My church is reading a book by Jeff Shinabarger called “More or Less: Choosing a Lifestyle of Excessive Generosity.” Convicting in an inspiring kind of way, Shinabarger challenges our consumption-shaped answer to “What is enough?” He invites us to give from the excess that many of us have in our lives.
Our senior pastor, Steve Oglesbee, preached this past weekend from Jesus’ exhortation not to worry, found in Matthew 6:25-34, and honed in on the subject of clothing. What is enough clothing? Why do many of us, who have closets full of clothing, continue to buy more for ourselves rather than sharing what we have with others? One motivation, Steve reasoned, is the “just in case” mentality. Some things we buy and keep in our closets – just in case we ever need them.
Case in point: I own a beautiful black, wool peacoat. The coat served me well in college when I lived in a place that had snow every winter. But, I haven’t lived in a cold climate in the ten years since. I rarely wear the peacoat, but keep it in my closet, just in case I visit a northern city in the middle of winter or move to a colder climate. Do I really need the coat? Couldn’t I borrow a heavy winter coat from family or friends when visiting them? How do I know that I will ever again live in a climate cold enough for a wool peacoat? Why not give that coat away to someone who needs it now?
I struggle to give this coat away, an indication that I am in many ways “owned” by the just in case mentality. I think of all the clutter in my life – clutter in my closets, clutter on my bookshelves, clutter in my pantry, clutter in my to-do list – and much of this clutter is a storehouse of “what ifs.” It’s hard to live in the present and it’s difficult to trust God and others when the lens of my life is focused on the “just in cases” and “what ifs.”
There is a way to break free from the just in cases… we have to start cleaning out the closets. And not just give away what we really don’t like or know we don’t need. There is freedom in giving away something we really like or something we will likely need in the future. It helps us practice trust – trust in God and trust in others to help us when we need help.
I am giving away the peacoat. What could you give away?
Rachel Young is the associate pastor of spiritual formation at Clear Lake Presbyterian Church, in Houston, Texas. She is married to Josh, who also serves on staff at Clear Lake Pres. as the Director of Contemporary Worship and Media. She blogs weekly at reverendrachel.wordpress.com.