What’s with all this stuff?

Photo by Bethany Brown

At a young age, I was very aware of the value of money. A major turning point in my perspective on spending was around the age of 7. I was shopping with my mother and I saw a Barbie post office. My mother said that I could buy the toy, but I would have to use my own money to buy it. Well, I made the purchase and was very pleased until I got home. It was not very much fun to play with and it mostly just sat in my bedroom. When I began to think about that toy, I decided that my money would have been better saved or used for something else. It was one of my first experiences of buyer’s remorse.

Today most of us can look around and see a closet packed with dresses, shoes, and coats. A dresser filled with shirts, jeans, and pajama pants.   Where did all this stuff come from anyway? It doesn’t take a lot to see that Americans, even the not so wealthy, have the majority of their needs met. Why do I have all this stuff, but I still want more?

Our possessions become an extension and an expression of who we are and what our desires are. We may want popularity; or we are dissatisfied with how we look so we compensate with trying to impress others with that new something; or we don’t know who we are so we are continuously trying new items to discover that, or we truly just want more. Whatever the reason, it’s important to stop and evaluate ourselves. What is my attitude toward things? What do my things or love of things say about who I am?

We need to begin to replace our want for earthly things with that of eternal value (Matthew 6:21).  We also need to stop looking to the world’s idea of pleasure and status (Romans 12:2). How we treat our possessions is vital in our relationship with God. Let’s look at two examples of people dealing with their wealth and their possessions. First, let us look at the rich young ruler (Luke 17:18-27). He told Jesus that he had kept all the commandments from his youth. Jesus then asked him to sell and give away all of his possessions, but instead the man walked away sad. The ruler did not want to give up what he had to follow Jesus.  Jesus wanted him to change his lifestyle and the things he loved most. Zaccheus, our second example, sold and gave away half his possessions and went to repay those he had cheated (Luke19:1-10). Part of Zaccheus’ conversion resulted in a changed view toward his wealth and how he treated others with his wealth. A relationship with God should result in a change in how we handle our possessions.

Looking back on the Barbie post office experience, I began to see my view of material possessions shift. I began to think about the difference between what I really need and something that will ultimately just cause me to drain my resources. In order to find a good balance, it takes some practice and making a few mistakes, but it’s always better to start young when the mistakes are smaller and easier to correct. A very helpful starting point in beginning to determine between needs and wants is to ask yourself a few questions before making a purchase: What is the purpose of buying this; What will this be used for and how often; Does buying this hinder me from reaching one of my long term goals (saving for a computer, a car, a school trip, starting a college fund, giving to charity, etc.). Answering these questions should help prevent a lot of unnecessary purchases. It takes some trial and error as well; but by thinking before buying, you will begin to control your money instead of having your money control you.

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