7 read-a- long (chapter 3: possessions)

So, I met this girl on the internet a few years ago. And she’s asleep in my basement as I type. And that’s why this post is eight hours late, because I picked her up from the airport at 1:30pm yesterday, and we didn’t stop talking until 10 hours later. Have I mentioned how much I love meeting online friends in real life?

I’m gonna do things a little differently today. You might remember that last week’s chapter on clothing somehow turned into four days of posts and debate. This chapter could easily (EASILY) turn into the same thing. And I don’t necessarily mind that.

However.

I got a Facebook message from a friend this morning who wasn’t super keen on this chapter and was afraid to publish her post. “Will the Jen Hatmaker Fan Club over at Marla’s blog hate me??” I read her post and thought she articulated her thoughts clearly and respectfully.

It is okay if you don’t agree with Jen Hatmaker.

But let me make something clear. I didn’t pick up a copy of 7, start reading, and then change my mind so that it would line up perfectly with Jen’s. As if she’s got some holy connection to God, and he told her exactly what to write. Believe it or not, I’m not agreeing with pretty nigh every single thing she says just because I’m an adoring fan.

God had already been showing me the stuff in 7 before I ever read the book.

And so, today, instead of writing out everything I loved about the chapter, I’m going to link to some posts I wrote about possessions back in October during a series called 31 Days of Purging.

10 Whys of Purging
James 5 + Purging
Purpose-Filled Purging
Purge Who You’re Not
Curbing Consumption
4 Ways to Love the Poor
12 More Ways to Love the Poor

And this one from February: Thoughts on Enough.

And I’m going to ask you to be perfectly honest. If you hated this chapter, let us know. We won’t hate you. (We may try to get you to change your mind, but we won’t hate you.) If you want to answer one or more of the following questions, please do.

Discussion Questions:

1. Jen says she used to pardon her excess from the tension of the gospel by saying, “It doesn’t matter how much you have; it’s what you do with it.” But then she forced herself to answer this question honestly: Are we really doing something honorable with our stuff other than consuming it?”

a. Have you used this line? b. What are some honorable things you’re doing with your stuff?

2. “We’ve invented a thousand shades of gray, devising a comfortable Christian existence we can all live with–super awesome, except the Bible doesn’t support it. According to Scripture, no real disciple serves God while addicted to the dollar. There is no sheep/goat hybrid.” What do you think of this? What shades of gray do you think we’ve invented?

3. Are we all supposed to sell all of our stuff and live in poverty and/or move to Cambodia? If not, then what in the heck are we supposed to do?

Tomorrow I’ll share more of my personal response to these questions (and others). But right now? I’m going to the zoo.

47 thoughts on “7 read-a- long (chapter 3: possessions)

  1. Susanelizabeth

    I read this book and began sharing it(as I sobbed through parts, including her book, “Interrupted”) with my husband. And about half way through the 10th or 11th snippet I read to him, he looked up at me and said, “Well, are you going to sell your prized wind-up 1940’s metal toys and donate those to the homeless or sponsor a child. After all you don’t NEED them.”. As soon as he said that, all the “spiritual” drained out of me and the “How dare you mess with MY stuff, this was about YOU!” appeared. I laugh at it now because, he too has jumped on the band wagon(and I am now trying to sell those same wind-up toys. I finally asked God if He wanted me to and He did. So, it’s His fault). My husband never read 7 but after I finished it, we began reading Radical, Radical Together, Crazy Love, etc and now he’s giving to so many things, needs, I am appalled. I read Revolution in Missions” first but it was really 7 that started my heart stomping journey. We had already hulled out so much when we moved to a 2 bedroom apt a few yrs back, so now, we are selling a few things too. Hopefully, we won’t be joining a commune anytime soon. But, yes, I loved all of 7, well, you know the Listerine kinda love…burns like the dickens going in and down, but it’s cleansing, though I did get a big bogged down in the green section. That’s my weaker side. I am a country girl and recycling, well, same deal.

  2. Sarah Farish

    Today it’s going to be 86 degrees in my area. Wow! I am so excited, so I have been frantically searching through totes for the summer clothes I packed away last fall. I found four, full totes and know at least three more are missing – probably in the basement. As I sort through them, I realize I can wear only a few pieces; this is good news because I’ve lost some weight over the past months. Still, I suddenly saw all the piles of clothes as a burden. What do I do with them all? Dropping them at the Goodwill just doesn’t seem the thing to do anymore. I also need to replace these clothes, right? With what? How many? What do I really need?

    I simply see these decisions so so differently now. I blogged about my daughter’s sacrificial birthday, and I’ve decided I want to be more likel her. This chapter has been the hardest for me because I like stuff, especially nicer clothes since this is the first time in years I can fit into pretty clothes. But, at the end of the day, I have to ask, “Why? Why am I finding worth in clothes – or shoes – or the brand name on my purse?”

    This month as I pack to move I plan to look at each item as I pack and ask, “What’s this about? Impressing someone? Or because it brings me joy? Or can I somehow glorify God by keeping it or giving it?”

    Looking forward to this purging…praying I can stick to my guns!

    1. Marla Taviano

      First of all, GOOD FOR YOU being able to fit in cute clothes again! I’m going to pray God blesses you with some pretty stuff that doesn’t cost too much and brings you joy.

      And second, I’ve been thinking about Hannah ever since I read your post. Incredible. Talk about joy. That kind of stuff just fills a mama’s heart to the brim, huh.

  3. Jeremiah Johnson

    So I have fallen behind the read-a-long. But I felt like this was a topic worth commenting. As my wife said previously I come from a long line of hoarders, my wife, not so much. My grandma and grandpa live in an house with several rooms full to the ceiling with random junk (not to mention the garage, the barn and 2 shipping containers also full to exploding). My parents house is so full that you cannot walk 5 feet into the garage, and as a means of making bed space in the house for family Christmas, they have their back porch stocked full of the junk that was in all of the bedrooms. When we got married and bought our house, we filled the garage and one of our bedrooms with random boxes that were very important, with the intention of going through them 1 at a time until we knew what we wanted to keep and what we could get rid of. Finally, after three years, we went through everything in 1 weekend. It was amazing how many times one of us would ask the other “what made me think it was worth keeping this?” God has worked hard on our hearts to simplify our lives and make room for God. We keep talking about the journey that God has taken us through as we are reading this book. I still struggle with the indwelling sin of hoarding, but pray that God would cause me to die to self and live for Christ.

  4. Melissa

    I liked this chapter because it fits with my mentality right now. We are doing the slowest move in history from one house to another, and it’s given me a chance to go through all my stuff. Of course, I also have experience (and perspective) in going through my parents stuff (borderline hoarders). I saw what they saved and learned how to prioritize the things that are important (pictures, letters, etc). I don’t want my kids to have to go through what I went through. I also don’t want them to value stuff over relationships. As for what we’re supposed to do with our money, I just think we need to honor God with all our purchases.

  5. Jennifer Ekstrand

    I don’t agree with everything Jen Hatmaker says, but I’ve been convicted that one major area of excess in my life is how critical and judgemental I tend to be, so I’ve been making an effort to focus on what I agree with and just keep my mouth shut on the stuff that I disagree on. I know it is acceptable to disagree, but I tend to get hung up on details and throw out babies with a few drops of bathwater. I’m not reading this because of the interesting ideas; I’m reading because I recognize excess in my life, and 7 seems like a helpful tool in moving beyond “I have too much” to “what can I do about it”.

    On the thought of what we do with it being what matters, I have found my pastor’s communication of “wartime” mindset to be helpful. Simplicity isn’t the goal, the Kingdom is, and he gives an example of a B-52 bomber as something big and expensive that someone might legitimately purchase to win a war.

    I don’t think the problem is the idea that what we do with our stuff matters more than how much of it we have, but that we use it to justify owning too many things that we are really only using on ourselves.

    My husband and I were hoping that our collection of books would be a resource for others, but only a tiny percentage of our books have ever been read by anyone else (so we recently sent a batch to the second-hand book store so that someone else can have an opportunity to get some of them at an affordable price). We had a noble intention for the books, but in reality the books were sitting on our shelves collecting dust.

    1. Bethany Peters

      “Simplicity isn’t the goal, the Kingdom is, and he gives an example of a B-52 bomber as something big and expensive that someone might legitimately purchase to win a war.”

      This is perfect. I love and completely agree with this! Thanks for this perspective!

      1. Bethany Peters

        And God knows whether that big and expensive thing is truly for His kingdom or actually for ME. Books like these are helpful in reminding me that my motives aren’t as pure as I like to imagine they are. I am good at justifying my stuff, like you said.

    2. Lori

      Amen!! Great statements. I like the B-52 example too as well as this: “I don’t think the problem is the idea that what we do with our stuff matters more than how much of it we have, but that we use it to justify owning too many things that we are really only using on ourselves.”

      Thank you for the words of wisdom!

  6. Leslie

    Just read Chapter 3 today and I’ve been crying all through it. I’m decent at purging and giving away, but have usually remained insulated from those I’m supposedly trying to help. I don’t want to be the nice-talking, coffee-sipping, completely oblivious Christian. Lord, help!

  7. Lisa

    I finished reading David Platt’s book Radical. It’s a lot to digest. I’m planning on ordering 7 soon. I had never considered myself extravagant…in fact I think my family lives pretty modestly…that is until I read that book. It made me realize that I can do more…sacrifice more. What am I doing with the things I do have? I can’t say it’s really honorable….at least not in the sense that anyone other than my family benefits from it. My husband and I have been talking a lot about what we can do for God…even in the midst of our own financial struggles. Lots of prayer…many things to consider. I usually don’t find joy in times of strain…but I do now. My relationship with Christ is getting stronger because of it….and that is joy. Thanks Marla for opening up these discussions and for your honesty and vulnerability. It takes courage to explore these issues.

  8. Joy

    So I am not reading the book, just keeping up with what Marla and all of you have said. Partly because at the time it started I was in the middle of business and because I am trying to remain on the back burner on this issue. I would love to get rid of so much of our stuff. Ordered Tish’s book on Simple Living and skimmed it. Mentioned something to the hubs and he disagreed with it. So I lent it to a friend. What do you do when your husband is the one with all the stuff and sees no reason to sort and get rid of it? I am seeing a major debate coming in the future, a baby or your college textbooks? Help?

    1. Sharon

      Joy, I’m in the same boat as you. My husband sees no reason to get rid of things we *might* need someday. He’s also asked me if whatever I want to get rid of is taking up space that we need for something else. lol about the textbooks. I have one college textbook that I kept. My husband has TONS! I recently talked to him about selling them and he was going to give it a go, til he found he could only get $5 each. To him it wasn’t worth it. To me, they need to be gone anyways, and to make some cash on the side – totally worth it!

      Anyways, Marla has told me in the past to pray about my husbands attitude of not wanting to declutter and to also pray for wisdom about when to suggest to him that we no longer need a certain item.

      1. jess

        have you ever tried selling textbooks on amazon? it’s very easy and some go for a pretty penny! (just throwing that out there.) we recently listed about 8 of ours and the total listing price of all of them was something like $200. (granted, they all haven’t sold yet, but more than half have!)

    2. gini

      I am praying for mine too! That is the only way he will begin to purge with me. He comes from a long line of hoarders… saving for later (It’s thrifty, he says). It is hard, but I give and get rid of as I can and pray that God would do the rest! And we are lucky his law text books sell for more so that excited him!

    3. brooke

      since i’m the 3rd one saying “me too” it is quite clear that you aren’t alone. its hard. sometimes what’s right for others isn’t what’s right for your family. i don’t need one more thing in our relationship to nag him about, so i purge what is “mine” in the sense that he wouldn’t care if we kept it or not and i pray about the rest. that’s a work in progress that i’ll have to get back to you about 🙂

      1. Sharon

        I’ve been purging what is only mine, too, and I pray that my husband will follow my lead one of these days.

        1. brooke

          be careful! that’s what i’ve been praying and its looking more and more like we have no choice and will be moving into a house with 1 closet!! 😛

          1. brooke

            i typed that wrong – we have a choice about the move, but he loves the house so much he’s choosing it over his stuff. stuff that he will now have no choice but to go thru and purge.

          2. brooke

            submitting our final offer to the bank today (its a foreclosure) and we’ll know by the end of the day if its ours. and of course now that i’ve talked trash about jay and not wanting to get rid of his stuff, i got really sad last night about my bookshelves and all the books i have that i wouldn’t know what to do with.

    4. Danielle

      I have a couple thoughts based on my own experience. They may not at all be helpful, which is totally ok but I’m throwing them out there just in case.

      My husband grew up in a hoarder house. That is not an exaggeration, that is the absolute truth and he admits it. We fought a lot about this in the early years because I come from a home that does a major purge at least once a year and our opposing upbringings did not mesh. The most important thing I learned was that I needed to analyze my purpose for wanting to have less physical clutter in my life. That means a whole lot of closed mouth, opened heart, and honest prayer. Once I really understand my heart motives for things it helps me submit those things to God, and makes me more willing to hear what my husband’s heart motives are. Hearing him out makes it much more possible for me to pray effectively for him.

      Second, I found that I would purge stuff that didn’t matter to me but would push my husband to purge things that did matter to him. So, I stopped pushing, and dealt with the things that fell under my responsibilities, and decided to let God lead him where God wanted him to go, not where I wanted him to go.

      It is so hard to trust God to lead our families, and especially hard to trust mere men to lead us. But, it is so worth the love and mutual respect that can grow out of a wife prayerfully considering how best to let her husband lead. Praying for you!

      1. Lori

        Oh, that’s a great insight. Purging stuff that doesn’t matter to me but asking my husband to get rid of stuff that is meaningful to him. Ouch! I’ve been doing a lot of giving my husband over to God this year as well. It’s like a miracle occurs everytime I do it. Praise God!

  9. HopefulLeigh

    This may be addressed further along in the book but I wish she had addressed how to be a more thoughtful consumer. It’s not bad to buy “stuff” but we do need to be mindful of what we’re buying and why. We all have priorities when it comes to spending, depending on our socioeconomic abilities and special needs. And even within that, we all have opinions about fair trade, business practices, how much we want to know about overseas labor, and so on. There can be many implications no matter what we say but it comes down to where and how we spend our money. This is something I’ve wrestled with a lot in the last couple of years.

    I regularly go through my clothes and host clothing exchanges or donate what no longer fits me/my style. I also have strict guidelines for what books and music I’ll keep vs. what I’ll pass on (also why I’m a huge fan of the library, given my self-control issues when it comes to reading.) I liked Jen’s friend idea of setting up a donation center for their church/community to utilize so that incoming needs were not as emergent in terms of meeting them. But I felt like most of the chapter was addressing people other than me. Not that I can’t learn anything but that it’s not an area of primary struggle for me.

  10. Shelley

    I have always been of the mindset that when you read a book, you take what you need from it at the time….you don’t need to adhere to or believe everything you read. That being said, 7 is speaking right to where I am, right now. This book is addressing issues that have been brewing in me for awhile. God put this book in front of me at the right time.

    Purging is necessary in my life right now. I am not saying we have tons or are rich by USA standards…but still….we have enough. I look around and see how many things we have wasted money on…money that could have gone somewhere else, to help someone. I would love to live with less possessions. That would clear up some of the stress, the spending, the waste. I see how each of the 7 chapters are tying into each other. I would love to show my kids there are things they don’t need to be happy. How many times have they come to me and said they need a certain item to be happy? Many. And I knew they didn’t need it.

    That’s the point…show yourself that you don’t need those things to be happy. Jesus can fill that need. That’s not to condemn anyone who is wealthy and has lots of things. It’s personal….maybe they already know they could lose every possession and still be fine because they have Jesus. We’re not the judge.

    So take what you want from 7 and realize it’s your own journey.

  11. Lori

    I’m linking and running today ladies!! Feeling a bit out there with my perspective on this chapter. Not on the getting rid of stuff aspect…..I very clear that we need to do that and agree. But on some of the comments you’ll see in my post “Meet the Only Jen Hatmaker Dissenter” 🙂
    It’s going to drive me crazy all day not being able to read all your thought provoking comments here but we’re doing a bit of sight seeing with the family for spring break and my priority and time go to them.
    Catch up with you all later!

      1. Lori

        I’m back 🙂 Lasted 2 whole days without looking at or replying to comments and I have to admit it was very refreshing! (although a little anxietous since I put so much out there!) Crazy news about your new house!!!!

  12. Andrea

    I liked this chapter and Jen’s thoughts on the topic, but that doesn’t mean I thought incorporating her ideas would be how I should approach this area. Getting rid of things lined up with what I had already been doing and thinking about…but not because I necessarily wanted to give to the poor. I do that some too, but recently I have been getting rid of things that are not who I am now. They might have been who I was previously or who I had hoped/thought I could be. It took a lot for me to realize that not only am I not that and probably won’t be that…but that I don’t even WANT to be that. Isn’t that odd? So why hold onto those things? Anyway, this is to say that I came more to the realization about my identity, especially in relation to possessions and hobbies, than anything. I expounded a bit more at link 2: Possessions and who I am (not).

    1. brooke

      i get what you’re saying. when i graduated college i purchased a lot of clothing for the style i wanted to have. since then my style has evolved and i’m not that person. time to accept it and get rid of those things.

  13. brooke

    “enough” is a tricky thing. i like to save, plan, have “just in case” God’s doing some unconventional things in my life – things that make me question what enough is worth.

    1. brooke

      okay now that i’ve blogged i’m going to comment more thoroughly. i was busy thinking about basketball, marathon training, travel, and that pesky little thing called “work” they like me to do at my job sometimes.

      i’m a saver. i like having a cushion. be it money, possessions, or the like. on top of the possession/cabin issue i blogged about, God is also dealing with me about the hoarding of my vacation/sick leave at work. I want a big ole pad of time “just in case”

      my husband, however, wants me by his side as the Ohio University Bobcats get trampled by the University of North Carolina Tarhills. So instead of my comfortable 2 week cushion, I’m now down 16 hours – and more if the miracle of all miracles (basketball wise of course) happens and we have to stay through to Sunday.

      i can’t convey the sense of panic I’m feeling right now. Will I have enough time left for a “real” vacation? How about trips with my family? I can’t be certain, but I’m think God is saying “You’re a government worker – there are more days where that came from – get over yourself.”

  14. Amy

    Oh gosh, I just need to read this book and get it over with! I have been struggling with possessions lately and what is enough. Our pastor even spoke about it on Sunday. And now this. I’m getting the feeling God is trying to show me answers. Just need to figure out what it is. Can’t wait to read the posts and comments.

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