Wineskins Archive

December 4, 2013

(Thanks) Giving Weighs Less (Nov 2012)

Filed under: — @ 9:46 pm and

By Mark Wylie

I can’t empirically prove it, but I believe the reason that it is truly “more blessed to give than receive” is because giving weighs less

Yes, I believe that it literally weighs less. It’s lighter. It’s freer. It allows one to breathe easier. Movement is quicker and range of motion is increased. I’d say its even cleaner.

Let me explain my thinking:

1) A few years back my wife and I started our year-end ritual of systematically going through the house, packing up anything that we no longer needed or used, and giving it to Goodwill. The first year I was so amazed at how much “stuff” I was willing to part with, and was convinced that the following year I would have little to offer…

The following year I was amazed at how many things I was willing to give away that the year before I believed essential. In the span of only one year many material possessions (mostly clothes and shoes) went from being ‘keepers’ to ‘tossers.’ And we weren’t just unloading ‘junk’—all of it was quality stuff, we just no longer needed or used it.

Each trip I made to the Goodwill drop-off station was a ‘freeing’ experience both materialistically and spiritually. Not only was my load literally lighter (my truck bed was now empty) my spirit felt lighter too. I didn’t know why this was at first, and then I hit upon the idea that in shedding unneeded possessions I was breaking the false chords of security that those possessions had mysteriously anchored to my soul.

Thus, I came to see how giving stuff away weighed much less and felt much freer than hording stuff ever did. Now, every time I consider buying clothes, books, blu-rays, etc., I honestly ask myself, “Will this possession weigh me down? Will it be in my Goodwill pile a year from now?” If the answer leans towards ‘yes’, I leave it on the shelf.

2) We came into this world with nothing, and will return to God with nothing. That alone makes me believe that having few material possessions is much more natural and conducive to spiritual health. It is human nature to desire security, but it is human frailty that ties security with material possessions. With each possession we horde, we anchor ourselves to the fleeting hope of false security they provide. Anchors and heavy chords tied down may give us a sense of standing firm, but our souls were meant for flight, not to be rendered a statue by the weight of material security. When we are ‘weighed down,’ we are no longer free, no longer happy.

I truly believe this and have experienced it myself. I see it everywhere I look. Simply read the introductions to Easterbrook’s “The Progress Paradox” or Kasser’s “The High Price of Materialism.” “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems” is not just the title of a Notorious B.I.G. song, it’s a universal truism. I have a cousin who does inner-city ministry, gets paid little, and is one of the happier people I know. Not to sound too “mystic,” but I think its because he is allowing his spirit to truly ‘fly.’

When Jesus said, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” I think he was referring to this. It’s hard in the same way that it is hard for a bird to fly while housed in a rusty cage…its hard in the same way that its hard for a hot air balloon to take off while being heavily anchored to the ground. It’s hard to enter the kingdom when we are so loaded down by luggage we insist on bringing for the trip.

Jesus also warned us to “Be on guard for all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Peace, Joy, Happiness, Hope, Faith, and Love are the staples of a truly abundant—they cannot be bought, nor do they ‘weigh’ anything.

I’d ask you to begin the habit now of making Thanksgiving the time that you are (thanks)giving away your stuff: And no ‘junk,’ either: Give away the things that are lightly used, fairly new, be they practical or extravagant, the things that could make someone else’s life easier by putting them to good use. While you’re thanking God for all the blessings he has lavished upon you by sharing time and food and memories and football games and family pictures with family and friends, let loose of your material hoarde. And when you do “clean your closet” don’t use it as an opportunity to “build bigger barns”…that’s like going on a diet to loose 20 pounds only to binge on pizza and beer once you reach your goal. And remember, there is nothing wrong with making a lot of money (a good salary is a blessing from God), but do not use your blessing to weigh down your soul with useless possessions.

The more you give away, the less your spirit weighs. A heavy spirit is never a joyous or peaceful way to live.

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A quick postscript:

A week after writing and submitting this article, I came across the following quote ‘coincidentally’ from St. John of the Cross in my daily reading. It seems I am not the first one to feel that the soul needs break free and “fly”:

“The Soul that is attached to anything, however much good there may be in it, will not arrive at the liberty of divine union. For whether it be a strong wire rope or a slender and delicate thread that holds the bird, it matters not, if it really holds it fast; for, until the chord is broken, the bird cannot fly. So the soul, held by the bonds of human affections, however slight they may be, cannot, while they last, make its way to God.”

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