Warning. I’m going to ramble today. I’m not sure where my thoughts are headed, but I know God wants me to explore them.
Over the last few years, I’ve grown increasingly uncomfortable over not only the excess of our culture, but also the excess in my own life.
Some of the signs of my personal excess? Jeans a bit too tight, spoiling food in the fridge, and caffeine addiction. Empty rooms in the house, but no empty hangers in the closet.
The contemplation escalated when my husband set a tentative retirement date. We began talking more about the details. Where will we live? How much money will be required for our twilight years? What kind of house do we “need?”
The conversations with my husband sparked additional thoughts. How much is enough? How do we define “need?” How much should we keep and how much should we give?
Same message of “excess” from different directions
God has repeatedly called the issue to my attention. About a month ago, I saw Mike Huckabee interview Francis Chan. The pastor talked honestly about his own journey to downsize his family’s life. To make room for others and their needs.
Last week the ladies Bible study coordinator at church handed me a copy of “The 7 Experiment” by Jen Hatmaker to review for possible use. I knew immediately it wasn’t a coincidence. Here’s the description on the back of the book:
Fight back against overindulgence, materialism, and greed by joining Jen Hatmaker in “The 7 Experiment.” This 9-session Bible study will teach you how to stage a mutiny against excess in seven critical areas of life. Food. Clothes. Possessions. Media. Waste. Spending. Stress. Come honest and ready to untangle the clutter in your life. Discover how temporarily disengaging from excess can allow God’s heart to break through your stuff and open your eyes to the things that really matter.
Hmm. I think she’s got something. “Stuff” can easily get in the way of real, spiritual substance.
Warning about excess from God’s Word too
This morning I read this from the pen of Peter:
As we know Jesus better, His divine power gives us everything we need for living a godly life. He has called us to receive His own glory and goodness. And by that same mighty power, He has given us all of His rich and wonderful promises. He has promised that you will escape the decadence all around you caused by evil desires and that you will share in His divine nature. So make every effort to apply the benefits of these promises to your life.
2 Peter 1:3-5a, NLT
God calls us to lives of holiness through a growing knowledge of Christ. But the “decadence” or “corruption” of the world can easily get in the way. Our desire for physical things enslaves us. It holds our thoughts, time, and energy captive. The craving for “more” feeds the diseased condition of our souls like sugar feeds yeast.
At the least, the clutter of “excess” distracts us from doggedly pursuing the things of God. But the potential for much worse crouches near. Ignoring those in need.
I don’t know where this exploration is headed. I long to want to follow wherever God leads. Will it be a physical reduction of the material things in my life? Perhaps. Will it include purposefully seeking out those in need? Likely. But, I’m not sure yet of all the ramifications.
Let’s talk about this today:
- Have you had any of the same thoughts?
- Do you see excess in your own life?
- How does our materialistic culture affect our faith?
- And most importantly, what do we need to do about it?
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Wow! This is sort of in the same vein as Cynthia’s blog today…keeping up with the “Joneses.” This is especially prevalent in the culture in which we live. However, it’s probably true in every culture, just to a different degree.
I definitely see excesses in my own life. I’m certain they take away from my “doggedly pursuing the things of God.” You’ve given me much to ponder, to bring before the Lord and, hopefully, change me. Thank you!
Jane, I am a bit nervous where all this contemplation might lead me! I want to be open and obedient to God’s direction, but I know I’m weak… Thanks for stopping by. I will go check out Cynthia’s blog today.
I read “7” and I was so convicted. I am still processing it. I know that I am beyond blessed. I am hoping this summer to write more about my thought on “7” and what changes I am making. I look forward to following your journey as well!
Hi Gina! I hope to lead a group through “7” sometime soon. Maybe I’ll be “braver” to tackle big changes with a group along for the journey!
Kathy, I’ve been thinking about this as well. I’m currently writing an article on how to raise compassionate kids. I think this ties in with our excess. All too often our kids are willing to give up their old and worn toys or clothes but are not so willing to give up their favorite things. I think I need to do a better job in down sizing certain areas of my life so my kids can learn how to live with less.
Jennifer, I think you’re right. The more we are enslaved by our stuff, the more selfish and less concerned about the needs of others we become. You are a wise mom to seek to break the cycle now with your children by setting the example.
This has been in my thoughts as well. I bought The 7 Experiment earlier this year and during Lent I felt convicted to give up jewelry, accessories and excess clothing. I lived those 6 weeks wearing mostly black pants paired with a small selection of tops. It was an interesting experience. It made dressing for work much quicker. It really was freeing. It also made me appreciate what I have. I really do enjoy clothes and accessories but I have too much. It takes too much of my time. I want to dig deeper into the book this summer when I have more time to study. I was impressed that she tackled this subject and she really asks for active involvement. She wants participants in the study to give up stuff , give away stuff and change wasteful habits. Good for her and for you for speaking out on this!
Miriam, thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. I am really looking forward to going through Jen Hatmaker’s study in depth and participating in the way she suggests. I love that you felt your experience was freeing. We can be enslaved by our stuff. I know God is just getting me started on this journey. Excited, but also a bit nervous about where He’s going to take me!
Great timing, or should I say God’s timing. I think this is a subject for all of us as we look around at the rest of the world. I’m thinking of the factory collapse in Bangladesh. Of course we don’t have to leave this country to see the people who would love to have what most of us take for granted. If we are able to purchase clothes, food and have a place to live we are rich compared to the rest of the world. And we are so very wasteful! Anyway, I hope you do some kind of online study on this subject. Count me in. Thanks for being here.
Hi Lynn! I definitely believe God is speaking to His people on this topic! In addition to the conversation here, I’ve had texts and FB comments today from women all saying God is impressing them with the same truths. Thank you for your suggestion! I actually had a thought this afternoon if maybe God wanted me to do something more on this blog. Not sure where He will take this. From what I’ve seen from Jen Hatmaker’s study, it is an excellent resource. Maybe I’ll dig into “7” and share the journey here!
Oh Kathy…. You really hit a nerve with me on this. I’m so aware of the excess of everything around me. Frightening how the world has become so motivated and stimulated by stuff rather than the Glory of God, relationships, family….or just peoples souls and what Jesus asked us to be moved to do for His Kingdom.
I also saw Francis Chan on Huckabee. That interview blew me away. But even before that, the Holy Spirit had been speaking this and pressing it into my mind and my heart. To just scale it down. Oh, to live that freely from the things we think we”NEED.”
I recently read something about getting rid of 100 things in our homes. I got a basket I had, and I have been putting things in it. There are probably about 20 things in there. At first I thought, wow… 100 things… That would be a lot of stuff. But compared to what I have…. it really won’t be.
All I know, is that I am sure that scaling down, at least on THINGS is what He wants me working towards now…. and as I do that faithfully, I’m trusting that He will show me how and what to do next.
Have been looking for a summer study during my break. Think I will look into this one that you mentioned. Really feel like it was no accident that I saw your post, and then came and read your blog!!
Thank you for calling attention to this…. I think He is moving us to refocus back to the Commission He left us with.
Hi Toni, thanks for coming by and sharing about what God has been impressing on you. Like you, I believe this will be an ongoing process. Thankfully, God deals gently with His children! I want to follow Him in this where He leads. Maybe I should do something this summer on my blog about all this!
Hi Kathy: This is weird, because I’ve been thinking about this too. For me, wanting to be like everyone else; having “stuff’, lead to credit card debt. And it didn’t make me feel better, it just made me feel worse.
The only excess I need is an excess of Jesus….
I’ll admit I’m just at the thinking stage, but I think if I got rid of most of my stuff and moved somewhere smaller, life would be less complicated; easier to focus on Him…
Carol, I love this statement: “The only excess I need is an excess of Jesus!” And I think clearing away distractions is a great place to start. Still trying to figure out what that will look like for me.
Like the rest of the Ladies that have commented God has been working on me . Ive been wanting another house one with a bigger master bedroom & bath , laundry room , screened in porch , nicer kitchen cabinets better neighborhood etc u get the picture , while my house is more than enough for me and Bill and its not that ugly of a house its just I think it would be nice and don’t we deserve it attitude … God finally told me STOP and look at the future Retirement is coming and I would rather have a house that is paid for then a new fancy one with all the things I think I need . I would love to do this study and the more the merrier for the journey I so desire more of Christ and less of me .. Blessing to you and your ministry and we miss you at Fannin .
Hi Carol! Thank you for your honesty! I’ve had similar feelings. I will be seriously praying about how God may want to use my journey, “The 7 Experiment,” or some other study here on this blog this summer. Hope you will join the journey wherever it goes. I miss all of you at Fannin too! Maybe I can get back for a visit soon!
Very interesting discussion. I look forward to your blog on the subject. I have spent some time the past two weeks looking for two photographs from my school days. We are getting ready for our 50th class reunion next Spring. In searching through drawers, file cabinets, closets, etc for these two ittsy bittsey photos I’ve cleaned and cleaned!!!! How many little pieces of papers, old newspapers, notes to self, etc…can one person hold on to?? I’m pretty good about cleaning things every year or two but it was amazing and distressing how much I hold on to!!!
Hi Pat, thanks for stopping by! I need to do some “cleaning out” too. You are so right about what we hold onto. All that stuff can become a burden, weighing us down. I’m excited about my upcoming journey through “The 7 Experiment.” Looking forward to what God is going to do!
I am having conflicting views with some of my church brothers and sisters regarding this same topic, but especially with these “high profile pastors” (Hinn, Bonnke, etc). They keep telling me to “judge not and that these “pastors” need to be in a certain place in a hurry??? I don’t buy it and am now questioning the “followers” of these Pastors?
Hi Lynne, thanks for stopping by. I understand what you’re saying. Just like Christians can easily get caught up in materialism, we can also get caught up in the desire for celebrity. I do know many high-profile Christians who are godly men and women who are seeking hard after God. But I’m afraid there are also some who have allowed popularity to draw their focus away from Christ. It’s important we pray for all of them that God would protect their hearts and keep them firmly attached to His!