This is not about me…
but then again — maybe it is.
There is a contemporary television reality show popular in the U.S. called Hoarders. If we have not seen it, we probably have at least heard about it. It is a show that features various individuals who have a compulsive habit of purchasing, collecting, or by other means acquiring things. A statistical number was shown before one episode which stated that over 3 million people struggle with the disorder of hoarding and the show labels it as a mentally functional disorder.
As unfathomable as it may seem to some, one individual was interviewed on this show who had so much clutter accumulated in the home that he could no longer sleep in his own bed, shower in his own bathroom, cook in his kitchen, sit on his own couch, and there was barely room for his legs to fit in the bathroom if he sat on the commode – all because of the mountains of clutter and trash. One woman’s family had to be evicted from their home and the entire structure gutted and fumigated as the years of hoarding uncovered decomposed cat carcasses which had infested her home with maggots, filth, and rot.
To those who have never dealt with the struggle of hoarding, this type of behavior seems ludicrous and simply can be fixed by cleaning out and getting a fresh start; however, this is far from the truth. As one man put it in a private interview, “If I woke up in the morning and all of this was gone, I would freak out. This is who I am. This is my life.” Hoarding, whether openly practiced or secretly accomplished, is something that is very real and can actually creep up on a person over time without them clearly recognizing it until it has become completely overwhelming. Overcoming the lifestyle of hoarding must first incorporate a new mindset and then the practice of developing a new lifestyle can follow.
As James wrote in chapter 5 of his epistle to the twelve tribes of Israel, he cautioned and yes, even rebuked, some of the behavioral practices of the day which would hamper the spiritual condition of the people.
1. Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you. 2. Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten. 3. Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure! 4. Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the lord of Sabaoth. 5. You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. James 5:1-5 (NASB)[i]
James speaks of the misuse of riches in a monetary sense – but what if we were to take this passage and apply it to our individual lives and our churches in a spiritual sense? Instead of reading this scripture with money in mind, think on the riches in this passage as making reference to spiritual knowledge, wisdom, teaching, and training.
What if we look at what we, as Christians, have gained and continue to gain in knowledge and wisdom from not only personal Bible study, but corporate worship, small group Bible training, class fellowships, praying with fellow believers, singing praises with various groups and settings, etc. If we were to take the time and with each spiritual gain we accumulate, signify that gain by a small box and stack it in our home, or maybe in our church – how long would it take before we could not sleep in our own bed, eat in our own kitchen, sit on our own pew, or stand in the foyer of our own church because of the spiritual clutter?
This gives hoarding a whole new meaning. Hoarding is not only physical. Hoarding is not only the accumulation of things. In a James[ii] study, Beth Moore is quoted as saying, “hoarding is withholding what we don’t even use from others who would treasure it.” This should make some of us want to rip open our spiritual closets and began feverishly tearing out anything that is beginning to smell and decay because of lack of use.
What we have been spiritually given through the blood of Jesus Christ was never meant to be taken as a gift, claimed as our own, and made fat with years of Christian training and accumulation. The sacrifice Jesus made was meant to be accepted on a personal basis and shared with others around us – others who would treasure it as their own. Our church is weak today because of a lack of strong lay leadership. There is stark evidence that our families and communities are suffering from it. Could it be that if we look deep within ourselves and see what has crept up on us without us even recognizing it is a sick spiritual condition of hoarding? Could it be that we are saying the same thing as the man who was fearful to give anything away, “I can’t part with it – this is my life.”
If we look beyond ourselves and start giving away what we have, could this spiritual condition improve? Will we stand before Christ one day and be proud of the “spiritual stuff” we have accumulated for him? Or will our spiritual gold and silver be nothing but rust and decay that stands as a witness against us which will consume us like fire?
Spiritual hoarding. It is certainly something to think about, now isn’t it? Perhaps it starts with a new mindset. A mindset which says, I will live my life on spiritual purpose. The purpose of practicing the deliberate giving away of everything I gain on a spiritual level — giving it away to someone who will treasure it, gain from it, and in turn learn from me how to pass it on to someone else.
Is the closet door of our spiritual heart bulging because of the overflow, yet, it seems we are not going anywhere with God? Perhaps years of hoarding has our spirit barricaded and trapped like a shackled prisoner. Could it be that it has convinced us this is all there is to the spiritual life — all receiving and no giving? Freedom, renewal, breaking the bonds of entrapment begins by letting go. It begins with a new mindset. It begins by giving it away. Sharing what we have been given with those who will treasure it as their own. There’s no better time than now to roll up our sleeves and start shoveling out. There’s no better time to be set free from spiritual hoarding.
At this point, we could be saying — “This is not about me —
but then again, maybe it is.”