Scripture tells us:
Where your treasure is, there also will your heart be. – Matthew 6:21
There are many wonderful, good things in the world and in our lives, and it is good that we seek after them. The problem comes when we give them a place in our hearts above a love of God and love of neighbor. It could be money, a relationship, clothes, gadgets, status … everyone has something they treasure that they can become overly attached to. Even priests who take a vow of poverty can fall into this trap!
Recently on St. Joseph’s Workshop, Fr Matthew Spencer, OSJ shared his experience of recognizing an attachment to material things, and how we can let go of these disordered attachments and be better able to love and trust in God. He said:
“Something that people often miss, in my humble opinion, is how the material things in your life are keeping you from growing in that trust.
For example, some people will be so focused on building up their bank account, or building up their retirement account, or collecting things to be comfortable. And they’re doing it for reasons that are seemingly good. They’re trying to make their family happy and live the best quality of life possible. And they’re trying to enjoy life to the full and be totally set for when they retire at 55 and they can be comfortable on a cruise ship.
Those goals, in and of themselves, aren’t sinful. The problem is when those goals become ends in themselves – when people start focusing more on the material things than they do on trusting in God. When they start focusing on how many possessions they have, or having the latest iPhone, or having the latest gadgets, or having a nice car that impresses your friends. These kinds of things become disordered in our life, so often.
This seems kind of minor, but one area in my life that I noticed was books. See, when you’re in the seminary you have to collect books. And these are not cheap books, they’re often expensive theological tomes that you have to collect, and use to reference things. And sometimes you get them for a class, you have them for 10 years, you don’t know what to do with them, and you have this ever-expanding library.
It’s not like I’m a bookworm either. It’s not like I have tons of books. But I started to realize some years back how difficult having all those books is. And I started to feel a little bit attached to those books. … And something really interesting started happening when e-books started taking off some years back. It started simplifying my life.
All of a sudden, you can have more and more books, and they take up less and less space on your bookshelf. You can travel a lot easier, you can reference them a lot easier, you can search through them immediately, and you can do these different things that felt like I was detaching from the world. Except guess what? It’s just a different type of attachment.
Because we can be attached to electronic stuff too. We can be attached to digital stuff too. It’s the human condition. It’s the human condition to want to find comfort and consolation in things. It’s the fallen human condition. Our original condition was that we depended completely on God.
What is the solution? When we think it will lead us to happiness to have all this stuff, when we think it will lead us to happiness to have material objects in our life – we need to start letting go of them. Frankly, that’s what it comes down to. It’s about starting to live simpler lives with less stuff, and be less attached to money.
I’m not saying to go empty your bank account and give it all to charity. That would be imprudent, especially if you have people who depend on you and a family to take care of. You do have to plan for retirement. What I am saying is to recognize those attachments that you have in your life. Recognize those things that you’re putting in those spaces in your heart that are meant only for God, but you’re putting stuff there instead.
There are little areas of your heart that are meant only for God – it is only God who is going to make you happy. It is only Him who is going to satisfy your deepest desires. And instead of Him, we put fame, fortune, validation, recognition from other people, material things, luxuries, travel, whatever it might be.
Just start to ask yourself honestly: What is it that is in my life that I don’t really need, that I could simplify? It might be really hard, it might be difficult to let go of. But if I do that, it will force me to depend on Jesus more.
The more we do that – the more we depend on Jesus – the happier we are. The happier we are because we have God more present there directly, filling our hearts with that happiness that we so desire.”
St. Joseph’s Workshop with Fr. Matthew Spencer airs weekdays at 7:00 p.m. Eastern/4:00 p.m. Pacific on Relevant Radio®.