament. Our relatable friend, the rich young ruler, had similar issues. He came to Jesus in Matthew 19 with questions about what good things he should do. This guy obviously had his life figured out. He had money and the power to rule even though he was still young. (How did he pull that off?) But he was still dissatisfied and searching! He came asking Jesus for more answers. He had even tried being religiously obedient and following all the rules, but he had to ask, “What am I still lacking?” (Matt. 19:17-20). Y’all this next part gives me chills. “Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be complete…'” Here we go! Ready for the answer to being complete? “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” (Matt. 19:21)
Is that really the answer, God?! To be complete, we need to have less? To be complete, we must give away our possessions? To be complete, we have to leave our home and follow a homeless Messiah? That is not logical to every cultural compulsion that having more things makes us feel more complete. And while we are on that word “complete” I want to clarify its meaning, especially since many of your Bible translations may say “perfect” instead of “complete” in verse twenty-one. In Greek (I know it’s another language, but this is important!). In Greek, the word for “perfect” or “complete” is teleios which can mean 1. brought to its end; finished 2. wanting nothing necessary to completeness 3. perfect 4. that which is perfect. So to be finished, wanting nothing else to be complete, or to be perfect we must follow Christ’s command to let go of physical possessions in exchange for spiritual treasures in heaven.
[Side note that someone needs to hear: this word teleios is the same “perfect” that Jesus uses in Matthew 5:48 “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” We are to be finished as Jesus is. We are to be complete as Jesus is complete. This verse is not a call to perfectionism, but a call to wanting nothing else and being complete in Jesus as we already are!]
All considered, I do not know if God is calling you to sell your house and live transiently giving away your money to every person who lives beside you in a cardboard box. However, I can say without a doubt that Jesus wants you to find your satisfaction in Him and not in belongings. You must personally seek out God’s will for how He wants you to use your belongings for Him. Just make sure that God and His Kingdom are always the focus of your material world. When we use things for God and not as a god, we will find ourselves finished, complete, and lacking nothing.