It's consignment season in my little corner of the world, which means that two weekends ago, I spent nearly an entire Saturday cleaning out closets, sorting through clothes, and tagging all the stuff we needed to get rid of. When I sat back and looked at the mountain of stuff surrounding me, I was disgusted.
It sickened me to see such a gross overabundance of clothes, toys, and baby paraphernalia when there are so many who go without. My girls have so many clothes that they can't wear everything they own in one season. I can't tell you how many times I've resold clothes with tags from the original purchase still hanging on them. It's gross. And it has to stop.
Did you know that in the developing world, most people survive on less than $1 a day? What if your yearly salary was less than $400? Could you make it?
Several years ago, I went to Ghana. When I was there, walking through villages and observing the abject poverty around me, I couldn't help but be overwhelmed by the abundance in my own life. When I sit down to pay the bills each month, the last thing I feel is wealthy, but the truth is that compared to the vast majority of this world's inhabitants, we are quite wealthy indeed.
Don't you think that life would be simpler if you could just get rid of all the stuff? How much time do you spend cleaning up the explosion of toys in your kids' rooms? What if you got rid of half of it? How many hours of your life could you reclaim?
Don't you think that you would feel better if you weren't chained to all your stuff? How much debt have you racked up buying stuff that you can't afford and don't need? What if you sold all the stuff and paid off your bills? Can you imagine that type of freedom?
Don't you think that it would be rewarding to stop acquiring and start giving instead? What are the needs in your community? Are you willing to say no to that new shirt that you don't really need so you have room at the margins to give to those who have real needs?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, then you're in the boat with me. Here are three tangible ways we can trim the fat and give out of our excess.
1. Sponsor a child (or two or three) through Compassion International.
After my trip to Ghana, I wanted to do something tangible to help alleviate the poverty in the region. So we sponsored a little boy through Compassion. We've been sending $38 a month to the ministry for the past seven years. He's 14 years old now, and because we took the money we could have spent on ourselves and sent it to Compassion instead, he's gone to school, learned about Jesus, gotten new clothes, received medical attention, and eaten good, nutritious food. If that sounds good to you, then hop on over to Compassion and sponsor a child today. There are hundreds waiting to get into the programs.
2. Get rid of your stuff.
There's a story in the gospels about a good guy (who also happened to be rich) who asked Jesus what it takes to live forever. He's lived a pretty good life and kept all the commandments, but when Jesus tells him to sell all that he has and give it to the poor, the guy walks away dejected. Why? He was too attached to his stuff. He had so much that he couldn't fathom giving it away. I relate a little too closely to that rich young man. I like my stuff. I want to keep it. And that's precisely why it's important to give it away. Have a yard sale. Clean out the closets and put the items in a consignment sale. Give gently used toys to foster families. Talk to the school counselor and ask her to give outgrown coats to kids who come to class without them. There is so much we can do - we just have to be willing to let go.
3. Create room at the margins.
Did you know that if you were an Israelite in Old Testament times and you happened to own a field, you weren't allowed to harvest the entire thing? You were supposed to leave room at the edges for the poor to come and gather what they needed. It's how they took care of the needy in their midst. Those who didn't have a field of their own came and reaped what they didn't sow (think Ruth in Boaz's field). Now, think about your own "fields." Where can you create some margin to help people who need help the most? Can you take some money from your eating out budget and put it in a "giving to others" fund instead? What about your clothing budget? Or your manicure budget? Or your vacation budget? Pray about it. Then take a good, long, hard look at the numbers, tighten up your belt, and give the excess away.
I'm going to be honest and say that this is an ongoing battle for me. No matter how hard we try to fight the influx of stuff, it just has a way of creeping in. But as Christians, we are called to give freely from what we have, and the truth is that we have so, so much. These changes may seem small. And it's true. There are much bigger, more radical things we could do. But let's start with baby steps. Never forget that if a bunch of us do a lot of small things, it will make a big difference. We're in this together.
I hope you'll join me in the fight against excess. If you do, make sure to leave a comment and let me know how it's going. I want to hear from you!
Until next time, grace and peace.