I’d seen the statistic before — 90 percent of an American’s assets are non-cash. And, throughout my work with Wycliffe’s project marketing team, I’ve had to ask myself: “What does that statistic really mean?” After some research I can tell you, it means “stuff” — mountains of it! I read once that there are 300,000 items in the average American home.
The more I thought about it (and walked around my house counting things), the more it started to make sense. We’ve made a national pastime out of shopping, from malls the size of theme parks to warehouse stores for groceries. Even as kids, we learn that more is better with “collect them all” kid’s meal toys and Christmas wish lists longer than our arms. We love stuff.
And dealing with all this stuff we’ve accumulated can get stressful. A quarter of us can’t park in our two-car garages because they are bursting at the seams (yep, that’s me). And since our closets, attics and basements are also full, nearly 10 percent of us pay to rent a storage unit to house our extra stuff.
It’s estimated that we spend the equivalent of one year of our lives looking for lost items (!), and whole industries are built around helping us organize our stuff. Each January, I buy magazines that share advice on cutting the clutter, but 12 months later ( … or maybe three), I’m right back where I started.
THE STORY OF THE GREEDY FARMER
We may think this is a new-to-us, “first world problem,” but in Luke 12:15-21 Jesus tells a story about a farmer in a similar situation. This farmer found himself #blessed by a terrific crop — so big he didn’t have enough room to store it. But instead of sharing the abundance of food, he decided to tear down his existing barn and build a bigger one to store his goodies. As often happens in parables, this didn’t end well for the farmer. He was busy congratulating himself, not knowing he would die that very night.
A BARN FILLED WITH GOD
How can we learn from the farmer’s mistake? It wasn’t the bumper crop that got him in trouble; it was the decision to hoard it. Scripture packs three big life lessons into these seven verses.
- Our stuff isn’t really ours.
It was God who caused the farmer’s crop to flourish and God is still our source of provision today. When we change our perspective to see our stuff as God’s generosity, it makes it easier to understand how we should steward it.
- What we do with our stuff matters.
We aren’t measured by how much we own. In fact, stuff was of very little importance to Jesus during his time on earth. Instead he invites us to give the resources he provided to help build something eternal — his kingdom. We know it’s “more blessed to give than to receive,” but what if we truly understood what it meant to share what we’d been given? To forgo our wants and help supply the needs of others?
- Stuff can fill a barn, but not a heart.
Possessions can’t meet the needs of your heart, but it can sure create a false sense of security, driving a wedge between you and the one true Provider. The Message ends the passage in Luke 12:15-21 this way: “That’s what happens when you fill your barn with self and not with God.” How are you filling your barn?
DONATE YOUR STUFF
If you want to make room in your “barn” by sharing what God has entrusted to you, please consider giving those items to Wycliffe. We love stuff, too, because lots of items can make a difference in the work of Bible translation.
The jewelry you aren’t wearing could help introduce people around the world to the beauty of God’s Word in their language.
The boat you didn’t take out this summer, the RV in storage, the ATV or motorcycle taking up half your garage or the car you were thinking of trading in — giving your vehicle will make a lasting impact for Bibleless people groups.
You stashed previous models of electronic devices in the back of your desk drawer. Dig them out and give them to Wycliffe. Donating your laptop, smartphone or tablet means more funding for urgent translation projects.
Surplus inventory from your business can be donated and either placed in a translation project or sold, with the proceeds going to support the work.