In middle school, I desperately wanted one thing. I wanted it so much that it consumed my thoughts, brought jealousy into my heart, and became the scale with which I measured all the people around me.
I wanted an Abercrombie t-shirt.
Nothing fancy, just something (anything) that had those magical words, “Abercrombie and Fitch” emblazoned across the front.
Looking back now, it is a little silly, but the power of that t-shirt really captivated my pre-teen mind.
It wasn’t the shirt that I wanted, really. It was the status.
See, all the cool kids, all the popular girls, had Abercrombie clothes. All of them. And I, well… I did not. Those name brand clothes were expensive (still are, I’d assume), and my family didn’t make fancy clothes a financial priority. I had lots of clothes. But they just didn’t have that glorious brand name.
And heavens, I wanted that brand name. Because if I could wear that shirt, then I could be “in.”
In all honesty, I don’t think that many of us are far off from my middle school self.
It’s stereotypical, I know, but we all know the narrative of the middle-aged man buying a fancy car to reclaim himself. A woman carrying a Gucci handbag will be taken more seriously in a store than someone carrying a department store purse. Having the right clothes, the right house, car, boat, shoes, wedding ring… all those things still make a difference to us, even (and maybe even more so) after we are grown.
We still want stuff. We still use stuff for a measuring stick to evaluate the people around us. We still find meaning and identity in our possessions.
Strangely enough, we also find meaning in our lack of possessions.
I know that, for me, my thrift store habit is a point of pride. I haven’t bought jeans for over $10 in years (years), and I’m kind of proud of that. I like getting the deal, finding the discount. And again, just like the guy who bought the Ferrari, I find identity in stuff.
The trouble with this, of course, is what happens when we can’t keep up.
When the stock market crashes, when that great deal ends up costing us more money, when a job ends… when we lose the house, or the car, or the boat, who are we then?
And for that matter, when we determine worth based on possessions, we value human beings wrongly.
The CEO may be a rich person, but that doesn’t tell us anything about his or her character. The homeless drifter may not have anything to his name, but that doesn’t mean that he is any less valuable than that CEO. If we base our evaluation of human beings on what they have, we’ll be shallow, prejudiced, unkind, and very often wrong.
And so we go back to the questions:
Who am I?
I am one in whom Christ dwells.
The money I spend and the money I save do not define me.
My stuff is not my worth.
I am not defined by what I have or don’t have, but by who I am in Christ- and that means that if I don’t get the Abercrombie shirt, if I don’t get the awesome deal, if I don’t have the right car, I am still secure in who I am in Him.
Where do I live?
I live in the unshakable Kingdom of God.
My bank account may dwindle, my house could burn down, I could rip that fancy shirt, and I’d still be part of the Kingdom.
I can trust God with the things I can’t control.
The important things in life aren’t really things at all- and where my treasure is, my heart will be also.
Knowing who we really are as Christians, and living in that truth, allows us to open our hands and give. It allows us to be less concerned about what people think. It allows us to stand on one thing and one thing alone- who we are in Christ Jesus because of what he’s done for us. We don’t have to buy it or wear the right thing or drive the right car- it’s freely given to us, and it cannot be taken away.