Clear Away the Clutter
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
December 2, 2007


Main Passage: Luke 12:13-21 (NLT)

What would your life be like without your TV?
What would your life be like without your car?
Or if you have two cars, what would happen if you went to one?
What would it be like if you didn’t have your computer?
Or your cell phone?
Or your game system?
How about if you got rid of your iPod or mp3 player?
What if you dropped your high speed Internet?
Or cancelled your cable or satellite subscription?
What if you threw out three quarters of the clothes in your closet?
What if you limited yourself to three pairs of shoes?
How about if you disposed of your DVD collection?
Or your library of books?
What if you even went so far as to get rid of your microwave?
What would your life be like?

Now think about this: What if you went home this afternoon and actually did get rid of one of those? One that really matters to you? Which one of those do you really value? What if you got rid of that one? Think about it. Even if you’re not going to actually do it, think about it. You’re going to go home and unplug the TV or put that “for sale” sign in your car window or donate half your wardrobe to Good Will.

How do you feel just thinking about it? Do you feel a tightness in the pit of your stomach? Does it make you uneasy, perhaps even panicky? Do you find yourself thinking, “Oh, I could never do without that!”

But do you know what that is? Do you know what that feeling of uneasiness is? That’s the grip of materialism. That’s a sense of your addiction to things. I know because I have all those things, too. And that’s how I feel.

Over the past several weeks, we’ve been talking about a variety of spiritual habits you can practice that can help spur you on to spiritual growth. We’ve talked about sacrifice in the form of fasting. We’ve talked about practicing silence. We’ve talked about working times of solitude into our lives. And today, we’re going to talk about the habit of simplicity. Clearing away the clutter of our lives and practicing simplicity.

So what is simplicity? This is how Keith Drury describes it…

“Simplicity is intentionally paring down our lifestyle toward the essentials to free ourselves from the tyranny of things and focus more on spiritual life… It says that we believe happiness is not found in the abundance of our possessions but in the fewness of our wants.”
~ Keith Drury

Jump back 2000 years. How did Jesus live? What were His possessions? What did He carry around with Him from place to place? Well, Jesus didn’t really have much of anything. He didn’t need anything. I mean, as far as we know, He wore a robe and sandals, and that was basically all He possessed.

The disciples followed that example of simplicity, too. They didn’t drag around a trailer full of their belongings. Some of them had homes that they could return to from time to time, but while they were traveling with Jesus, they carried very few possessions.

And when the Church first began, congregations began springing up all over the place, and these congregations were known for their generosity. Followers of Jesus began to sell their possessions in order to give to the poor, and to care for widows and orphans. We read in Acts chapter two…

Acts 2:44 (NLT)
And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need.

Now, I’m not advocating that you go home and get rid of everything you own. I mean, maybe you will want to do that, but that’s not really what I’m getting at today. What I’m talking about is learning to be satisfied with what you have. Learning to be generous. Learning to put the Kingdom of God first, ahead of things. Learning to not compete with everyone and everything else. Learning what you can do without. And learning to move toward a simpler lifestyle.

“For most of us, simplicity… has more to do with moderation than essentials… The discipline of simplicity moves us toward the essentials.”
~ Keith Drury

So in other words, you don’t have to reduce your wardrobe to one outfit. Please don’t reduce your wardrobe to one outfit. If you do, we’re going to have to either invest in some Febreze or section off an entire area in this room just for you, because no one’s going to want to sit near you.

So you probably don’t want to go home and throw away everything. But at least get rid of some things. Clear away some of the clutter.

But you see, here’s the thing. This habit of simplicity is not about what you own. It’s about how you see the things you own. How much do you value them? How much do you cling to them? Can you let them go?

Because the truth is, simplicity is more about your heart than it is about your inventory.

“Simplicity is an inward reality that results in an outward life-style.”
~ Richard Foster

It’s going to affect the way you live; there’s no getting around that. But it begins in the heart. What is it that you really long for? Where do you look to find true happiness? Do you still expect to find real joy in your possessions? Or haven’t you discovered by now that you’re not going to find it there? What have you set your heart on? What do you really treasure? Because as Jesus said…

Matthew 6:21 (NIV)
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Not “there it might be”, but “there it will be.” So what is your inward reality? What do you really treasure? Do you pursue the accumulation of possessions, or do you pursue the Kingdom of God?

Later on in that same chapter, Jesus went on to say… read it with me…

Matthew 6:33 (NLT)
“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”

Now, this morning, we’re talking mainly about our possessions. But it’s not just our possessions that can clutter our lives. It’s not just in that area that we need to simplify. Maybe you need to simplify your schedule. Maybe you need to simplify your obligations. Maybe you need to simplify your career aspirations. Maybe you need to simplify your speech, and just say what you mean and mean what you say. Maybe you need to simplify your goals in life.

Simplicity is a habit that can be applied to so many areas. But we are talking mainly about simplifying our possessions this morning. So let me tell you why that’s important. Let me tell you about the problem with stuff.

The Problem with Stuff:

1.    Eventually it owns you; you don’t own it.

For the past three and a half years, I’ve been using a Dell laptop. And let me tell you, when I bought it I was excited about getting it, using it and owning it. But you know, in many ways, that computer owned me. Oh, there were days when I was sure it was possessed by something, and I know there were days when it possessed me. I had more trouble with that thing, and I’ve griped to you more than enough about that.

And I spent hours… sometimes even weeks… dealing with little glitches or with software crashes or with hardware failures. It caused so much frustration and occupied so much of my time that the truth is, it owned me.

So today, I’d like to introduce you to my new friend, Mac. (Hopefully our relationship will go much better.)

But it’s true, isn’t it? The very things we buy to make life simpler often make it more difficult. And we grow so attached to our stuff that we can’t bear to get rid of it. Plus, we develop this uncontrollable urge to get more stuff. And when that happens, we no longer own it; it owns us.

“We pile up possessions so they can serve us, yet we eventually become servants of the things we own.”
~ Keith Drury

Think about it like this: Say you were thirsty so you went down to the harbour, scooped out some water, and then drank it down. What would happen? Well, assuming you survived, you’d end up being even more thirsty. Why is that? Because that’s what salt water does. It doesn’t satisfy; all it does is leave you wanting more.

That’s the power our stuff can have over us. It can leave us enslaved to the desire for more and more.

2.    It distracts you from the truly important.

I mean, we can get so focused on making more money and buying the latest gadgets and wearing the latest styles that we lose perspective. And we end up believing those things are so much more important than they really are. So we focus more and more energy and attention to acquiring those things and tending to them after we acquire them. We place so much value and so much time and so much security in our stuff.

But is that what’s really important? Of course not! But yet we treat it like it is, and it distracts us from what’s really important… family… faith… God…

In the passage Derek read for us, Jesus said this… read it with me…

Luke 12:15 (NLT)
“Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.”

So stop treating it like it is.

3.    It makes it difficult to be fully devoted to Jesus.

One day a rich man came to Jesus and asked him what he needed to do to have eternal life. And he went on to explain that he had lived a good life, he had kept the commandments, he was a pretty good guy and tried to do what was right. But look at how Jesus responded…

Mark 10:21-23 (NLT)
Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!”

It’s difficult for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God. It’s not impossible… Jesus went on to say with God everything is possible… but it’s difficult. Because a rich person becomes attached to his or her wealth. They don’t want to give it up. It can be more important to them than following Jesus.

And the truth is, here in North America, just about everyone is rich. In comparison to the rest of the world, we have plenty. So let me ask you, how attached are you to your plenty? Are your bound by it? Are you a slave to it? Or are you able to use it generously? Are you even able to give it away if that’s what’s needed?

And let me add this: Even if you don’t consider yourself to be wealthy, you can still have this disease of stuffitis. You can still think you’ll find happiness in belongings. The Bible says…

1 Timothy 6:10 (NLT)
For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.

And you don’t have to have money to crave money. You don’t have to have money to love money. So wherever you are on the economic ladder, are you consumed with gaining more? Is that where your focus is? Is that preventing you from pursuing a relationship with Jesus? Is your love of money diverting you from pursuing the Kingdom of God?

Okay, so let’s say you want to practice this habit of simplicity. How do you go about doing that? Well, I suppose there are lots of suggestions I could give you. But let me just give you a few simple ideas… Remember it starts inwardly, but if you want to express this habit of simplicity outwardly, here are some tips…

How to Live Simply:

Spend less

Don’t buy everything you want to buy. Put a filter on what you choose to purchase. Refuse to be a slave to impulse spending. Instead, ask yourself questions like, “Do I really need this? Am I going to use it? Will it really make my life better? Or will it just be more clutter? Is there a better way to use this money? Let me encourage you to buy stuff for its usefulness, not its prestige. View your possessions as tools, not as a status symbol.

Also, put away those credit cards. Stop mortgaging your future to feed your hunger for more now.

And everyday, decide you’re going to say “No” to one thing that you want to buy. Refuse to be addicted to stuff.

Good reminder on this first Sunday of Advent, isn’t it?


“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.”
~ Hans Hofmann

So try this. Go through your home one room at a time and divide your stuff into three categories… stuff to keep, stuff to throw out, and stuff to give away or sell. Then do it.

And then keep it up. Once you’ve clear out the clutter, don’t allow it to reappear. Maybe once a week, spend ten minutes going through your home and find a few things to get rid of. Maybe do it on the commercial breaks during your favourite TV show. That’d be what? About 15 minutes? Not all that time-consuming. Certainly doable. So go ahead and try it. Clear out the clutter and then keep it out.

“Rearrange your life so that you have the maximum amount of resources—such as time, energy, and money—available to pursue your values. If something doesn’t help you fulfill God’s purpose for your life, then eliminate it from your life. Get rid of possessions that clutter…”
~ Whitney Hopler

Practice simplicity in short spurts

Shera and I have been living in York for a little over three years now. And we love it there. But one of the things I’ve learned is that the power goes out there a lot! Usually, it’s only for a short time. Maybe even just a flicker, enough to turn reset all the digital clocks and then it’s back on again. But sometimes it’s a little longer. Just a couple months ago, I remember going several hours without electricity.

And you know what I discovered then? I discovered how little there is to do without electricity. I’m so dependent on it. I mean, what am I going to do without power? I know, I’ll just watch some TV. Oh, wait. That’s not going to work. Well, maybe I’ll just watch something I have recorded. Not going to work either. Maybe I’ll microwave some popcorn. Hmmm. No, well how about if I just turn on the stereo. Right, no power. Well, let’s see, I can’t even turn the shower on. The water pump won’t work. I suppose I could do some work on my computer, but the battery in this stupid Dell will be dead within 15 minutes. And besides, I can’t print anything off and I can’t connect to the Internet. I could read, but it’s hard to read by flashlight. I can’t even brew any coffee!

Now, that was forced on me. But you know what? Even then it was fairly relaxing. The busyness of my life had been decluttered from all that stuff and it gave me time to declutter my brain in the process. It was actually a good experience to go without all those things for a time. But what if I chose to do that periodically? What if you chose to do that? What if you decide that even just for a short time, you’re going to go without something for a specified period of time?

Or what if, next time you go away for a few days, you don’t jam-pack the car full of stuff. What if you limit what you take with you to a backpack? If it doesn’t fit in the backpack, it doesn’t go. What if you simplified what you took with you on vacation? Wouldn’t your vacation be much more beneficial? Practice simplicity for short bursts.

Okay, that’s pretty simple, isn’t it? Three simple tips to help you live simply. But why? Why is this important? What’s the point? Well, just as we finish up, let me tell about the outcomes of simplicity. What are the results of practicing this habit?

The Outcomes of Simplicity:

A.    Freedom from Possessions

Not that you don’t have anything, but that they don’t have you. You’re not ruled by what you do own. You experience freedom from them instead of enslavement to them. And instead of having an uncontrollable impulse to acquire more, you can be grateful for what you already have.

B.    Peace within Yourself

When you declutter your life, you can’t help but experience a greater sense of peace. It’s easier to relax, it’s easier to enjoy what you do have, it’s easier to quiet yourself, and it’s just easier to handle life.

C.    Generosity toward Others

You know, when you’re hoarding all your possessions, you’re not a very generous person. But when you learn that the value of your life is not measured by stuff, it becomes much easier for you to give that stuff away, to give gifts of cash to those in need, to become a giving person instead of a getting person.

What did the early believers do? They shared. They shared their possessions, they shared their resources, they shared their meals. They were very generous, and they were all that much happier because of it. Not one of them regretted sharing what they had.

D.    Trust in God

This is what it all boils down to. If your self-worth, if your security, if your happiness is all dependent on your stuff, then that’s what you’re trusting in. You’re trusting your belongings to supply all that for you. And the reality is, you’re going to be very disappointed.

But when you practice simplicity and get stuff in perspective, then you’re able to place your trust where it really belongs… with God. Then you can look to Him to provide what you need. You can trust Him for your security. You can trust Him for joy and for happiness.

So stop trusting in your ability to accumulate and start trusting in God’s ability to provide.



Copyright © Greg Hanson, 2007