I recently engaged, once again, in that age-old, annual ritual of cleaning out. When the air cools and the leaves change, it’s time to drag out the tubs of clothes and switch over to warmer wear. Drawers must be emptied and summer clothes must be packed away. Long-sleeve shirts and pants must be sorted, tried on, and washed before they can take their places in drawers and closets. This process inevitably requires an assessment of what we have, and a determination of what we actually need.
We have been blessed with several people who, when they think of giving to those in need, think of us. And thank goodness they do. One aunt alone is single-handedly responsible for furnishing a good 50 – 75% of our boys’ wardrobes through hand-me-downs. And after several years of outgrowing all her hand-me-down benefactors, our daughter is once again the happy beneficiary of regular bags of used clothing. Every pair of jeans, every jacket, every shirt we receive represents one less item we have to pay for, which means more money for the other essentials of raising four kids in a ridiculously expensive part of the country. Because I see the true monetary value in these hand-me-downs, I tend to keep them. All of them. Even if we don’t really need them. And here-in lies a problem.
I am keeping all these things “just in case.” Just in case something wears out. Just in case the kids grow too fast. Just in case we need that someday. And my need to be prepared for anything goes way beyond kids’ clothes. I have kept furniture, tchotchkes, books, and who knows what else, all in the name of just in case. Because one day, I may change my mind and decide to resurrect those outdated end tables, when in reality, those end tables will never see the light of day again, at least not on my watch.
Just in case is a dangerous attitude for a family of six living in about 1400 square feet. If you’re not up on your square footage figures, that is a comfortably modest-sized home. It is not big. It is not grand. And it is certainly not a storage facility.
Several years ago, God nudged this family of six out of an even smaller comfortably modest home when He answered a simple prayer. I had been praying that God would provide us with a new home when we truly needed more space for the people in our family, not more space for our stuff. Believe me, we could have easily moved into a bigger place to store our stuff. We had a lot of it. But it wouldn’t really have been a bigger home, it would have been a bigger storage facility, or, like the rich fool in Luke 12, a bigger barn.
I had closets and half of a basement loaded with stuff that proved I was prepared, just in case. Just in case is good planning, because, “you never know when you might need it.” And when that day comes, I will be so proud of myself for saving it, whatever it is. Except, how often does that day ever actually come? When do I ever truly find myself saying, “If only I hadn’t given away those extra pairs of snow boots?” or, “If only I hadn’t given away those porcelain Santas?”
Just in case says, “We need to keep these extra winter coats, because, you know, just in case.” But every coat I keep that we do not use is a coat that someone else needs to use now. Let it go. Pack it up. Give it away.
Yes, I know, it’s hard. It’s hard to let go of my stuff. I like my stuff. And I like the security that being prepared for the just in case brings. But honestly, if I have something that I do not use, and someone else can use it, then why am I keeping it? I can bless someone with a gift that doesn’t cost me anything and frees me from the burden of worrying about the just in case.
I am happy to report that I am so over the just in case. How did this happen? I finally realized that while I always said God provides, keeping all that just-in-case stuff proved I didn’t totally believe it. I don’t need to hoard the things I might need, because God provides for all my needs, according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus. So if I do give something away and later find I truly have need of it, God will provide it at the time of my need. God provides for my just in case, so I don’t have to worry about it anymore. I thank God for this provision, and I got rid of those ridiculous end tables.
1. The Parable of the Rich Fool, Luke 12:15-21
15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain.19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” (NIV)
2. Philippians 4:19 “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (NASB)