Jesus says quite simply, "do not store up your treasures here on earth;" and I have a house full of stuff.
It is easy to make excuses. "These aren't my treasures," I say to myself, as I order 6 more books I probably won't read. "I'm not attached to it." Then why do I keep buying it, why do I keep adding, keep collecting, keep thinking one more book, or dress, or piece of camping gear is going to make things better? It's time to name it for what it is: greed.
There is a story in Scripture about Israel on its flight out of Egypt. God has provided everything they needed on this journey, most incredibly-manna. The bread of heaven that literally falls from the sky. It is sweet like honey, and it never fails. But one hot day in the desert, Israel gets greedy. They demand meat, essentially saying to God "what you've provided isn't enough."
Perhaps one of the greatest systemic moral issues facing the church today is greed. It's a new day, but the same old story: we do not trust the daily bread God has given, and our mouths water for more. In America, our greed has risen to never-before-seen levels. Many of us are living like the kings and queens of ages past. We eat what we want and when we want, without concern for where it came from, who prepared it, and if it's even in season. In many churches we idolize bigger budgets, bigger buildings, the cheapest option because it allows us to get more. Our greed has led us to consume far more than our fair share of what this lovely world has to offer, and it's not sustainable.
But greed is more than just an environmental issue-it is also a spiritual one. Several months ago, I visited the ecumenical Christian community called Taize, in Southern France, where people come from all over the world to fall into a rhythm of prayer. The brothers who run Taize have taken vows of poverty; they keep only what they need, and give everything else to the poor. It is hard to imagine their lifestyle at first, until you see how their lives and good work are completely wrought with joy.
As a visitor at Taize, you line up in for meals in long lines, and you take whatever food they place in your hands-be it slimy soup or green bean mush. There is no choice involved, and it is not fine dining. My first few days in the community, I was less than pleased with the fare; I was grumbling for more, asking for "meat" so to speak. But after a few days of denying my desire for more-it went away. I realized I was getting my fill, and it was daily bread enough for me. In that uncluttered space of Taize, free of too many choices and too much stuff, I re-discovered a joyous life of prayer that had been lost.
I discovered what God was trying to teach Israel in the wilderness, where were free from Pharoah's bling and Egypt's fine dining: God is enough.
Since my return, I have been considering the toll that all my stuff is taking on my spiritual life. I have been cleaning up, and throwing out. And you know, without all the clutter, it's easier to pray. Without putting my hope in things purchased, I am free to trust in the One who is enough. So "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven...For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."