KonMari, Detaching from Stuff, and Traveling Light in this World: "Tidying Up with Marie Kondo" has become a huge success for Netflix. The show was green-lighted as a result of the global success of Kondo’s best-seller, "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up," and features Kondo’s unique teaching, known as the "KonMari" method.

Kondo says that she derived her method from the Shinto religion. After an anxiety attack in her college years, she became convinced that the episode resulted from having become too obsessed with the wrong things, i.e. the clutter, in life. Consequently, the "KonMari" method has one evaluate an item’s worth by holding it in their hands, and keeping only that which “sparks joy.”

There’re obviously flaws to the “does-it-spark-joy?” system. I don’t want to speak for everyone, but if you’re holding a screaming, poopy-diapered baby in your arms, it’s unlikely that (and probably worrisome if) unmitigated joy is running through you. Nonetheless, you shouldn’t get rid of the child. Or, for instance, I’ve never had any pair of socks spark joy when holding them in my hands. Yet I still recognize their value. Or, on the other hand, for some, holding a bag of cocaine might actually spark tremendous joy inside, but by all means, you need to get rid of that thing.

That’s simplistic. But that’s my point. The method itself is logically too simplistic to be a significant life tool. Nonetheless, the method’s popularity is clearly tapping into a public sentiment – i.e. in a postmodern, subjective, “you do you” world, we don’t know how to reasonably assess value. The result has been that this generation is developing an unwitting, but significant, awareness of Jesus’ teaching that “life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” (Luke 12:15)

A sign of the times

Look no further than the tiny house phenomenon. The size of the average American house grew from 1780 square feet in 1978 to 2,662 square feet in 2013. The economic recession of 2008 coupled with a leaner Millennial mindset gave birth to a rising popularity of homes with approximately 500 square feet. There’s a non-committal mobility attached to such dwellings. It was a sudden and reactionary generational pendulum swing.

Similarly, Abercrombie & Fitch, a mainstay in young adult fashion in the 90s & early 2000s has been on life support the past several years. For some reason, college students carrying 100k of student loans seem to find nothing cool about overpaying for a logo on a hoodie anymore.

Growing up in a financial crunch does remarkable things for your perception about the value of stuff.

Some might be surprised to hear a Christian pastor say that we most certainly can find some good overlap with Christianity in other religions. But since the Bible indicates we all have a natural knowledge of God imprinted upon our hearts (Romans 2:14-15), it stands to reason that there are tenets of other non-Christian religions that nonetheless support certain Christian values. As Marie Kondo has stated, the Eastern religions, for a couple millennia, have encouraged practitioners to detach from the material things of this world. This idea is not only biblical, but it’s massively important for Western people to hear. 

Jesus tells the disciples he sends out in Matthew 10 to travel light in this life. Specifically, he says: “Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts— no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep.” Matthew 10:10-11.

There is a fascinating balance in what Jesus is teaching. He doesn’t say that his disciples don’t need material things at all. He says that they don’t need an excess of material things. They’re not allowed to take an “extra” shirt or sandals or staff. Unlike Eastern religions, God is not anti-material, but unlike traditional Western consumerism, he’s also not hyper-material.

Traveling Light

God wants his people to steward material things wisely. The end result for people who believe that this world in its present form is a temporary dwelling place until the real life, life eternal, is that we would travel light in our time spent here.

By the way, for those who think that Jesus’ directions here only apply to the Twelve that he’s sending out for the first time on a ministry journey, I would suggest the following. We know the “traveling light” principle is not only further established in the rest of Scripture, but when you look at the parallel Gospel account in Luke 10, you find that Jesus sends out 70 disciples. 

I believe that 70 disciples were actually sent out, but I also ask “Why 70?” Seventy, as a product of 7 (holiness/perfection) and 10 (completion) is a number in the Bible that signifies holy completion. In this case, it indicates ALL of Christ’s disciples. In other words, Jesus is establishing some prototypical, prescriptive patterns here that he wants his followers to practice throughout history. One of those practices is the “traveling light” as missionaries in this world principle.

There are some obvious spiritual reasons to travel light. For starters, excess requires less faith. If you have an abundance of money, housing, food, clothes, etc., it affords you the dangerous privilege of not having to trust in God’s providence.

Letting go is HARD but there is hope

Another spiritual benefit of traveling light in this world is that in the moments when following Jesus could mean risking everything for the sake of the Kingdom, the greater the “everything” is, the harder it is to let go. I’ve only watched clips of Marie Kondo’s show, but it’s fascinating to see how many people cry when letting go of sweaters that they haven’t worn in 8 years. The things of this world have a strong, secret pull that creates an obstacle to our life mission. So let them go and be careful not to pick up too many others.

I understand it’s not easy. It requires intention and courage. My wife, Adrian, is currently in a pretty pricey graduate program for another 2 1/2 years. We went from both working to one of us working and then paying for school. We’re still blessed beyond imagination. But we’re already proactively planning over 2 years out about what it will mean when she graduates and we return to multiple incomes. It cannot mean simply more stuff. It must amount to more impact on others in need. It must still require us to trust primarily in God. It must account for the temptation to become hyper-attached to this world.

We struggle with this to varying degrees, and very few of us consider ourselves materialistic, yet most of us have still fallen victim to coveting the things of this world, refusing Jesus’ clear command: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:19-20)

The good news is that Jesus, who owns the world, chose to not have a dollar to his name in his life on earth. He willfully detached, voluntarily became poor, so that we, through his poverty, would become eternally rich (2 Corinthians 8:9). Never mind tiny house, the Son of Man literally had no place to lay his head (Matthew 8:20). Why? Even when we were oblivious to the power that stuff had over us, he knew we struggled with greed, control, and the treasures of earth and wanted to die in our place to pay for all of that. When you see the beauty of his generosity, you start letting go of stuff and start grabbing more hold of him.

Let go of this life. Let go of perceived control. Let his generosity spark ultimate and eternal joy. You’ll be a lot less anxious.

We thank Pastor James Hein and https://www.breadforbeggars.com for this week's blog.