Living a Life of Excess

“Then he said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.’” (Luke 12:15)

Years ago, I went to a birthday party for a young child. In attendance were several neighborhood children and some adult relatives. So, there were lots of presents.  Midway through opening his gifts, the guest of honor looked up and said, “No more.”  On what would normally be a festive occasion – the child had become so overwhelmed with all the attention directed at him and, no doubt the massive amount of stuff he received, that he just had to quit. Over the years we have resided on this earth, most of us have accumulated such a material abundance that we too would have every right to feel overwhelmed.  Forget those who could be labeled as hoarders or pack rats, we simply have far too many possessions. Indeed, if you have duplicates of certain items, have more than one junk drawer, or have regularly contemplated renting a storage unit – you should consider that you just might be living a life of excess.

Society tries to sell us on the idea that having more in our lives should be our goal. Restaurants serve ‘all you can eat’ buffets. Advertisements constantly push things we absolutely need to buy because, of course, what we now have isn’t good enough. We live in a culture where each of us is viewed as a consumer and what we buy impacts our social status as well as our self-image.  Professionals have stated that generations of over-indulged American kids are growing up seriously lacking in discipline, direction, and conviction. The common denominator here is excess. Without a doubt – we are out of control and will most likely never recover from an agenda that promotes every opportunity to binge. It’s hard to keep your eyes on heavenly treasures when so much value is placed on earthly ones. We have greatly distanced ourselves from the philosophy of Socrates who once stated, “The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.”

The wise King Solomon once stated: “Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasure. I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labors. But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere” (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11). Jesus knew that worldly stuff could be enticing and that living with excess can take over your life. When He called His disciples into ministry, He told them – “Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts–no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep” (Matthew 10:9-10). You see, Jesus didn’t want them to be anxious about stuff. God would provide what they needed . . . and just enough of it. This was later echoed by the Apostle Paul as he wrote, “Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, ‘I will never fail you. I will never abandon you’” (Hebrews 13:5).

When accumulating stuff becomes our norm, attempting to live a life of moderation is an uphill battle. At times it can feel like our stuff owns us rather than the other way around. Eventually it robs us of the joy we can find when we are able to spend more time focusing on Heavenly things. Likewise it erodes our faith when we trust more in our stuff than we do in God, thus leaving us still desiring what our hearts really need—Him. The only area in which we don’t need to be concerned about moderation is in our relationship with God. We are to love Him without limits – with all our heart, soul, and mind (Luke 10:27). The more we ask Him to fill us and occupy our lives with His Holy Spirit, the easier it becomes to live in moderation in all earthly things. God’s Holy Word tells us: “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19). The Lenten season is a wonderful time to experience a spiritual journey of uncluttering. Be like my young friend those many years ago. Give yourself permission to let go of some of the things you are holding onto. You will find that your hands are now free to do some wonderful life-changing activities, as you suddenly move from saying “No More Stuff” to “More of You, Lord.”

REFLECTION: What is your definition of “enough”? How has holding on to all the stuff of this life been keeping God at a distance? What is stopping you from trying to find your own path to less by getting rid of the mindset that more is better? Are there some initial steps you can take this week to make this happen? How will you hold yourself accountable for doing so?

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