Sitting Bull, the great Sioux chief, once said of the white man, “The love of possessions is a disease in them.” If it was a disease in 1875, it’s a pandemic now.
Even though we know in our heart of hearts that more is not better, we keep accumulating things at an alarming rate. Dave Bruno, the author of “The 100 Thing Challenge,” got rid of most of his possessions – keeping only 100 – so he could live a simpler and more meaningful life.
“In our culture, excess equals success,” he says. That’s another way of saying the more you have, the happier you will be.
Excess actually means extra or surplus. One dictionary defines excess as “unrestrained overindulgence.” Unrestrained overindulgence is success in our culture, and we have bought into it.
In reality, less is better. If we shift the way we live, we will be countercultural. But that’s OK; that’s what the church is called to be. It’s actually better to have less than to have more.
If you own less, you have more time to invest in other things. You don’t have to clean, organize, manage, fix or replace your stuff. You actually save money if you own less. Then you have more money to do the things you really want to do.
You deal with less stress if you own less. Randy Alcorn said, “Every increased possession adds increased stress.” Your possessions will break down, stop fitting you or need to be upgraded.
If you can be content with having less, you can seize opportunities to be generous to those in need. You will also have fewer distractions so you can focus on the things that really matter, that make you happy.
Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived and also the richest, wrote in Ecclesiastes 5:10: “Whoever loves money never has money enough. Whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.”
Only Christ satisfies.
He couldn’t have said it more clearly than he did in Matthew 6:19: “Do not store up for yourself treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal.”
When we have less, we can focus on him.
I’ve noticed a common denominator in our brothers and sisters in Christ in countries all over the third world – a rare and abiding joy. When I meet them, I catch myself wondering, “How can they be so joyful? They don’t have anything.”
Do you hear the motto of our culture coming through in that question? And if we were to say the question out loud, do you know what they would say? “I’m joyful because I don’t have anything.”
When my son and I went to India a few years ago, we spent a lot of time at McDonald’s because he didn’t really want to eat the Indian food.
We were with Joseph – a Christian leader in India and one of the most joyful people I know – one night and asked him to go with us to McDonald’s. We got in line, and he asked me, “What do I do?”
And I said, “You order your dinner.”
He said he’d never been there before, that McDonald’s was way too expensive for him. I told him how to order, and he got a burger and fries. He ate that burger like he was eating a steak at a fine restaurant.
Then he got some ice cream for dessert, and as soon as it hit his tongue, he said in wonder, “Ohhh! It’s cold!” He had never had ice cream before. Joseph doesn’t have very much, but he’s full of joy.
I’ve actually heard conversations with brothers and sisters in the third world who feel sorry for us because we have so much stuff.
They know that less is better. We need to remember that excess is not success; excess is supply – a supply for people in need.
A few weeks ago, while I was cleaning under my bathroom sink, I found a bin of old glasses I had forgotten. There were 16 pairs of nice glasses, just collecting dust.
All of sudden, I thought, “What can we do with these? Who needs them?” And I remembered something from a mission trip to the Amazon. Villagers would try on pair after pair of glasses – glasses we no longer needed – until they found a pair that would enable them to see. And I thought that Jesus was going to make 16 blind people see through my old glasses.
I couldn’t wait for those people to see clearly for the first time. When you can use your excess to meet other people’s needs, it’s a beautiful thing.
Pete Briscoe is the senior pastor of Bent Tree Bible Fellowship in Carrollton, Texas, and president of “Telling the Truth” media ministry.
Publication date: March 30, 2015