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An inverse relationship between stuff & friends

When you get outside American culture, you see a clearer picture of the things that bog us down.  We are probably the most materialistic culture on earth. Our cars are bigger, our houses are bigger, our malls are bigger and our burgers are bigger.  Yet none of this is necessary for l…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

When you get outside American culture, you see a clearer picture of the things that bog us down.  We are probably the most materialistic culture on earth. Our cars are bigger, our houses are bigger, our malls are bigger and our burgers are bigger. 

Yet none of this is necessary for life.  None of it lasts. We all know in our gut that relationships are far more important than our stuff.  But I wonder if we aren’t slow to acknowledge that in fact, there is an inverse relationship between relationships and stuff.  Buy a new boat and eventually it will spring a leak. Your car will need to be washed. Your house needs cleaning and the bigger your lawn, the more mowing you do. Hire a lawn service and you work longer hours to pay them. Bottom line: The more stuff you own, the fewer relationships you can have. When you look at it that way, why wouldn’t you choose relationships?

Our stuff should serve us, but so many of us in America serve our stuff. We have to work jobs that reward our productivity as opposed to being able to work at our dreams. More of us need to hold a massive garage sale to liquidate all the junk that complicates our lives and impedes the fulfillment of our dreams.

More of us need to sell our big houses, unburden ourselves of our boats, and simplify our hard-to-maintain lifestyles. Our quality of life will go up as we reprioritize. We need to move away from the noise and activity that complicates rather than edifies and start investing more in our relationships.  Our children don’t need to have so many toys. They don’t need the best education if it comes at the expense of discipleship and our time.

I’m talking about the kingdom here. It’s the pearl of great price. It’s treasure we can’t see that got buried and needs for us to discover it. It’s a distant echo we dream of but struggle to hear upon waking.

Maybe it’s time to start scheduling that garage sale and get on with your life.

Comments (18)

  • For anyone who reads this post, I’m asking you to please pray (right now) for me to be able to get rid of the junk in my life. This is an area that God continues to speak to me about. This is a huge battle for me. It sounds crazy, but I have such a hard time getting rid of “things”, and I KNOW they hold me hostage!

    “God, please help me get rid of more stuff…”

    Seth, keep it up man. This seems so trite and simple, but it is so true that when we get rid of stuff, it enhances relationships and the kingdom things that are REALLY important.

    Kenny in Boise

  • Wow Seth, that was great. I really like the part about not having the best education if it comes at the expense of discipleship and parents time. I know I have no idea what its like to be a parent, but its always been on my heart that I want to provide the best education for my kids one day and I would do anything to do that. But thinking about this, I know God will provide that for them, even if the “world” thinks less of the education they are placed in. There can be such lost and wounded children who have stellar educations, but no idea about who they were created to be, how much their father in heaven loves them through and example of an earthly father and mother and how much “being in relationship” means.

  • Great blog Seth, I use to have a caravan in Wales, right next to the coast, and every school holiday I would stay there. During the summer I would go for 6 weeks with my kids, leaving a house full of “stuff” behind. I can honestly say that as the weeks went by in Wales I did not want to return to my “stuff”. It was like a clean out in my spirit of holding on to things that are not really needed.My relationship with my kids became to close in those weeks,not being distracted by “stuff”.Housework became almost non existant as it was so easy to dust and vac a caravan.Life became richer as I became “poorer”.
    There is alot of truth in this blog and if I didnt need to house 5 kids I would sell up and live in a caravan!

  • So true Seth. It is that life long question, Do you own stuff or does your stuff own you? I felt that in a real way when we sold a big portion of our stuff and moved down here to South Africa. Truth is, it doesn’t even matter how much stuff you have it can still own you if you don’t watch it and keep your relationship with the one who owns it all first and foremost!

  • This one will preach.. Hope you don’t mind if I quote you a bit… A key word for me lately has been “Simplify”

    you da man

  • Christopher Gilliam

    Seth, Great post for a weed choked out gospel world. Thanks for the chat the other day. Hope to catch up again soon.

  • This is an awesome point to make, because we often think that we need stuff to have friends. I heard a kid once say that he wanted to befriend someone else, but felt like he couldn’t until he got a Wii. He thought he couldn’t invite him over until he had something cool to do.

    I thought I couldn’t have people over for dinner because we were newlyweds and didn’t have a table and chairs…but it turns out that my friends were just as happy huddled around the coffee table with their plates as we were.

    Our culture tells us that we can’t have friends without stuff, but it’s simply not true.

  • Funny you say that, we are having a garage sale right now and are selling stuff we just don’t need. The plan is to use a large percentage of the proceeds to donate to AIM for the Nsoko Project.

  • Although I wholeheartedly agree that Americans have too much stuff and not enough relationship, I want to add that the absence of stuff doesn’t necessarily equal relationships either.

    I moved to a small fishing village on the coast of Peru a year and a half ago. We’ve got all the right ingredients for relational paradise here (simplicity, close quarters, a walking/outside culture, etc), but I’ve discovered that the people are desperately lonely much more so than your average American. I have no idea why that is.

    They’ve never been to someone else’s house for dinner and never been able to share something in confidence. They don’t know where to look for good advice and don’t trust anyone outside their family.

    Bottom line: There’s a darker and deeper enemy than our “stuff.”

  • Simplify! Also the season my husband and I are in. Five years ago we went on a mission trip to Guatemala, our daughter ended up staying and is now married to a Mayan. A dirt poor Guatemalan…literally! God has given us his heartbeat for Guatemala. We have had the garage sales and gave away almost everything we were so busy accumulating and maintaining. What a relief. We helped our son buy a house and moved into his basement suite. Our house is for sale. The Lord asked us to use the profit from the sale of the house to start a work in Guatemala. We have no idea what it will look like, or who the connections are. But we are ready and available. The Lord said He is sending us to poverty to make it prosperous. Please pray for the sale of our house and for God’s timing. Pray for our Pastor to bless us and release us, as they have never sent anyone out. Also..we are believing for business ideas and connections in Guatemala to prosper what God wants to do. My husband will be leaving a very prosperous job and God will be our only source. Everything “simply”…God. It’s …excting! Also…Blessings to you Seth. Our spiritual father lives in another country. We have no one to Father us here. Sometimes the yearning for a father has been heart breaking. But it has also caused us to draw closer to our heavenly Father. Thank you for being a spiritual father to the fatherless on the web. Priceless.
    You inspire us to raise up, disciple and father the young generation. Thank You…. Marg

  • Kenny, I love you man. We both have a lot of stuff in our lives and they disguise themselves as “life enhancers”. I’ll be praying for you and pray for me that I will hold off on stuff from the beginning so it isn’t hard later on in life to let go of it.

  • I agree with the concept of this, but at the same time I think it’s more about how you use what you have not if you have it. I know plenty of people who have been blessed with a huge house and they use it for ministry and use it to bring people together. I also have some good friends with a boat who allow all the neghibors and local high school students to use the boat. Taking people out to ski and teaching youth water sports is a huge ministry. It’s always a balance and our culture errors on the side of too much stuff.

    All that being said…I do have some clutter to get rid of and sort through and appreciate the conviction on that.

  • Amen – just prayed for Kenny. I think that ultimately it’s just a matter of opportunity cost – we need to realize that owning more stuff comes with its own cost (and not just the price of the material goods). Stuff costs us time, more money (for maintenance), and maybe even a little of our sanity if we own more stuff than we can handle.

  • What a timely word for my family and me this morning! Thanks Seth. I am reading Heidi Baker’s latest book “Compelled by Love” and the following quote jumped off the page at me last night…kind of goes along with what you’re saying here:

    ” Why does the kingdom break forth in such power among the poor…?It’s because the poor rely on each other. They need each other. They live in a community of interdependence. They have to share with each other just to survive. Those who have much are often quick to accumulate and slow to give away. Yet those who have little are quick to share. They often give without remembering; they receive without forgetting. The poor are truly rich for the simplicity of their devotion.”

    Oh I have so much to learn…

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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