Clear Away the Clutter
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
December 2, 2007
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?
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!”
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
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…
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
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
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.
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
Acts 2:44 (NLT)
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
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
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
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
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
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)
where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
“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)
the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will
give you everything you need.”
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.
Problem with Stuff:
Eventually it owns you; you don’t own it.
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.
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
So today, I’d like to introduce you to my new friend, Mac. (Hopefully
our relationship will go much better.)
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
“We pile up possessions so they can serve us, yet we eventually become
servants of the things we own.”
~ Keith Drury
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.
It distracts you from the truly important.
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.
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…
In the passage Derek read for us, Jesus said this… read it with me…
Luke 12:15 (NLT)
Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you
So stop treating it like it is.
It makes it difficult to be fully devoted to Jesus.
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)
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.”
this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many
looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich
to enter the Kingdom of God!”
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?
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)
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.
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?
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…
to Live Simply:
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
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
simplicity in short spurts
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.
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!
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?
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.
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?
Outcomes of Simplicity:
Freedom from Possessions
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.
Peace within Yourself
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.
Generosity toward Others
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.
Trust in God
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.
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.