Hoarders, Possessions, and the End Times
2 Peter 3:13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
I have good news—this world is temporary—everything that is wrong with it will be made right. Part of God’s plan of redemption is a restoration of our fallen world. It will be a world free from the effects of the fall—no sin and death, no disease, no frustrating labor. It will be a place where men still work, where they still plant and create and think and live in community (Isa. 65:17-24), only the work we do will be prosperous and the fruit our work produces will be enjoyed rather than competed for. There will be no greedy positioning because our greedy hearts will be healed and because we will know and be satisfied with Jesus being king. I am really looking forward to this!
What does this have to do with Hoarders? Maybe nothing, maybe a lot, all I know is that the AE reality show has forced me to think about eschatology and what is going to happen to all my stuff. Hoaders delves into the lives of people who compulsively hoard various things—sometimes food, clothing, paper, trash, and various other objects. Each episode “follows two follows two different people whose inability to let go of their belongings is so out of control that they are on the verge of personal disaster.” Each of the subjects of the show are provided a clean up crew to clean their house and an expert organizer/psychologist to help them with the emotional side of their habit.
Jesus warns us not to fall into the perpetual practice of building bigger and bigger barns to store all our stuff because in the end “the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” There is a connection between our soul and our stuff—apparently if our soul is tied up in our stuff in an unhealthy way, it could be a sign of soul-sickness as Jesus says of this person building bigger barns “Fool! This night your soul is required of you” (Luke 12:15-22). Jesus isn’t completely against stuff—he compares the gospel to treasure continually, he tells us to equip ourselves with “moneybags that do not grow old” so that we can give to people in need (Luke 12:33). One of the more fascinating aspects of the show is that hoarding is not by any means limited to the wealthy, but it does appear to be particularly common among Americans (who are wealthy by the rest of the world’s standards).
So what does this have to do with Hoarders? Hoarders is a TV show about people who clearly have an unhealthy relationship to their stuff. The show is fascinating in many ways. One because these people have their sins of hoarding aired in public and because the show makes a deliberate effort to delve into the psychology behind their hoarding habits. I feel a little awkward watching the show because of the public way in which these people’s bad habits are aired for all to see, but it’s important to remember that these people at least recognize that they are not right—otherwise they would never agree to go on the show. Every time I watch, I root for the personal growth of the hoarders, I cheer them on as they make steps toward reform. However, Hoarders is mostly a tragedy, there are some stories that seem to end happily, but more often than not, the “dog returns to its vomit” as it were (Prov. 26:11).
It would seem that possessions have an allure that is hard to kick—so hard that one lady picks pumpkin seeds out of disgustingly rotted pumpkins and another lady shuts down in the middle of the clean up project and refuses to continue. Marriages, parent-child relationships, and friendships fall apart on screen due, at least in part, to these people’s obsession with earthly goods. I am not going to pretend that these people’s issues are simple or that they don’t have emotional scars that are keeping them from maintaining a healthy relationship to their possessions, but I do want to say that a good dose of Biblical eschatology might help gain a little perspective on what place our possessions ought to have in our lives. Ultimately what these people need is their minds transformed by Christ, but for those of you who know Christ, I want to shed a little light on how our eschatology can influence how we perceive our possessions.
Our possessions in and of themselves are not evil. I know this because of all the physical things that are going to be present in the new heavens and the new earth (Isa. 60-66) and more simply because God created everything and declared it very good (Gen. 1:31). Possessions only become sinful when we misappropriate them. I also know that in the new heavens we will work and we be compensated for our work and it will be good (Isa. 65:21-22). So work is a good thing and payment for said work is also good (Luke 10:7; 2 Thess. 3:10). What you buy with what you make is another discussion. I find it interesting that the Bible never lays out a quota for us of what percentage of our income we should give to the needy or to the church or to missions. What we do know is that Jesus was the most giving person who ever lived and He calls us to follow his example of self sacrifice (Mark 8:34).
I think in the new heavens we will have many of the possessions we have now, only we will keep them in their proper place—as undeserved gifts from our gracious heavenly father. We won’t fight over them and we won’t covet because we will already possess the greatest gift imaginable—an intimate relationship with the God who made us (Isa. 65:24). So in the meantime how should we feel about our stuff? I can’t delineate what is appropriate for you, but I for one recognize that the Lord has already given me “money bags that do not grow old” and I pray God would make me more joyfully willing to part with them for His glory and the good of those created in His image.