By Anne Crawford
We all know someone who is a hoarder. Many of us live with one. It could be ourselves. We probably all know a compulsive shopper and I am sure that many of us have gone shopping on days when things felt blah. Shopping can be a good distraction at those times.
Sometimes this behavior is caused by an underlying mental health problem but for most of us it is simply part of our consumer culture. We are bombarded with advertising that persuades us we need the latest, whether it is a car, a gadget or a new outfit.
Hoarding is possibly okay if you don’t buy more. And we all know that as soon as something gets thrown out, we need it the very next day!
I know a couple who are considering buying the adjoining townhouse to where they live and knocking a wall down in order to create a butler’s pantry for their many dishes and accompanying table settings. George Carlin seems to be speaking directly to them.
Here’s what he says about stuff:
That’s all your house is-a place to keep your stuff. If you didn’t have so much stuff you wouldn’t need a house. You could just walk around all the time. A house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it, and when you leave your house, you’ve got to lock it up. You wouldn’t want somebody to come by and take some of your stuff. That’s what your house is- a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff. Sometimes you’ve got to move-got to get a bigger house. Why? No room for your stuff anymore.
Here’s what Jesus has to say:
Sell your stuff and give the money to those less fortunate.
Before we go any further let’s look for the deeper meaning in Jesus’ words.
“Sell your possessions and give alms”.
He doesn’t say “sell ALL your possessions” nor does he suggest giving everything away to the poor. That would be most unproductive. We would end up with more and more poor people and less rich people to help them.
Jesus is saying something different but you have to look more carefully at the text to discover the deeper meaning.
And to discover what He means we need to look at the preceding sentence:
“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom”.
What does it mean – ‘the kingdom’?
We may think of the kingdom of God as somewhere otherworldly that our souls go to when we die. If we’ve been good we get there and if not - ….!
Many modern Christians think of the kingdom of God as being here and now rather than some distant land of harps and angels.
We get a clue later in Luke’s Gospel when the Pharisees ask Jesus when the kingdom of God will come.
Here is Jesus’ reply to their question -
I quote from The Message
“The kingdom of God doesn’t come by counting the days on the calendar. And why? Because God’s kingdom is already among you”.
The King James Bible reads
“God’s kingdom is already within you”.
The Greek preposition entos can be translated as either among or within. The early Church translation is within and the more modern translation is among. The early church Fathers knew more about the reality of the inner world whereas the extraverted thinking of more modern times finds it hard to imagine anything worthwhile as being within us
Episcopalian priest and author, John Sanford succinctly joins the two for us and I quote
“There is a sense in which the kingdom of heaven is both within ourselves and outside ourselves and among us and other people”.
Now we have a new slant on what ‘the kingdom’ is that God is so pleased to give us.
Jesus goes on to say
“Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven where no thief comes near and no moth destroys”.
First we are given the kingdom and now we are being advised on what treasures are needed. Not things that will wear out or which can be stolen.
Saint Francis of Assisi gave up life as a rich merchant’s son and he has this to say about treasure
“Holy poverty is a divine treasure allowing us to let go of earthly things and thereby be free to join ourselves to God”.
Letting go of earthly things doesn’t mean we have to become another Saint Francis or another Mother Teresa.
What it does mean is that God can’t bless us with real treasures if we are overly concerned with our material possessions or our outward image.
Letting go of these things is the beginning of greater joy as we allow ourselves to remember that we are God’s Beloved.
So how do we get to do all this and become the joyful loving real person that God intends us to be?
I believe that the kingdom within us represents our inner being, our very core and our deepest self, the self which is hidden most of the time from the rest of the world. This is the self who longs to know who we truly are and what we truly wish for. We need our healthy egos for survival in the outer world but in the world of heavenly treasures we hunger for something more and God is offering that to us at every moment of our lives.
God is not asking us to give up the pleasures and the joys of living. He loves a joyful heart. He is asking us to be ready on those everyday occasions when He engages with us in the ordinary times of our lives. Are we ready?
Are we ready if we are distracted by our possessions or the care of them or the shopping for more of them? Are we ready if we are worrying about what people think of us or in creating the best impression? Are we ready if we are so busy judging others or trying to organize their lives?
Being prepared means being willing to let go of the things that distract us and to make time to stop and be thankful for whatever life has given us – the joys and the challenges.
It means being willing to take the time to focus on God. It means being willing to look at life in a different way.
Rabbi Harold Kushner writes:
“Religion is a way of seeing. It can’t change the facts about the world we live in but it can change the way we see those facts, and that in itself can often make a difference”.
So what can we do to bring about this change in ourselves?
In silence we can let go of trying to be something or someone. We can let God surprise us with the wonder of who we already are. Then we can look around and sense the wonder of the holy communion of people, animals, plants and stars to which we are inter-connected.
We can imagine God’s love touching our heart and unbinding us from whatever it is we need to be unbound from.
We can ask ourselves what it is we would do if we had the courage and what it is that our hearts really crave.
We can say with a true heart and with one voice:
Glory to God whose power, working within us
can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.