Possessed By Our Possessions by Christopher Mack
Scripture: Acts 2:44-45; 4:32-37
Possessed By Our Possessions
A good friend from Waco, Texas introduced me to the concept of Retail Therapy or as he likes to call it, “Buying a lil happy.” It changed the way I viewed shopping. Whether walking the aisles at HEB, surfing the webpages of amazon.com, or viewing ubiquitous advertising, I became aware of my own tendency to get a rush when considering new hiking boots, iTunes movies, or searching for the best deal on organic yogurt. I wasn’t just getting necessities or even mere luxuries. This had become a way to feel a jolt of excitement to lift me from my doldrum day. This had become something I could control in an anxious world where I frequently felt out of control. This was becoming compulsive.
Sharon Begley, in her book, Can’t Just Stop: An Investigation of Compulsions, identifies how we use our money as grounds for compulsive behavior…
“For compulsions, according to a growing body of scientific evidence, are a response to anxiety. Suffused and overwhelmed by anxiety, we grab hold of any behavior that offers relief by providing even an illusion of control… So we do what we can, compulsively cleaning or checking, hoarding or shopping or surfing the net or wearing out our thumbs on video games. We cling to compulsions as if to a lifeline, for it is only by engaging in compulsions that we can drain enough of our anxiety to function.”
Most of us would be quick to think of other people we consider shopaholics, hoarders, or wrapped up in an identity of wealth. However, we pretty easily give ourselves a pass. Our spending habits all have reasons we consider legitimate. And that may very well be true. However, many of us would be well served to consider our relationship to money. Not only how we spend it, but how we view it. While I know more people who tend to spend money compulsively, it is just as possible to save money compulsively. Both reveal the weight we place on money and the hooks money may have in us.
One of the clearest markers of the early resurrection communities in the Book of Acts was their transformed relationship to their resources. It was not that they hated money or saw no need for making it. Rather it was their willingness to part with it for the sake of others. The typical self-interest of using resources for self, close-knit family, or people in their social class was largely disregarded by the first Christian communities. They showed a world possessed by possessions, that they were inhabited by a different Spirit.
Today, many scoff at the communal and sacrificial Way these resurrection communities stewarded their resources. It’s laughed off as impractical and irresponsible. Yet I wonder how much this betrays our comprised hearts. Because for many of us, when following Christ Almighty comes in conflict with our addiction to the Almighty Dollar, it’s the Almighty Dollar that seems to win out.
This isn’t meant to shame anyone. Just go look at my iTunes Movie collection. There’s been a lot of compulsive movie buying in my life.
How might we begin to see what’s behind our spending habits?
What areas might our spending, saving, or hoarding of resources be compulsive?
How might God’s Spirit lead us into healing?
How might God want us to redirect our resources for the “other” in our region and in our world?