Recently, Mell and I moved from a three-story house full of furniture, mementos and stuff to a small condominium less than half the size. So, in addition to the normal stress and strain of moving we also faced a serious dilemma of how to reduce our possessions by more than 50%.
How do you eliminate 1/2 your furniture, 1/2 of your mementos, many of them gifts, 1/2 of your pictures, paintings and books? The process was painful but there were huge lessons learned and I’m grateful for the experience. Jesus taught about the importance of not being too dependent upon money or possessions in Matthew: The story of The Rich Man.
At one point, Jesus said, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” – Mat. 19:21
With that story in mind, Mell and I had an opportunity. We could sell everything or we could give it away. Although the decision was painful at first, we chose to give everything away.
Every day for several weeks, I filled up my car or a rented U-Haul and took everything to Park View Community Mission where my office was located. They provide badly needed food and other help for over 500 families each month. Throughout the building we placed mementos, dishes, furniture, tools, lawn equipment, books and pictures. The sign simply said, “Free.”
As word circulated, people would gather. At times they would linger picking up something, then put it down. Some would ask, “Are you serious? Is this really free?” Another said, “I can give this as a present to my sister.” Still another would smile and simply say, “Thank you.”
At one point we brought in a bookcase and placed the giveaways with the same sign: “Free!” The objects were soon gone but one person saw the sign, picked up the bookcase and started to walk out. We had to stop him with an apology: “Sorry. We didn’t mean the bookcase.”
So, what were the lessons?
- Pain can turn to joy. At first, the decision to part with your things and give them away is painful but at some point in the process, giving generously and creatively can be a joy.
- Possessions will often possess you. The more you have, the more you feel the need to care for, manage and protect your stuff. Letting possessions go can be a liberating experience that frees up your time, your energy and restores your sense of peace.
- Stuff is just stuff. Material things provide little of lasting value but kindness and generosity have the potential to change lives eternally and provide opportunities to share your faith.
Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, it is very hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. I’ll say it again—it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!” – Mat. 19:23-24
Jesus describes a vivid picture: It’s hard enough to go through the eye of a needle but imagine trying to slip through while refusing to let go of all your stuff. Impossible!
But here is my favorite part. Astounded, the disciples asked. “Then who in the world can be saved?” Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” – Mat. 19:25-26
In many ways, those weeks were strenuous and difficult but they turned into some of my most fulfilling and spiritual experiences.
After hearing Jesus, Peter said, “We’ve given up everything to follow you. What will we get?”
Jesus replied, “I assure you that everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life. But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then.” – Parts of Mat. 19:27-30
Have your possessions overtaken your sense of happiness and peace? Consider a radical reduction and watch your peace and contentment radically increase at the same time.