School fliers arrive in the mail touting one-cent glue and crayons for a quarter. Week after week in August, big chain stores make me believe that I need several hundred binders; they make me wonder how I am existing without hole reinforcements for loose-leaf paper. Flash forward to September when I have enough glue for three kindergarten classes and possess more hole punches and push pins than any family would ever need in their entire life. Not to mention, my collection of binders in rainbow colors has grown exponentially and all of my children are wearing hole reinforcements like French manicures.
I’m not sure why I do this to myself. Not just at back-to-school time, but practically every time I am presented with an opportunity to acquire something with little or no money. A clearance rack, a yard sale, a dollar store–suddenly I should be on a TLC show because my appetite for inexpensive material things is insatiable. Please don’t get me wrong; I’m not opposed to having extra things on hand. I totally see the value in that. My issue is having things on hand and then never using them. My problem is stockpiling. Truly, if there is ever a shortage of glue at your local office supply store, it’s probably because I bought it all.
Over a year ago, God began speaking with me about my consumption and how it was consuming my life. He didn’t call me out specifically on my abundance of school supplies, but rather in three areas that drastically affect my life. Those areas were my physical consumption, mental consumption, and spiritual consumption. Changing those areas of my life has been a process that I must consciously make every day. It’s not easy, and in all honesty I often fail, but I keep trying.
In Luke 12:13-21 Jesus warned us against acquisition that consumes our soul. Remember the story of the rich fool? Much like myself, the rich ruler was squirrel-like and really enjoyed stuff. As a matter of fact, he liked stuff so much that when his barn wasn’t big enough to hold all he had, he ripped it down and built bigger buildings in its place. He was pleased that he had enough to last him through the years and he thought he could finally take it easy. That very night God took the man’s life, proving that a rich relationship with God is more important than earthly wealth.
Here are three things to learn from Jesus’ parable regarding our consumption. We need to learn these points, because “stuff” has the ability to consume us and get in the way of having a rich relationship with God.
Just because I can, doesn’t mean I should. This saying has become a bit of mantra in my own mind. I can easily buy 20 packs of crayons at a quarter a box, when in reality I will only use 10 at the most this school year. Why would I buy twice the amount necessary? Baller status? Probably, because everyone celebrates moms with large quantities of crayons. Seriously, though I have a tendency to be a bit gluttonous in my behavior when it comes to shopping at thrift stores, eating sweets, or watching television. It feels good, it tastes good, it makes me happy. Notice the common thread. It is all about me. When the focus is on me and mine there is no room for Jesus. I need to constantly exercise self-restraint. I need to look past the immediate gratification and focus on the overall effect my behavior has on others and on my life, whether it is eating the entire cake or blowing $20 every week at yard sales. Just because I can, doesn’t mean I should. The rich fool could and he did without looking beyond himself.
Stuff requires space and maintenance. Our rich foolish friend recognized part of this. He knew he needed a place to keep the abundance of food he had grown. The storehouse he had, which had been fine up to this point, no longer seemed sufficient so he tore that barn down and built something bigger and better. His hope was that with all the stuff in storage he could kick back and take it easy. If the Lord had spared his life, he would have soon learned that easy and stuff don’t go together. Stuff needs to be cleaned, organized, and maintained. The more stuff you have, the more work that comes with it. Stuff complicates life and often creates discontent about the things we’ve already been blessed with. It has the ability to rob us of our time and our joy.
We are meant to share. The rich fool was greedy. He had so much that he easily could have taken his abundance and shared it with plenty left for himself, but instead he stockpiled . Jesus had told the listeners of his story, “Life is not measured by how much you own.” If the greatest commandment is to love God, love others, and love yourself, then I’m thinking life must be measured by love. 1 John 3:17 says, “If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion–how can God’s love be in that person?” The rich fool didn’t have God’s love. He didn’t have love for anything or anyone but his stuff and himself. God proved in a big way that his selfish lifestyle is not a life to be lived. God’s love for us and others is shown when we give, not when we keep.
Many lessons are going to be taught this August and September, but one of the most important ones to learn is to not to let our consumption consume us. If we do this, back-to-school season will make us squirrely.
Back-to-school Encouragement For Moms
This post is a part of the Back-to-school Encouragement For Moms series. Be sure to check out the others posts to be encouraged!