I once spent $380 on biblical commentaries to appear “righteous” instead of actually listening to Jesus and caring for the poor.
A thought series by Jason Duncan | 8 minute read
It’s gone. An entire van load. Gone. What would equate to three wardrobes, half a kitchen, and a ¼ of a pastoral library, gone.
In 48 hours after watching the Minimalists documentary we filled our swagger wagon (it’s a mini van) nearly to the brim.
This was blatant excess and it wasn’t even hard to do. We filled boxes with ease.
“I don’t wear this. That doesn’t fit. We don’t use these plates. I didn’t even know we had a quesadilla maker, that’s gotta be 10 years old! The boys outgrew that. Whoa these are nice mugs from two Christmases ago, why are we still using the crappy ones?”
This is easy, this feels right, this feels freeing, this feels good, but here it comes. The over-spirtualization part I warned you about last week. Facing the selfishness of how I got to this point has been painful.
(Again disclaimer, these thoughts are my own, they are how I feel the Holy Spirit is conforming me to the image of Christ, this may look totally different for you.)
As I helped the worker at the Salvation Army thrift store unload box after box and bag after bag, I couldn’t help but wonder what he was thinking. I almost felt ashamed. You see, I know this guy. Not personally or anything, but I know him. I have spent a fair share of time volunteering at the Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation program. Most of these men have next to nothing and are at the lowest point in their lives.
I’ve listened to countless crazy testimonies firsthand. A man who turned to drugs after witnessing his mom and uncle shot to death at a gas station just around the corner. A man who turned to drugs after making an NFL team out of training camp, only to return home to share the exciting news with his mother who died of the cancer she was hiding from him while he was away. A brilliant young man who was the shame of his family for being kicked out of college after one party got out of hand and he was expelled. A homeless man who had his tent and spare clothes knifed to shreds in the heart of winter by a business owner who didn’t want him on his property. I can keep going, but I think you get the picture.
No doubt this worker had a similar story of misfortune, and up rolls Jason in the swagger wagon reeking of excess. We stacked boxes by the loading dock. He looked relieved when I told him I didn’t need a write up. It was too much stuff to go through. Again, I know this guy. I know the building he sleeps in, I know he wakes up at 5:30, that he does devotional bible reading at 7, that he’s on a bus and to work by 8:30, that he’s back at the building and eating dinner at 4:30, that he’ll be participating in rehabilitation programs from 5:30 until free time, until lights out, and repeat. The regiment is grueling.
I could have provided him a thousand words of encouragement, but not today. Not in this moment. We worked in tandem to unload the big boxes. I sheepishly muttered, “just uh…., cleaning house I guess.” He said nothing in reply, but that can’t stop me from trying to fill the uncomfortable lack of dialog I enjoy so proudly when I volunteer at that program with my Bible in hand. “like a winter cleaning…, instead of spri…” his eyes cut me off before I can squeeze out the “ing”.
“Have a nice day,” He says sincerely as we stack the last box. I got back into the cavernous van a mess of emotion.
So convicting! I’m so incredibly glad to have been woken up. I’m so thankful to be free. I feel good that those items are going to go on those store shelves and ultimately help people in need. They’ll be used by new owners and the money paid will help the men at the very program I volunteer at.
Facing that guy was tough, but I truly believe this process fits into my newfound mantra, “empty me of me so I can love God and others as myself.”
Let’s face it, most of that stuff I accumulated was at the expense of helping others. The $380 dollars I once spent on biblical commentaries I barely crack open would have purchased some nice coats for children in need and gotten far more use than those books. The words of Jesus cut like a knife in Matthew 25,
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Think about that for a minute. I completely missed out on a chance to serve Jesus by stewarding the money God gave me instead of buying books to appear more “righteous.” I didn’t need them!
There was also the time I purchased a backup guitar for Sunday morning worship. You know, just in case the first one breaks a string mid set. I needed it! It was a must have! As if God doesn’t provide the things we need (Luke 12:22-34). I could have purchased food for the hungry, or yet, Flint MI, water for the thirsty.
A few more van loads to go, but I can’t wait to finish. The sooner I empty the house and free up time and resources, the sooner I’ll be able to more efficiently expend those resources to help the very guy who helped me unload my van. Now that is loving God, and my neighbor as myself, thus fitting within my minimalism goal.
Luke 12:33-34 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
My recommendations based on the past week.
- Start simple and just get rid of the excess. It was way easier than I thought it would be.
- Give your stuff to an organization that maximizes its value. In this case I chose the Salvation Army because I know that the items will get sold to someone who needs them and that the money will go toward people who need it. There are many organizations that operate in the same fashion, your church may know families in need as well.
- Old DVDS and VHS tapes lying around? Don’t waste your time at a media replay store if the DVDS are in rough shape. I took in about 60 movies. It took the clerk 45 minutes to value them. The result was $6.25 cash or $12.50 store credit. Not worth it. Just donate them or give them to a friend.
That’s it for this week. Check back each Monday to see how this experience of mine is progressing. Next week I’ll share some pictures of the progress we have made… holy crap guys!
<bio> Jason is not a pastor </bio>
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