Still Not about Stuff

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I’ve really enjoyed cleaning out my things. I hate clutter, and I hate having so much more than I need (and let’s face it, we all have a lot more than we need).

But somehow, in the cleaning out, I once again made it all about the “stuff.” I was spending WAY too much time thinking about what I could live without, even when I wasn’t at home to do something about it. Ironically, I was also obsessed with thinking about what all I could get for my new place.

This whole process of moving has been unnecessarily consuming for me. I’ve allowed it to be. I can’t think of a better word for it than “consuming”…my mind was going and going so much, that I’ve had trouble sleeping, something I’ve never struggled with before.

So I’ve had to refocus my attention. Because it’s not about the stuff. It’s not about the move.

It’s not about me.

Photo by Skrewtape

Privilege: a Wake-up Call

I don’t remember what I was doing, but somehow I stumbled on a website that would tell you demographic stats on specific US zip codes.

For kicks, I entered the zip code I grew up in.

For whatever reason, the results surprised me.

Compared to the rest of the US, this zip code has:

  • a high number of high school and college graduates
  • a high median income (though Kansas has a fairly low standard of living)
  • a higher than average number of married couples
  • 2/3 of adults working in white collar jobs
  • only 4% of its residents below the poverty line (national average is around 15%)

I was born into privilege.

Not only am I a part of the 4.5% of the world population who lives in the US, I’m among the 6% of that population that has a Master’s Degree.  While I myself don’t quite make enough to reach the US median household income in the US, it’s just me, so obviously my costs are much lower than most.

I was born (and raised) into privilege.

I thank God for the blessings He’s given me and my parents who gave me so much, but that’s not what I want to talk about.

I’m a numbers person, so when you show me my blessings numerically, it really sinks in.  I’ve always known that I was overwhelmingly blessed, but when everyone around me is too, it’s easy to forget.

These thoughts were already on my mind, when I started reading Radical.

Here are a few things that David Platt said that stood out to me:

“We are an affluent people living in an impoverished world.  If we make only $10,000 a year, we are wealthier than 84% of the world, and if we make $50,000 a year, we are wealthier than 99% of the world.” – p. 194

“But the reality is, if you and I have running water, shelter over our heads, clothes to wear, food to eat, and some means of transportation (even if it’s public transportation), then we are in the top 15% of the world’s people for wealth.” – p. 115

“The reality is that most everything in our lives in the American culture would be classified as a luxury, not a necessity. The computer I am writing this book on, the spoon and fork I will eat my dinner with later this evening, and the bed and pillow I will sleep on tonight (in additon to many other things in my life) are all luxuries.” – p. 127

All this merely starts to illustrate how blessed we are in America.  Yet we, the Church, wrap ourselves up in our own cares, ignoring the extensive needs of those all around us (even if we have to close our eyes to them).  If you’re like me, these facts might make you pause for moment, but then you shut them out because they make life too uncomfortable.

I don’t want to live comfortably at the expense of others (and that’s what it is…I don’t “deserve” a better life and haven’t earned it…I didn’t choose to be born here, to my parents).

I’m still thinking through what the implications of all of this.  I don’t have everything (anything) figured out.

While I don’t have much “stuff” by American standards, I’m sure if I added up the costs of everything I owned, I’d be shocked.  I do have more than I need.

I’m sorely tempted to give some of my income away and turn around and spend the rest on my own excesses.  I can placate myself by saying that I give more than most.   But would I except that excuse from my own child?  “Mommy, I know I didn’t clean up my room like you asked, but I spent 2 minutes more on it than any of my friends.”

That’s not what God has called me to.

Photo by 96dpi