My wife and I like to watch the show "Clean Sweep." While the people are different, the theme of the show is the same every time. People have become overwhelmed by their stuff and clutter takes over them and their house. The Clean Sweep team comes in and helps them organize, make over their space and the highlight of every show is when the team scrutinize every item with the homeowner until they have the "ah-ha" moment. The moment when the people realize what it is that makes them unable to let go of some of their stuff. It is never about the item but always about a memory or something else. Their past paralyzes them and they are imprisoned, literally, by their own stuff.
It is not unusual. Our reading this week is about that. From Mark 10:17-30:
And Jesus looking upon him loved him, and said to him, "You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me."
At that saying his countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.
And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it will be for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!"
A lot of people misunderstand that and think that Jesus is anti-wealth and anti-success. Nothing could be further from the truth. Throughout the Bible, God tells us not to hide our talents under a bush, He wants us to use our talents, that He wants us to have all these things but first to seek the kingdom of God.
Jesus loved this young man, he wanted him to follow him and live! But he knew how easy it was for him (and for all of us) to get caught up in our stuff. Stuff is necessary, stuff is nice, we like stuff.
Nice clothes, fancy watch, cool car, great house, - these are all nice and God wants us to have them. He just doesn't want us to forget where it came from. And unfortunately the temptation is there for us to start to value these things over the more important things like Him.
The danger for us is that we start to make our stuff and getting more stuff an idol. And that's the devil's trap because stuff won't last. The devil plays the biggest trick on us because we sacrifice our eternal treasure in heaven for the temporary stuff in this world. We sell our souls for dust.
And so what can we do to free ourselves?
We are powerless to save ourselves. The game is rigged, the deck is stacked against us because the devil is too strong and we are too weak.
Huh? What? So what do we do then? Give up and surrender to the devil?
No -- surrender yourself to God and ask for His help because that is what He tells us in the same reading.
"With men it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God."
Just like the young man in the story, God loves us still and wants us to follow him. We need to be prepared to surrender everything to God and trust that He will take care of us. And then we will be free! Pride holds us back from asking for God's help but we can't do it alone. The only way to true freedom is to surrender to God.
Every episode of Clean Sweep ends the same. The people wind up giving away almost all of their stuff and returns to their once cluttered room to find that it is re-done. What was once an unusable space overflowing with junk is transformed into a warm, great space that highlights treasures that were lost in the sea of junk. The people laugh and sometimes cry because their room and, hopefully, their lives have been transformed. The irony of them giving away what they thought were their "treasures" to really gain their treasures is the exclamation point of the show.
It is the same with us. Whether your stuff is in your house, or hidden deep in your heart, when we are able to let it go and give it away, then we begin to free ourselves. Then we are free to follow Jesus and live.