As this August ended, I looked back in my notes about this time last year. We had concluded a huge yard sale – a sale so complicated that the experience disabused me of ever wanting to do one again. Yet, I still like bargain shopping. It stirs a bit of self-validation, and an impression of control over my circumstances. Maybe an echo of a thrill my predecessors had hunting dinner?
But even the best deals come with unforeseen costs. The Learning Channel has a series on hoarding that vividly show what George Santayana – philosopher and writer in the last century – meant when he said of personal possessions, “. . . they would take away my liberty." Liberty isn’t the only loss. Possessions take money, energy and time – and they can overtake life itself. The wealthiest man in the ancient world reported, “I have seen a grievous evil under the sun: wealth hoarded to the harm of its owner, . . .” ( Ecclesiastes 5:13) Recently in Las Vegas a woman, whose pursuit of finds knew few limits, was finally discovered, buried underneath her “treasures.”
Her stuff, all inanimate objects, engulfed her. Makes me wonder if William Blake had a point:
Since all the riches of this world
May be gifts from the Devil and earthly kings,
I should suspect that I worshipp'd the Devil
If I thank'd my God for worldly things. ~ Gnomic Verses
"Stuff," inanimate objects whose proliferation, has spawned careers for home organizational experts, social workers and television producers may be the 21st century equivalent of Biblical plagues. God used plagues to get His people’s attention (Exodus 32:35; Numbers 11:33-34), and as a sign of His power to Pharaoh. Today God lets us see how unsatisfying and annoying “stuff” can become.
We say we can’t live with too much of it, and we panic if we don’t have enough of it. Accumulating “stuff” doesn’t replace God, and can’t put off my appointment with death. (Isaiah 44; Luke 12:16-21) And more "stuff" is never enough. (Eccl. 5:10)
Oh God! : Don’t let me buy the lie I need more, or do not have enough! Don’t let me die, unnoticed and buried in stuff! I so understand Agur’s plea:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, 'Who is the LORD?'
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God. (Proverbs 30:8-9)