Stuff Has Become Our Real God
Our stuff has become our real God, while God become less relevant.
“When God is unreal, your stuff becomes real,” my pastor said in a recent sermon.
How often have we cried or been angered over a broken item that we assigned great sentimental value to, and then lazily brushed off an opportunity to serve? Or held onto a newspaper clipping of an important event in your life or in the country while your Bible serves as coaster on your nightstand, unopened for weeks? My Bible has water stain rings on the cover but my iPhone screen is wiped off daily and never sits in one spot longer than a few minutes.
How many purchases do we have filling our homes and lives to which we’ve projected an inaccurate value for status and validation? Too many, I confess. Those items, the ones that we don’t need but are popular and new and fill our ego tanks when a friend admires their shiny facade of fulfillment – those are nothing but physical testimonies of how real our stuff is, and that it’s our real god.
We can take an inventory of our stuff and attach ourselves to each item as if they were birthed along with our children. We are eager to send our children out to the world as soon as they turn eighteen to ‘get our life back’, but we can’t part with a box of broken tools that’s been sitting in the garage for longer than the kids have been alive.
When stuff is our real god, our stuff becomes our value
I believe we fear living with less because we have spent our entire lives buying into the lie that our value comes from having more. Constantly, we are inundated with messages of earning more money, buying a bigger house, upgrading to the next model (car, phone, etc) every year. The world is not ashamed to tell us that our stuff is what gives us value to the world, to our family, to ourselves. So we fill our lives with new toys and clothes and fancy blenders because then we finally feel like we matter, exchanging THE real God for stuff.
-Now my boss will give me the promotion.
-This will make my neighbor so jealous!
-That guy I just passed on the sidewalk, he thinks I’m important because I have the right colored earbuds.
-Now my parents will finally approve.
The only way we can release the value placed on our stuff is to release the stuff. The greatest gift we can give ourselves is to let go of what we don’t use or want and realize they never gave us our value in the first place. What’s more, by freeing ourselves from the weight of our stuff we recognize the true value in ourselves and others. THE real God is set back in His rightful place.
When stuff is our real god, our stuff becomes our passion.
You know the type, the guy who knows every video game for every console from every decade. Or the women who knows every color of every style of her favorite footwear designer. Or even those like me, who are entirely too knowledgeable about TV and movie trivia. That is what happens when our stuff becomes a passion and we set THE real God aside.
Pursuing passions and having knowledge about them is not the problem. If we pour ourselves into those passions so deeply that we seek value from them, so much so that God has become unreal in our lives we have lost sight of our purpose.
I used to have an unhealthy fascination with Hollywood stars. I knew who was married to who, who was divorced from who and how many times, I read all the magazines and watched the E! Network all too often. Entertainment networks and publications are not the problem per se, but I was looking for the standard of beauty and value from an unreliable and unattainable source.
The standard of beauty and value from the entertainment industry is incredibly inaccurate and unstable. I’ve learned now, mostly since entering my 30’s with more life experience and certainly since becoming a mom of two girls that all the entertainment industry has to offer is entertainment. Nothing more, and all too often, less. The “stuff” I held valuable as I studied People magazine stole my passion from the very One who gave me a passionate soul, and I had to wait several years to experience the passion God had intended for me.
When God is Unreal, Our Stuff Becomes Our God
Our fears are the ropes tying down the tables and chairs, bookshelves, and boxes that consume the space in our homes and lives. We fear that without the stuff, we will be exposed for who we really are. All of the stuff we attain and retain are masking the lives we truly desire to live; vulnerable, authentic, generous lives full of love, relationships, and peace. Stuff serves as a buffer, a stand in for the attention we need, the genuine interest from others in who we are, not only what we own.
We crave the genuine relationships and community but we are afraid that without all the stuff to show and tell, all that is left is us. Plain ole us; flaws, mistakes, blemishes, idiosyncrasies.
Watch that middle aged man wash his sports car in his driveway on a Saturday morning. Listen to a young mom rave about her new espresso machine that is the only reason she is able to function in the morning. See how deliberate that young entrepreneur is about branding and marketing his product to the masses. We become worshipers, preachers, and evangelists about the things we care about most deeply.
When God is unreal in our lives we make a god out of the things that are real. Like Israel and the golden calf when Moses was up on the mountain talking with God, we get impatient and decide we know what kind of god we need. And it will always fall short, it will never fail to fail us.
When God is Real, Our Stuff Becomes Stuff
I think it’s hard to look at our stuff and recognize that it doesn’t offer value and peace of mind and credibility, because we see what others have and believe it’s what gives them those things. We don’t value our friends and family based on what they own, but we see the new car or the new designer boots and imagine that they are living the life we were meant to.
Here are a couple ways we can learn that our stuff is just stuff:
- An unfortunate event that causes us to lose our stuff
- An intentional choice to become less dependent on it
There are times in life that confront us with the opportunity to change. That can come in way of bankruptcy, personal tragedy, natural disasters and the like. The attitude with which we face such difficulties can bring either positive change or foster further destruction if we refuse to adjust our behaviors.
Every time I visit Ecuador I am reminded of how ridiculous it is to think I need 95% of what I own. Travel to most countries of the world, spend some time getting to know the language, culture, and people and your beliefs about your stuff will begin to shift. There is joy, love, and community among peoples who own next to nothing. Poverty is not the answer to finding joy, neither is a home and life overflowing with clutter.
We can also be influenced to make that intentional choice when loved ones experience difficult times. We don’t have to personally travel the road of unexpected tragedies to learn valuable lessons. Several years ago we watched a couple close to us go through a terrible divorce after years of chasing wealth and social status. Their experience, as fairly newly-weds taught us to put our value in qualities such as honor, respect, love, and humility. Our marriage is richer because we intentionally chose to learn that chasing a corrupted interpretation of value instead of chasing each other would destroy us.
Our stuff temporarily gives us satisfaction and happiness. I feel it when I buy a new outfit or shoes. I walk with my head a little higher feeling stylish and cool. And a few months go by and the feeling fades into discontentment and the desire to buy a new outfit starts to grow. Every new purchase eventually just becomes stuff.
Stuff will never satisfy our desires that were meant to be satisfied with grace. Grace is what reveals the reality of God in our lives and when we see His grace, we see our stuff. That’s the moment God becomes real and our stuff, stuff.