Tuesday, April 26, 2016

When Does Owning Become Hoarding?

My goal for this year is to simplify. I ended 2014 sorting, downsizing, and decluttering. Before December, I packed away all but 9 sets of our clothes as our moving plans proceeded. In the last days of 2014, I set out 4 outfits to last until we unpacked at our new home.

As my clothing options decreased, I didn't feel deprived in the slightest. I was disturbed as I searched for non-clothing items I prematurely packed, how I would come across stashes of clothes in various parts of our bags & boxes. I was ashamed that I actually hadn't missed more than half of my clothes.

When I was a volunteer in Costa Rica, I had 3 pairs shoes (dressy flats, work, everyday) 3 skirts, 3 jeans, 3-4 capris, 4-5 nice tops, 2 sweatshirts, and 4-5 t-shirts. Now, I have 4 jeans, 3 capris, 5 pairs of shoes (dressy flats, dressy boots, dressy professional, everyday, winter/hiking boots). I have used the same small black purse for over a year, although now I have a canvas bag for when I can't fit everything I need in my purse.

I know that others have more clothes, more shoes, more purses than I do. However, just because I can think of examples of those I am doing "better" than (have they lived in 3 apartments in 2 countries over the course of 4 years?), we are to compare ourselves to others. Christ is our measuring standard. His Word is our to guide & direct us.

John the Baptizer gives a new definition of minimalism in Luke 3:11, as he answered the crowd's question of what they should do: “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”

My first thought when I read this is "What about laundry day? If I only have one set of clothes, what will I wear when I wash my clothes?" I can have problems with my blood sugar, so of course I need to keep my secret stash of emergency protein bars. I need to make sure I have enough food for 3 good-sized meals today & tomorrow, so I can't give away any to the one who is hungry today.

What if the world's definition of hoarding is too broad? My go-to online dictionary defined hoarding as follows: "to accumulate money, food, or the like, in a hidden or carefully guarded place for preservation, future use, etc." We think of hoarding as a problem of those with more stuff than us. We think that while they take preparation and good stewardship too far, a week's supply of food is not unreasonably and if we can close our cupboards and our closets, we don't need to address how much stuff we own.

What if hoarding doesn't begin when we can't see our floors or can't safely walk across the room? What if hoarding, from a biblical standpoint, is much more innocent looking? Could I be hoarding when I keep a week's worth of food in my house, instead of only my daily bread? Could I be hoarding when I have enough tops & pants/skirts to wear a different outfit for two weeks?

1 John 3:17 asks "If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?" If I have 2 winter coats and I look without pity at the homeless man facing the winter temperatures in a windbreaker, can I call myself a Christian? If I ignore the hungry beggar so I can more quickly make it home to cook & eat my third meal for the day, how can I expect to meet my Savior's gaze at heaven's gates? If I am not sharing the clothes, food, and blessings God has so generously given me, how can I bear Christ's name? What if my savings account, in addition to removing my need to rely on God, slowly ties my heart to the world while I save for a rainy day & other whims in a world where many are without clean water, sufficient food, and adequate education?

Let me ask you, exactly when does owning items cross over into hoarding them?

Luke 3:10-11, 1 John 3:17 New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Citation: "hoard." Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 01 Jan. 2015. <>.

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