I’m just going to say it: I’m a reformed hoarder. I have owned more things in my lifetime than any woman my age has business owning in her lifetime. In fact, in my younger years there was a nagging fear in the back of my mind that I might one day be buried somewhere under a pile of paper, old clothes, and strange kitchen appliances. Thankfully, a few really brave friends stepped in to help before it was too late. With their help, and some Scriptural perspective, I have overcome. I no longer serve my stuff… it serves me. At least, I think so. There is the danger that I will look back at this post in four years and sadly shake my head, knowing that I had not yet mastered my own stewardship of belongings. Actually, that’s a likelihood. Thank God we keep growing!
In teaching my kids about the stewardship of belongings, I have two values I want to communicate:
1) Stuff is just stuff. Unless stuff becomes an idol – then stuff is a serious impediment to our relationship with God.
We need clothes, kitchen appliances and utensils are useful, and it’s really nice to have couches, tables and books. However, the things we own are tools. There are exceptions to this: some special things add beauty to our lives, or remind us of a time past. I think that beauty is a wonderful thing; as long as our quest for beauty through stuff doesn’t own us.
With less stuff in the way, it’s easier to clean, easier to move around, and easier to follow the Lord’s call. It’s amazing how much our stuff can affect our hearing! I sort and clean out our stuff every 4-6 months. I find this helps keep any avalanches of personal belongings at bay.
In short, it’s just stuff. Everything we have came from the Lord, and everything we own will stay here when we leave this planet. That’s not to say that I’m not extremely grateful for the things He’s given us. But I want to have the right perspective. I want my kids to have a right perspective as well.
2) Stuff is for sharing. If everything I own was God’s to begin with, and it’s His now (I’m just stewarding it), then I ought to be willing and able to share when prompted by the Holy Spirit. I say this partially through clenched teeth, because we use our stuff. Often. However, there is a Scriptural basis to sharing (and by sharing, I mean willingly giving, not being compelled to surrender our belongings so that they can be “redistributed” by a central authority). Consider the following verses:
All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. Acts 4:32
Right now you have plenty and can help those who are in need. Later, they will have plenty and can share with you when you need it. In this way, things will be equal. 2 Corinthians 8:14
And, my favorite:
And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. 2 Corinthians 9:8
I’ve found that when I’ve shared, God has always replenished our supply, or we have been able to make do with less. I’ve also found that when we’ve been in true need, God has prompted someone to share with us. God has a marvelous way of working among His people. However, if we’re clinging too tightly to the idea of “mine”, we might miss the wonder of being part of His plan.
That’s the stewardship of belongings we’re working to share with our kids. I still mess up sometimes. I collect too much, or I stare at my husband as he leads people into our home and hands them something I wanted to keep. However, I know that in the end, it was God’s stuff anyway. I hope my kids see us working to store our treasures in Heaven, rather than here on earth.
(This post is part of a larger series on teaching stewardship, beginning with MINE.)
What do you think about stuff? How are you teaching your kids to steward their belongings?
~ Danika Cooley
Danika Cooley is the author of When Lightning Struck! The Story of Martin Luther (Fortress Press, 2015), Wonderfully Made (CF4K, 2016), and Bible Road Trip. Her work has been featured in internationally-recognized children's magazines over 150 times.