I was listening to a sermon about poverty by Paul Rasmussen, and he shared something that made a big impact on me. The focus of the talk was on our “extra.” He wanted each of us to ask ourselves a very important question: What do you do with your extra?
Some of us might not think we have any extra. But often the reason why we don’t think we have any extra is because we live in communities that have A LOT of extra. I could connect with this point. I live in Dallas, which is a pretty wealthy city. Sometimes I don’t think I have a lot of extra because my neighbor makes more money than I do, or drives a fancier car than I drive.
But the truth is I have a lot of extra. I live in the United States, one of the wealthiest countries in the world. For example, this morning I sent back some of the breakfast I ordered, because I had extra food. I took perfectly good water and sprayed it all over my car, because I had extra water. I took time off from work and went on a vacation just for fun, because I had extra time. I have a lot of extra in my life, even though I’m not always aware of it.
I remember a few years ago I helped lead a college student mission trip to Guatemala. As a group, we helped build two houses for Habitat for Humanity. One of the things I remember most about the trip was the realization of how much extra I had. We were serving people who had almost nothing, and this contrast helped shine a light on the extra I had in my own life.
There’s a passage in the book of Luke (12:13-21) in which Jesus tells the story of a wealthy farmer. The farmer has had an amazing few years, and he is trying to figure out what to do with his extra crops. He ends up deciding to tear down his barns and build bigger ones, so he can store all of his extra. God harshly judges the farmer for his actions. “You fool,” God says. “This very night your life will be demanded of you. Then what will become of all your extra?”
The message is clear. You can’t take your extra with you. We all know this at some level, but we often live as if our extra is SO IMPORTANT. We treat our extra as if it is the source of our life itself.
It’s not. No one gets to the end of their life and wishes they had spent more time and energy collecting more extra stuff. When it comes down to it, getting all that extra just isn’t that important.
There is one antidote to getting in this pattern of accruing more and more extra: Give your extra away. John the Baptist is clear about this (Luke 3:10-14). “If you have an extra coat, give it to someone who doesn’t have one.” What should we do with all our extra? Give it away.
It’s a complete shame that we live in a world where some people hoard tons of extra stuff while other people starve to death, don’t have clean drinking water, or die because they can’t afford a malaria pill. We need to do something different. We can start by giving our extra away.
Here’s one thing I think we don’t realize: When we think about giving our extra away, we often think about it as a loss. After all, after giving away our extra, we will have less stuff. But we aren’t as in tune with what we gain. For example, we feel good about ourselves because we are helping someone in need. We connect with others and gain relationships. We gain peace of mind because we aren’t as worried about protecting our extra stuff. Time and time again, I have found that when I give my extra away, I end up gaining more than I give up.
Here’s a simple intervention you can start with: Go through your closet and pick out any clothes you haven’t worn in the last 6 months. Put these clothes into garbage bags, bring them to the local thrift store, and give them away. You can do the same thing with all the extra stuff in your garage, your electronics, and your appliances. Haven’t used something in 6 months? Give it away. You might be amazed at what God will do in your life as you give your extra away.