Spring cleaning can be a spiritual exercise. The Tuesday small group just started a study called Satisfied. Its focus is discovering contentment in a world of consumption. Most of us don’t even realize how much stuff we accumulate. The “homework” for the first week asked us to count our shoes and our shirts just to prove the point. Yikes! What an eye opener. I confess I tried to count shoes (which includes dress shoes, casual shoes, boots, sports shoes, sandals and flip-flops, slippers, and more). I have over 45 pair of shoes and I’m not sure I counted them all. I didn’t even try to count shirts (which included sweaters, sweatshirts, tee shirts, dress shirts, and more.) I decided I didn’t have time because there are so many! Granted some of the shoes and shirts were purchased eons ago. Hey, they still fit and maybe I’ll want to wear them again. It’s a great excuse to keep things around. The sad part of this is before spring is over, I’m likely to be tempted to buy another pair and can always find a way to justify it. The question is would my life be any less happy if I only had, say, 25 pairs of shoes?
The Bible is full of verses that warn us that an abundance of things will not make us happy. Some Bible passages make most of us uncomfortable like this one from Acts 4:32 (NLT): “All believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had.” That’s a whole different attitude than most of us have. We tend to think that we’ve earned what we have so it’s ours. But we aren’t content. Paul writes, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Phil. 4:11b-13)
With God’s help, we can learn to be content. It may not come easily, but most of us can learn to live with less so we can share more with others. The second part of the homework assignment was to give something of value away. It can be something you haven’t used for a while but still someone else might be able to use and enjoy. I used this assignment to start “spring cleaning” by setting aside several things to donate to the rummage sale at the end of the month and made a promise to God and myself to look for more things to add to it. For my spiritual (and economic) health the other thing I need to do is resist the urge to replace them with new things. Then money I “save” by not making a purchase that in truth I can live well without can be better used by God as I give it back to God through my Sunday offering. I am convinced that living more simply will bring greater joy than all the things I have and that God will give me strength to live it out.
I encourage you to count your shoes (or shirts), give something of value away, and see what God might do. Consider your spring cleaning a spiritual exercise that can bless you and others.