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Making room

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“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Mt 6:19–21).

My family is moving. It’s been a long, drawn-out ordeal that came to a chaotic crescendo during a pandemic quarantine. Now, we have come to the stage of the process where there is a date and I know that people will come into my house and box up everything and take it to our new home. We’ve come to the “what stays, what goes” phase of moving.

We’ve been here before. I did a fair amount of triage work before the house went on the market. But now, this is for real. It’s my big chance to move lighter, freed from the weight of too many things. I confess that sometimes I lose sight of the fact that there is a lifecycle for the things we acquire here on earth. The baby sling I wore all day every day with my second baby has holes worn through it. Moreover, there is better baby-wearing technology out there today if I want to carry my grandson. Still, it tugs on me as I move it to the discard pile.

As much as I treasured the time I spent with my baby, and then my toddler, snuggled up close, it is not really the sling that is the treasure. So it is with nearly everything in this house. If I stop and ponder honestly, none of the “stuff” is necessary. Admittedly, much of it is useful. But necessary? Not so much.

Jesus cares about the way we spend our money. He cares about what we fill our houses with. The possessions we acquire and what we hold on to year after year tell us a great deal about what matters most to us. Jesus asks us to lay up our treasures in heaven.

Practically speaking, this doesn’t look like a wild purge toward minimalism. Despite the voices whispering scarcity, it is not prudent to get rid of the third or even the fourth serving dish if you are a person Jesus has called to a robust ministry of hospitality in your home. The idea is to discern how we use money and possessions for their best purpose to serve others in love and to further the kingdom of God.

Neatly packaged and marketed minimalism can be a trap just as dangerous as over-purchasing. If the goal is just to pare down to blank surfaces and empty closets, then we’ve made minimalism itself the god. What Jesus desires is that we delight in him, not that we win some Instagram contest for clearest countertops, nor that we keep buying things hoping to fill an empty space in our lives that can’t be filled by things.

We know that “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Mt 13:44). In his joy. He was joyful when he sold all he had. He gladly traded his possessions for the Lord’s treasure. He wasn’t a slave to minimalism; nor was he a slave to acquiring goods. God’s grace and rule here on earth and the promise of being happy with him forever in heaven are extraordinarily precious treasures; they are worth more than anything else. They are worth clearing what impedes our access to God and making room. This isn’t a decorating philosophy. It is genuine conversion of heart. We recognize that living for Christ fills us and satisfies us and sustains us.

Foss, whose website is takeupandread.org, writes from Northern Virginia.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020