The joy of stuff
I read the story in “The Christian Century” some time ago. The author and her husband held three teacups in their hands after the husband’s mother downsized and moved to a smaller apartment. The couple talked about which items to keep or to discard in a home that was already full of things. The question they asked about each item was, “Does this item spark joy?”
The writer said she got this concept from Marie Kondo who’s written extensively about de-cluttering one’s life. Kondo says that if an item doesn’t “spark joy” it should be sold or given to another person for whom it would bring pleasure. An interesting corollary to this philosophy is that Kondo even suggests we talk to the item we’re about to discard, thank it for the joy it brought and wish it well in its new place!
I’m not sure our friends would consider us sane if they came to our home and found us talking to the drapery and the silverware, but the basic premise is a good one. We express thanks for the things that bring joy to our lives.
I read the Apostle Paul’s words with new appreciation this week: “Let [us] place confidence in God, who lavishly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (1Timothy 6:17).
The above-cited verse is addressed to “the rich.” Though some might deny this descriptor, all of us are rich. By the grace of God we’re Americans living in a land of plenty. The Global Village at Habitat for Humanity’s International Headquarters in Americus, Ga. has actual housing from the third world–housing we wouldn’t use for our dogs or lawnmowers in America. We are all blessed.
And scripture affirms the concept that God is a lavish giver of things. He’s not a killjoy; he wants us to enjoy possessions. Accordingly, some find joy in coins or stamps, salt shakers or ceramic frogs, political items or books. These things spark joy. And part of our reason for worship is to thank God for the joy we find in things.
But scripture also affirms that we should handle things responsibly by remembering the needs of others around us. The Bible pointedly asserts that if we have goods and see a brother without goods and don’t share, the love of God doesn’t live in our hearts (1 John 3:17).
Ultimately we’ll stand before God to give account of our use of every opportunity and every possession. John the revelator said both “small and great” will stand before the Lord of the universe. The small is you and me. The great is the Kennedys, the Rockefellers, Bezos and Gates. God will hold us accountable for how we handled things.