Generosity in a Hoarder’s World

Welcome to day 12 of STAND OUT: 7 traits of a counter cultural life. You can find every post indexed here.

Have you ever watched that show on TLC about hoarders? Y’all, it honestly freaks me out a little bit. I see all those piles and piles of stuff and I can begin to feel a little claustrophobic. I wonder how those people got to that point. In my research about hoarding I learned this definition:

Hoarding is the persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of their actual value. {source}

And as I read that definition, I starting thinking about my own life and how that might apply.  For example, while I don’t keep piles of newspapers, I do have a binder full of decorating ideas for “someday.” And we don’t have a year’s supply of toothpaste samples, but we do have more boxes of Christmas decorations than we could ever possibly use.

how do we live generously in a world that values the accumulation of stuff?

I’m not diminishing the reality of hoarding or the very detrimental effects the disorder can have in people’s lives. But I don’t think we can look at living counter culturally without considering how each of us, in our own way, might be guilty of a little bit of hoarding.

For most of us, that hoarding doesn’t look like the people on TLC.  It’s far more discreet and, honestly, more socially acceptable — even expected.

We build up our own treasure chests of retirement accounts and full closets and new cars and weekend trips to the beach. And we miss living out what is one of the dominant attributes of a follower of Christ: GENEROSITY.

But what does this look like in our modern world? Is it sponsoring a child with Compassion? Is it giving our gently used coats to a homeless mission? Is it tithing so our local church can support missions around the world?

When we pay for the coffee of the person behind us in the Starbucks drive through are we being generous? When we serve meals at soup kitchen on Thanksgiving are we practicing generosity?

In one verse, I believe Jesus clarified the truth about generosity:

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  Matthew 6:21

Generosity is less about what we  give and more about what we treasure.

Generosity is less about what we give and more about what we treasure. #StandOut Click To Tweet

In Mark 10, we find the story we know as “The Rich Young Ruler.” If you remember, the man came to Jesus asking what he needed to do to inherit eternal life.  The man had kept the law and knew the commandments.  And then Jesus responds,

And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow me.” Mark 10:21

Before we jump ahead to the man’s response, I think we need to notice two things:

  1. Jesus looked at him and loved him.  The words of Christ were not mean-spirited nor was Jesus looking at someone with contempt.  He loved this man, just as He loves us.  When He looked at him it was with a love that knew the depths of the young man’s heart.  He spoke to him with both truth and love.
  2. Jesus was offering him the greater treasure. Christ didn’t just say, “Sell your stuff, you greedy fool!” He was offering the man a beautiful exchange— the things of earth for the things of heaven. 

Just as those things were true for the rich young ruler, they are true for us.  Jesus looks at us with love. He knows our hearts.  He recognizes the things we value most. When He asks us to give something up, it isn’t out of spite or harmful desire, it is for our good.  Because He wants to give us the greater things, the eternal things — the treasure in heaven.

When Jesus asks us to give up something, it is for our good. #StandOut Click To Tweet

Generosity is less about what we give and more about what we treasure. When He asks us to give something up, it isn't out of spite or harmful desire, it is for our good. Because He wants to give us the greater things, the eternal things — the treasure in heaven.

How do we miss that? How is it that we get so caught up in the treasures of this word — and not just the material things but the power and prestige and popularity our culture praises — that we miss out on the true treasure of heaven?

I think it’s because we are just like this young man.

Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Mark 10:22

We look around us and see all we have amassed. And far too often we walk away from Christ. We just can’t see how He can offer us more than what we already have. We can’t see the eternal because we are so blinded by the earthly.

Over the next two days, we’ll be exploring generosity and what it looks like in our very normal, every day lives.  Tomorrow we’ll look at “Generosity with Your Resources” and Wednesday the topic is “Generosity with Yourself.”  My hope is that we will grow in our understanding of what generosity really is and why it matters in a world saturated with greed.

See you tomorrow!

Teri Lynne

In what ways do you struggle to value the things of heaven more than the things of earth?


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  1. This speaks to me, partly because I have watched the programs, often breathing a sigh of relief that I am not quite that extreme with my hanging on to things. But if you listen closer, you learn that often these people have had a tragedy in their past that has led them to the place where they can’t let go of their possessions. Our generosity of spirit can lead us to the place of understanding for their illness. Maybe, too, these situations are examples of (some or all of) the hoards we have in our own lives being symptomatic of personal or cultural attempts to ease our hearts or dull our pain.

    • Very good point. It is always what it is in our hearts that motivates our actions and attitudes. I think that’s why Jesus was always trying to get His disciples {and us!} to see the importance of keeping our hearts pure and focused on Him.

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