For many years people have enjoyed a reality TV show titled, “Hoarders.” The show goes into the homes of people for whom every surface of the house—floors, counters, stairways, and bedrooms—are packed with so much stuff that one literally has to walk on top of the boxes, packages, papers, and trinkets. When the house is full, the garage is next, and then even the porch and yard. The hosts of the show try to clean out the house, but usually the homeowner, even though inviting the help, can’t seem to part with anything. Truthfully, the homes look horrific, but you “can’t not look” in fascination.
Psychologists say there might be a variety of reasons people hoard. They may see value in the items, though there may not be any. They fear running out of items, or think they will need them later. Sometimes they place an emotional attachment to their possessions, making it hard to let them go.
We often look at hoarders and think, “How can they be that way?” The truth is that our spiritual house is often gummed up, as well. We attach value to things that have little eternal value. Like the parable of the man who wanted to build bigger barns to hold his stash of stuff, we often think piling stuff up will make us immune to life’s chaos and pain. And yes, sometimes we put too strong an emotional attachment on things that can’t give us the hope or healing for which we yearn.
When a TV hoarder gives in and lets the stuff get cleared away, they are often surprised and relieved. The surprise is that there is such a wonderful house below all that junk, one that they can enjoy living in again. The relief is that all of that stuff created a world of stress and anxiety, and now they get the joy of living more freely and simply.
The same is true for you and me. Our stuff isn’t meant to make our lives worse. It is meant to make our lives better. It isn’t meant to clutter our lives, but to free us for more meaningful living. It isn’t meant to control us, but to be used by us in a way that brings joy to us and life to others.
That is stewardship—clearing the clutter to find the joy of home, of freedom, and of the ability to use our life for God.
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Director of Development
United Methodist Foundation of Indiana