Warning: Your Possessions Own You

When Danielle and I returned from living in Thailand for six months, we swore to not let the American consumer culture pull us back into its vortex. Those six months in Thailand showed us that our possessions didn’t dictate our happiness level. I think we unknowingly went through a six month detox.

When we moved back to America, a window of opportunity existed. We easily could have sold everything we owned and moved back to Thailand. In fact we planned on that. But God had a different plan, and we remained in the U.S.

Ten years after living in Thailand an honest self analysis tells me that I have not been very successful at avoiding the consumeristic mindset.

Here are some results of my self analysis:

  • I keep reorganizing my stuff. Yes I throw some things away, but mostly I just look for a “better” place to store it just in case I need it some day.
  • I get excited to see what the new stores are going in at a new shopping center about five minutes from our house. I don’t even enjoy shopping!
  • When I go to a home improvement store, I end up spending more time than planned looking at things I “need”.
  • It bothers me when someone damages something that I own.
  • I feel a sense of pride when someone comments on one of my prize possessions.

I can keep going on, but I think you get the idea. I could have done and did do those same things when we lived in Thailand, but the longer we lived there, the less that was true.

What does this have to do with living a life on mission? A lot. When I first began blogging, I wrote about living a minimalist lifestyle. A lifestyle that avoids accumulating more and more stuff. That is another thing I notice about my self analysis, I don’t write about that much anymore.

We slowly become desensitized to how our possessions become overly important to us. We squander the resources that God blesses us with somehow thinking that we are the owner of all our stuff rather than a steward.

Are you willing to do some self analysis with me? It will take some courage to do it, so I understand if you don’t want to do it. But if you will, think through these 5 questions:

  1. How much time do you spend taking care of your possessions? That includes maintenance, reorganizing, or even simply looking at it.
  2. How often do you go to a store just in case you see something you need? Or put it this way, do you use shopping as a way for escape or comfort?
  3. What do you feel when someone breaks or damages something you own? How do you respond to that person?
  4. Have you rented a storage unit for longer than one year? If so, do you remember what is in the storage unit?
  5. Do you look at other people’s possessions and wish you had what they have?

Of course most, if not all, of us will always have possessions. I am not saying anything is wrong with that. The question is do these possessions own us, and if we are honest, the answer for most of us is yes. When our possessions own us, it is nearly impossible to live a life on mission.

One time a very wealthy man asked Jesus what he needed to do to follow Jesus. Jesus replied, “Sell everything you own and give it to the poor”. The man went away sad because he owned many possessions. Jesus’ reply isn’t a command for us all. Jesus knew that this man’s possessions owned him, and unless that changed, he never would follow Jesus or embrace the purpose for his life.

How would you respond if Jesus told you to do the same thing?

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I am a longtime Austinite. Married my beautiful wife over 25 years ago. Adopted our son September 2012. Currently a writer and loving it. Previous jobs and careers include project management, missionary, and pastor. I enjoy sports (both watching and playing), traveling, reading, digging in dirt and hanging with my friends and family.

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2 thoughts on “Warning: Your Possessions Own You

  1. When in Nepal, I heard our guide say, “Money makes a marvelous servant, but a terrible taskmaster”. I apply that statement to many aspects of my life, especially my stuff. If it’s not helping me serve kingdom purposes, but is starting to own me, I know it’s time to let it go. It’s a very freeing way to live!