Who is the Boss, You or Your Stuff?

Have you ever noticed, our possessions, which should be serving us, tend to influence our decisions and we often end up serving our possessions?

Here’s an example:
I’m in the second week of a six-week Wycliffe banquet speaking tour of California and I see and hear evidence every day that indicates that the things we own seem to actually own us. As I stand by the book table to offer my five books for sale, most people who stream past the table say the same thing. “I already have so many books I haven’t read yet, I can’t buy more.”

I smile and say “Thank you for coming to the banquet,” but meanwhile I am thinking,
You came to this banquet, so I know you are interested in missions and Bible translation. You interrupted my story-filled speech repeatedly with laughter and applause which makes me think you would probably also enjoy reading my story-filled books. So why are you letting the books stacked on your shelves back home–which you may never read–tell you not to buy and read these books that you probably will read and enjoy?

It’s a clear case of packed bookshelves telling their owners what not to buy.

Eeny meeny miny mo Which one of you has got to go?

Eeny meeny miny mo
Which one of you has got to go?

Okay, I confess, I understand the “too many books” problem. That’s why my wife and I formulated the following policy for buying new books:
“For every new book we bring into the house, and before we start reading it, we must go through our library and pull out a book to give away, to relatives, friends, church library, or even the thrift shop.”
Since we moved into a much smaller mobile home recently, we have amplified our policy temporarily to “1 book in, 2 books out.”

Our packed bookshelves are not the only things that dictate decisions in our lives. I have urged Christian people to go on a missions trip to use their skills to help build God’s kingdom. Here are some of the responses, “Yes, we should do that, but . . .

  • we want to finish the basement this year.
  • we just bought a trailer and plan to take a camping vacation.
  • our roof needs re-shingling.
  • we can’t afford the time, we need to organize the stuff in our garage.
  • we are in the middle of remodeling project.
  • it is such a hassle to get someone to look after our pets, the lawn, and the house plants.

We are followers of Jesus who lived without lots of stuff, Are we just floating along with our affluent, materialistic culture?

packed-garageDrive through a 50-year-old,  residential area of your town and you will see typical one-storey bungalow style houses, sometimes with a garage at the rear. Compare those three bedroom, single bathroom family homes with the massive homes in the newer residential areas.
Two-storey houses with a full, finished basement, multiple large bedrooms, several bathrooms, separate rooms for living, dining, home theatre, recreation, den, etc. etc. Plus a double car attached garage sometimes stacked with stuff.

Fifty years ago, North Americans threw out about a kilo (2.2 pounds) of trash per person per day. Now the amount has doubled, including nearly half a billion electronic products thrown away every year. All these things were, of course, replaced by newer, better models!

That’s our culture and it affects us.

Maybe we Jesus-followers have forgotten His warning, “Watch out! Be on your guard against wanting to have more and more things. Life is not made up of how much a person has” Luke 12:15 (NIRV).

How do you deal with the stuff in your life? Are you the boss?

6 thoughts on “Who is the Boss, You or Your Stuff?

  1. How easily our stuff takes root and holds us, even entangles us. One value we try to hold to is don’t buy when we can share. Our kids play with fabulous toys at someone else’s house, and think we should have it too. Oh no, we say. We will look forward to going to their house and playing with it again! We save money, and we connect with friends more often. We make use of our library so we can empty our bookshelf every week, and save our money to buy books to give away. We are currently adding on to our house, so that we may better show hospitality and host families for Bible study at our house, but I hate how much time and focus it takes to plan it all, and then the resources to carry it out. It is a battle to stay the boss of the stuff. Good article, thank you.

    • Thanks Karla,
      We learned on the mission field to share all sorts of things, books, tools, equipment, toys, and vehicles, etc. “You don’t have to own it to enjoy it” was the motto for all of us.

  2. Working on the mission field, I have come to understand this. Many of the people who come down on short term teams are blown away by the fact that people here don’t have anything, and yet they are happy. It is a complete shock to them that stuff/material wealth/possessions aren’t necessary to be happy. LET”S OWN OUR STUFF, and not be owned by it. Good read.

    • Thanks, Julie, It’s one of the reasons I love to go camping, and do without a huge load of stuff that at home I consider a necessity. It’s a reality check.

  3. Thanks for the reminder, Jack. I was reminded of what the late A.W. Tozer wrote in his book “The Pursuit of God”. “There is within the human heart a tough fibrous root whose nature it is to possess, always possess.”
    Over the years I have found that the best antidote for me when I sense that attitude seeking to control me is to give something away – particularly for the Lord’s work.

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