The stuff you own ends up owning you, says Tyler from Fight Club. Jesus' message was similar: where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The point of both is that we are not the master of our things, but the slave. We do not invest in the things our heart treasures; rather, the heart follows the treasure. We become what we buy; we are what we eat.
My take on the general mood of American Christianity (my very humble opinion) is that one can have stuff as long as one has a good perspective. So, for example, we can justify buying that bigger house if we say, "This is the Lord's house!" It's all a matter of perspective: if we have the correct mind set, then we can buy more stuff and increase our standard of living. Hence, the boat is not my boat, it is God's boat that I am going to use for ministry and for God's glory.
But is this perspective legitimate? Is it possible to merely be an "owner" of stuff, or is it more correct to understand that the more we have, the more we are controlled and shaped by our things? For example, as a house size gets bigger, does the person who "owns" it get smaller? Does ownership of more things steal away bits and pieces of our souls? And does this happens regardless of whether it is "God's house" or "God's ministry boat"? I suggest that the idea that "It's not my house, but God's!" is merely a fantasy. It is true that it is not your house, but neither is it God's house. The house belongs to itself and to the complex cultural and societal matrix in which it is embedded.
To the extent that we accumulate more stuff, buy the boats, and take out a bigger mortgage for a bigger house, we participate in the cultural/societal matrix; this means we give away our control and our souls to the culture/society. I don't know that this is necessarily "wrong" (I'm not here to make a value judgment), but I do think that we are kidding ourselves if we think we can sanctify our stuff as "belonging to God." Each purchase we make costs us more than the money we give; we literally pay with our lives and give ourselves over to the control of our possessions. Again, I'm not saying that this is wrong; I'm merely presenting this as a discussion point.
So.....on that note, it is interesting to spot a new trend amongst American consumers. In a land of unparalleled affluence (which is, perhaps, unprecedented in all of human history) people are cutting back.
Here are a few selections (emphasis added) from an article in Time, How to Live with just 100 Things. I find it interesting to note the psychology (and perhaps spirituality) that goes into "ownership" of things:
Excess consumption is practically an American religion. But as anyone with a filled-to-the-gills closet knows, the things we accumulate can become oppressive. With all this stuff piling up and never quite getting put away, we're no longer huddled masses yearning to breathe free; we're huddled masses yearning to free up space on a countertop. Which is why people are so intrigued by the 100 Thing Challenge, a grass-roots movement in which otherwise seemingly normal folks are pledging to whittle down their possessions to a mere 100 items.
But what about Christmas ornaments? Family heirlooms? Those skinny jeans you hope to--but will probably never--wear again? "It's a very emotional process," says professional organizer Julie Morgenstern. Her new book, When Organizing Isn't Enough: SHED Your Stuff, Change Your Life, lays out a plan for clearing out both physical and sentimental clutter. "Often these are things that represent who you once were," she says. "But once their purpose is over, they just keep you stagnant." SHED, by the way, is an acronym for "separate the treasures, heave the trash, embrace your identity from within and drive yourself forward." Which is a handy little guide to Dumpstering your way into a state of Zen.
"It comes down to the products vs. the promise," says organizational consultant Peter Walsh, who characterizes himself as part contractor, part therapist. "It's not necessarily about the new pots and pans but the idea of the cozy family meals that they will provide. People are finding that their homes are full of stuff, but their lives are littered with unfulfilled promises."
Walsh isn't surprised that decluttering is so popular these days. Between worrying about gas prices and the faltering economy, people's first reaction, he says, "is often, 'I need to get some control over my life, even if it is just a tidy kitchen counter.'"