Jesus said to them, ‘Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.’ (Luke 12:15)
A few years ago, I encountered the Marie Kondo method of tidying up. You take every single item that you have in your house, and you hold it closely, and you ask yourself, ‘Does this spark joy?’ If it doesn’t, you thank it for its service, and you get rid of it. The problem is that almost every item does spark joy: it triggers a memory, or it reminds me of someone I love.
Our wooden bowl was made by Keith, a gentle man who was a big part of my childhood. Many of the pretty plates at church are from my grandparents, and remind me where I come from. Many of the kitchen chairs belonged to a dear friend, who no longer needed them when she married. And so on.
And all this stuff has been very helpful in setting up the space where we can gather together to listen to the Scriptures, to sing, to eat together, and to pray. Even more, we have this space to gather to do these things because of the property our household already owns, which meant we could borrow the money to buy a house with a hall.
I wonder whether all this stuff was given to me, or collected by me, for a reason. Because the space and the stuff can facilitate our gatherings, and our gatherings should deepen our relationship with the God of love.
And that’s the crux of it. If the space, or the stuff, or a certain way of gathering, become things that we strive for in themselves, become idols, then for all our fine words we will no longer be following Jesus. Instead our energy will be poured into maintaining the stuff, rather than listening to God and allowing the Spirit to do its work. The stuff will possess us.
But if the space and the stuff and the gathering times help usher in God’s culture, if they draw in others who are also hungry for this culture, and if they propel us back into daily lives of loving and committed service, then perhaps it is okay to have these things for now. As long as I hold them lightly, knowing that they were never mine. Instead, they are gifts to help usher in God’s culture and God’s kingdom in this place. And participating in this great project is something that really does spark joy.