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What is not given is lost

I can be a pack rat. I hate to throw things away. The one thing I’ve got going for me is that I hate shopping.   Still, stuff accumulates around me. The attic is full. The garage is full. My closet is full of journals & picture books & pants that don’t fit me so well. When we were…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
I can be a pack rat. I hate to throw things away. The one thing I’ve got going for me is that I hate shopping.
Still, stuff accumulates around me. The attic is full. The garage is full. My closet is full of journals & picture books & pants that don’t fit me so well. When we were younger, we used to cruise garage sales. It was a kind of sport. And I’ve got some of that random stuff still cluttering my life.
I need to sharpen my divestment discipline. I need to give stuff away. What we don’t give away, we eventually lose.
It’s amazing how little I really need to be happy. This couch I’m sitting on is pretty awesome. And the computer I’m typing on makes my life so much more efficient.
But if I think about it, I’d be happier if I gave more. 
There are some old bikes under the porch that some Mexican immigrant in town would probably love. And we have bags of old clothes in the garage that need to go to the Good Will.
I’m blessed that Karen has a strong giving impulse. She loves to give people gifts. She’s always threatening to clean out my closet. She helps my pack rat self stay honest.
What I most clutch to myself are my time and my financial safety net. I want to have a St. Francis attitude, but I’ve got pretty good insurance policies and make regular contributions to a retirement account. At some point as I get older, I need to start emptying the bank account more.
I like what the old guy said when asked if his giving habits were changing as he aged. He said, “I’m hoping that the last check I write bounces.”
He got the principle of giving and the idea that “what is not given is lost.” It’s how Jesus wanted his followers to live. Yes, stewardship is essential too, but somehow we’ve turned stewardship into a justification for not giving. Better to embrace the fact that we can’t take it with us and begin divesting now.
How do you do at the divestment discipline? What are you hanging onto that you need to give away?
I want to be known as a giver – how about you? What needs to change today to move in that direction?

Comments (10)

  • As a Christ follower, the moment you savor something and fear its loss is the moment you know you must give it away or let it go. To keep it will make it first an obsession, then an idol. That thing has just gotten the death sentence from God.

  • This is good. I’ve been thinking about this issue a lot lately- How to be a good steward and a generous giver at the same time…

  • Giving away things I don’t need that could be blessings to others is easy.

    But putting others first, placing a greater premium on their need than mine with what “I own” and value is where the problem lies. I’ve given away all three laptops gifted to me within the last two months. It wasn’t hard because I didn’t like them that much. Now I’ve BOUGHT one I really like. I may play deaf for a season if God asks me to gift it.

    I don’t have much with my name on it. But I’m wondering now if I should list and categorize a couple of things I value and call mine; then see which one will hurt the most if I consider giving it… just to test my connection with the stuff. Hopefully I’ll move from testing… testing… testing to going, going, gone.

    This is scary stuff Dad. Jesus says it’s hard for the rich to enter the Kingdom of heaven, I guess because they have much to give away.

    If “giving away” means “losing” stuff to any man, be they rich or poor; they have more than one God.

  • Seth, This blog made me laugh so hard because of the garage sales, clothes needing to go to goodwill.. ect. This brought encouragement to my life and Id like to say as a college kid, giving monetary is prob. the most difficult thing for me to do due to bills and low low income. But I know responsibility goes into that but how awesome is it to have the ability to live simply. How great is it the gift that we have!

  • This has been a central issue for me lately…I also have lots of stuff, and was addicted to great deals and cruising yard sales, but it was all just a front for stuffing pain. The amount of stuff we have is truly obscene. And now I have the content of my parent’s apartment as well.

    So I am on a campaign to cleanse and bless others. For the last two years as I sort through more and ready to let things go, I have had yard sales myself and sent the money to support organizations whose work I believe in. This year, I am not doing that, rather simply finding individuals or organizations I can bless directly.

    We have many things we have divested to raise money for a project we believe in in Honduras, and I am trying to make more and more of a shift to part with more “meaningful” stuff, the harder stuff, and I re read Radical a lot…

    The hardest thing for me to let go of now is litigation involving my dad’s artwork, because I believe the claims are false, but how far do I go in defending that? The role of judging the person who claims he transferred everything to her is ultimately not mine…but if I pursue it at all costs, then I have put it ahead of God.

    These are tough questions and decisions, but I have already been thinking about them and stepping in the direction of relinquishment.

  • Well done, Kathy.

    I pray that the Holy Spirit shows you what to do about the litigation and I pray that the person who is making false claims is convicted about that and is reasonable.

  • My English teacher in high school said that he had a family rule – that if it hadn’t been used in a year, his family got rid of it. It left room for seasonal items, but it’s a pretty ruthless rule when you think about our typical lifestyles with stuff. I’ve always aspired to do the same, and I find that the lighter I live, the happier I am. There’s more room for friends, and gatherings when the clutter is gone.

  • Thanks Seth for the reminder. I lost everything in a divorce and it shocked my system to the core. It is hard to experience everyday miracles when we “endow” our lives while hedging bets in the event God decides not to be faithful. This is one of these topics demanding deep attention in the church. It is a little thing by the way but I’m committed to avoid settings where consumption is paraded like a spiritual gift. Blessings always…

  • Great thoughts, Seth. As I prepare to leave for the field full-time in January, I think through this a lot… what else do I need to get rid of? I’ve been selling and giving away lots of books, but I know I have more “stuff” around than I’ll be taking with me.

    I have an old friend named Bob. He’s a retired teacher, and at 80 or so years old, his “divestment” is an “investment” into my life. He generously sows… I don’t know where it comes from, but I could imagine that he wants to “give it all” before he goes. And in the mean time, I’m receiving a great blessing…

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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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