{I am a Hoarder: A Confession}

I clutch at my stuff, even my money, as if it were mine. I live as if I cannot imagine losing it and yet fearful that I will.  

For many years I have wrestled with God’s promises about money, wishing to be more faithful but living as if I must take care of myself. I realized these things reading the book “Enough” by Will Davis Jr. over the fourth of July week.  And that I have an easy life, even what some would call a life of abundance not because I am overly spiritual, devoted or even worthy of this wealth, rather that I was born into a white, middle class family, in the United States of America. (I wrote about that in A 4th of July Ode to Power & Privilege.)

This begs the question of what I do with all that I have?  And pushing that self-knowledge further, how do I trust God to provide if I think that all that I have has been acquired by my privilege and is preserved by my hoarding?  And most importantly, can I continue to live in this way?

I suppose a part of accepting the idea of ENOUGH is acknowledging that I am a spiritual hoarder.  It’s an attitude, a heart issue, and a matter of trusting God (or not.)

The American Dream is the antitheses of ENOUGH.

The idea of having enough is unsatisfactory, perceived as weak and yet that is the challenge of this simple little book.  It asks, as followers of Christ how do we live counter to the American dream of providing “the very best of everything” for our children — home, education, trips, clothes, electronics, all this is striving after something empty.   And if we do continue to live in this way aren’t we living just like everyone else?  What is distinctive about being a follower of Christ, what should be, when it comes to our possessions and money?

Jesus promises that if we live to bless others we will find joy and hope. Davis suggests that our money isn’t ours, we’re entrusted to manage it, and if we look at our abundance as enough then we can be generous with our excess. Jesus taught, as does all of scripture, that we are to help the poor, widows and orphans. Why do my eyes glaze over when I read these words found hundreds of times in scripture?  I live like I believe that I don’t have enough to be more generous than I already am.

Reality check.

It seems to me, no matter how much money we make, we never have enough by the end of the month.  The more we make the more we spend.  The more we spend the less we have.  We’re caught in this trap of the deceitfulness of wealth, the idea that we always need more and the lie that we’d give more away if we only made more!  Although we pay our debts and other obligations, we save for retirement, we provide for our children, we give to the church and to missions, at the end of the month I am always left worrying about the next month’s debts, obligations,  and needs, … it is an endless cycle of stress and lack of trusting God. 

I wonder why Jesus prayed “give us this day our daily bread?” And why the Israelites only received Manna for the day with no left overs, no saving, no hoarding, why? And John said in 1 John 2:15-17 that “you cannot love the world and God at the same time.”

This book, Enough, poked holes in any fragile peace I have made with our money.  It shone the light of Jesus’ words through all my fragile lies, saying what you have is actually enough.  And if you trust God for today, you will find you have excess.

Your excess is a possible solution to someone else problem.  

My more than enough just might be someone else’s enough?! 

And living with more than enough, makes me believe that somehow that I acquired it, that I’m entitled to it, gives me a false sense of security in it, it distracts me, makes me hungry for more (Ecclesiastes 5:10), and makes me unappreciative of what I already have.  Somehow I did something to get all this.

Davis challenges us to see that if we see that we have enough, even more than enough, then we can ask how we can bless others.  This requires acknowledgment first, then slowing down, listening to God, asking what to do with all this abundance, praying for courage and wisdom and trusting that God is good.  God will always give us enough.

Jesus talked about the perils of wealth, not that it is wicked to be wealthy but that it is dangerous and difficult to sustain our faith and devotion.  Davis argues that we develop a false sense of security and entitlement, a stinginess, even a busyness with maintaining our stuff, which is alluring but dangerous.

As I read the words of scripture with new eyes, asking “what is enough?” I realized that not only do I have more than enough, but I am a hoarder in my heart of hearts.

This hit home the other day in a simple way.  I saw our neighbor’s daughter out on my trampoline, on the 107 degree day, with a friend. They had dragged a sprinkler over and were enjoying jumping in the cool air and water and I was angry.  I wanted her off my trampoline! As I examined my silly response, with this new lens of enough, I realized with a start that I was hoarding.  I cannot express exactly why it bothered me so much, because we’ve told her she’s welcome to use it.  I had this visceral MINE response and I realized in that moment that this is how I look at all my stuff. Protect at all costs as if it belongs to me.

  • A person that knows she has more than enough of everything would have been delighted that her trampoline was being enjoyed and her lawn watered at the same time.
  • A person that knows she has enough doesn’t need to buy things for entertainment or security or out of boredom.
  • A person that knows she has enough gives ten percent to the church at the beginning of the month and trusts, then lives carefully, even frugally knowing that all she has isn’t hers at all.
  • She looks for ways to be generous with her things, time and energy.
  • A person that knows she has more than enough trusts that is she has enough for today, to eat and wear, and that God will give for tomorrow.

This he has promised. This is the life of one who has enough, even more than enough, and knows it!

I challenge you to read this book with open hands and heart.  Be ready for many simple, practical ideas and scriptural proofs that all of us have more than enough.  The question is how will we respond?  Do we trust God to give us enough?  Do we hoard our things and our money as if we have to take care of ourselves?   Or can we accept that we have MORE THAN ENOUGH for the very reason that we might be someone else’s ENOUGH?

This little book is a fast read but if you take it in, if you scour scripture for the truth it contains, you will find that your heart is struck with its conviction.  I pray it is so.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, `What shall we eat?’ or `What shall we drink?’ or `What shall we wear?’ 

For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

A part of the Patheos Book Club on the book “ENOUGH: Finding More By Living with Less” by Will Davis Jr.

It doesn’t end there.  Enough, Continued.

EATING ANIMALS by Jonathan Safran Foer

For the last two weeks I have been enjoying life meat free.  I never thought that was possible.  Here’s why I no longer eat animals from America’s factory farms.

This review originally appeared on The Englewood Review of Books website.

 

“99% of the meat sold in the United States today comes from a factory farm.”

In the 1970s, my missionary parents uprooted us from the barefoot paradise of Papua New Guinea and planted us in Southern California.  My mother, suffering a bizarre set of health issues, began looking for answers in healthy eating practices.  While other kids ate Twinkies and Ding Dongs, Mother read Adelle Davis books on nutrition and force-fed us cod liver oil.

Perhaps because of this, my need to fit in urged me to become a steak-loving “normal” person. Food, for me, was always more than mere sustenance; it was a visceral, beautiful, even creative thing. But as far being a political statement or a critical health issue, well that was strictly for the weirdoes.

Reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals was the first time that I seriously considered that the Chicken Parmesan in front of me or the meat neatly stacked in my refrigerator was once a living thing.  And confronted by the horrors of modern animal farming, as recounted in shocking detail by Foer, I had to face certain facts: factory farms are disgusting and dangerous for our health.

Foer made a three-year investigation into the sickening story that is American meat, describing with ghastly precision the disease, deformity and eventual mutilation of animals that defines factory farming today. I was filled with revulsion as Foer chronicled his grisly experience and quickly came to understand why Ellen DeGeneres has called Eating Animals “one of the most important books [she’s] ever read.”

The story is heart-wrenching, repulsive and barbaric.  One learns that the idyllic family farms we picture in our minds (think Charlotte‘s Web) have been transformed into secretive, highly secured factories lined with rows of “confinement pens” where animals languish, never seeing real daylight.  Foer admits to clandestinely breaking into a turkey farm to discover locked pen doors, gas masks on the walls, chicks with blackened beaks, and both dead and living birds matted with blood and covered in sores.  He details dozens of eerily similar stories indicting the farming of pigs, chickens, cows and even fish:

“The power brokers of factory farming know that their business model depends on consumers not being able to see (or hear about) what they do.”

In a riveting (if also occasionally, rambling) narrative, Foer contends the meat industry is corrupt, with structures supporting the consumer-driven “need” for cheap meat.  Foer notes that prices haven’t substantially increased since the mid-fifties, and that the “efficiencies” of the factory system are the source of this “benefit.”  I was stunned to learn that only 1% of the meat we consume comes from family-run old-fashioned farms.  The rest is from factories where biodiversity is replaced by genetic uniformity, and the antibiotic-laced animals may be contributing to strange flu like symptoms ravaging millions of Americans.

With gritty specifics, allowing for many perspectives, Foer draws personal conclusions, while making it clear that our collective actions can change these practices.  But only by agreeing individually to stop purchasing factory farmed meat.

In this philosophical horror story, I was confronted with my “need” and realized I can no longer be a part of supporting this corrupt system.  A “normal” evangelical Mom, I am choosing to no longer eat animals unless they come locally and humanely from a farm.

We the collective consumer must make conscious choices, even sacrifices.   Foer says it well, “We are defined not just by what we do. We are defined by what we are willing to do without.”  We need to put meat in the middle of the plate of our public discourse.

Melody