Why Can't I Seem to Be Free of My Need for Stuff?

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I just needed one thing. 

Target had hooked me from the moment I walked in as my eyes danced around the dollar section and my hands started methodically filling my basket full of stuff.

Shaking myself out of the Target trance, I made my way to the back of the store. Fortunately, by the time I collected the one item I needed, buyer’s remorse had started to creep in. I had a basket full of things I didn’t need

So, I put them all back.

And I walked out of the store with the one item that I needed.

But, why did I get sucked into the Target trance in the first place and feel like I needed a basket full of stuff?

Instant gratification. You’ve heard it a million times, but we are living in a world where our attention spans are shorter, we value convenience, and if we want it, then we’re getting it now. The problem? Instant gratification creates an expectation that our emotions and desires are more valuable than our self-control. Which then creates mistaken priorities. Our focus for our “need for stuff” is no longer on what it’s used for, but for how it makes us feel. Stuff that fulfills that desire for instant gratification rarely fulfills our desire to have purposeful and meaningful things.

John Piper was interviewed a few years ago answering the question, “What Luxuries in My Life are Sinful?" Through this interview, he presents a perspective of what “stuff” is nonessential and what is essential, prefacing that everyone will have different perspectives on the following points.

So, as you’re making a purchase, deciding on things to give to Goodwill, or are standing in the dollar spot at Target, consider asking yourself the following questions:

  1. Is it good for my soul and the souls of the people around you? John Piper references art and gardens in this instance, expressing how artwork is something we could live without, but is good for the soul in that we “are made to see, know, and love beauty.” Art and nature are reminders of God’s Divine creativity and His love for us.

  2. Is it good for efficiency in your ministry? A car may not be necessary to get from point A to point B—riding your bike is possible—but “efficiency for the sake of using your time more productively is wiser.” Everyone’s line between efficiency and luxury is different, but using the “stuff” we fill our homes and offices with to make tasks more efficient to further God’s Kingdom is “stuff” that has great purpose and value.

  3. Is it affordable without replacing or hindering good deeds? He elaborates on this point by asking “Has it gotten in the way of a heart-felt calling to do a good thing?” And, if so, then the “stuff” that fills your life is “stuff” that controls you. “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 6:24.)

Once our perspective changes on what our “need for stuff” is, our desire for finding instant gratification through “stuff” is shifted to patience. Purposeful patience to ask ourselves the value and use of our “stuff” overcomes our desire to be instantly gratified. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21.)