I have a daily wrestle. Perhaps I’m not alone? I see things – clothes, shoes, furniture, photos of other people’s holidays on Facebook, pretty rooms and crafts and teapots on Pinterest…and I want. And yet at the same time don’t want to want.
I realised how strongly I felt about this tension when I read a column in Sydney MX (commuter newspaper of moderate quality) on Monday about the writer’s sadness at somehow resisting buying a pair of shoes. She felt so sad to have resisted that she planned to buy them the next day and looked forward to the ‘joy’ and ‘satisfaction’ in buying another pair of shoes which she admitted didn’t need. Then she predicted the satisfaction would last only until the moment she saw some other pair of shoes in the shop window while leaving the store.
She said ‘don’t judge me’ (really!) which on one level is fair – I’m rich by world standards and have more than I need. I too have felt happy about certain purchases and yet, still wanted more. But I’m pretty tempted to – as I read it I felt a growing wretchedness in my stomach. Has humanity sunk so low as to place hope in shoes to make them truly (temporarily) happy? This ‘unstash’ concept I stumbled upon via Facebook seems to give voice to the ache I feel for stuff to be put in its place.
At the start of year I resolved to remember something to be thankful for every day. I don’t always remember, but from time to time, when I do stop and be thankful, it makes such a difference to the sense of contentment I have with life. It makes me remember what matters. Friends, healing, answered prayer, the things I’m learning from living in community with friends, for Jesus, for life, for family.
We were chatting about these money issues in our small group last night too as we wrestled with Paul’s words to Timothy in chapter 6 of his first letter. He counsels Timothy in verse 6 that ‘godliness with contentment is great gain.’ His charge to the rich (definitely me and most Aussies) in verses 17 to 19, is to be ready to do good works, generous and ready to share. We talked about how to apply this to our lives, especially in the context of being members of our church in Redfern with many people with high needs in our community and congregation. How do we help the homeless man who sleeps on our church porch when he doesn’t seem to want anything we offer? We don’t have the answers. We observed that the ‘rich’ in this world are often lacking in time, while one of the needs of the poor is help, obviously in tangible sometimes financial ways but perhaps even more so in the form of time – of people willing to invest in them.
It’s almost a month since I completed my two month challenge of only purchasing essential things. I was really inspired by seeing Margaret’s story at Colour Conference and so I have chosen to support the Compassion Leadership Program with some of the money I saved. It’s a small response but I pray it helps one of the bright, promising future leaders in one of their programs. I always need to pray I remember Paul’s words about being generous – especially with time, energy and money.
As our friend Carolyn pointed out, the only thing that gets into heaven is people. We take nothing into the world and we can’t take anything out. Even if we don’t have all the answers, are we fighting the good fight, pursuing godliness and taking hold of eternal life.