It was a dark and stormy night and I was all alone in front of the television. All of a sudden, my life changed in the blink of an eye. Before I knew it, I found myself curled up into a ball of crawling skin and terror. Years ago, you would have to pay admission to see the craziness parading in my living room. It was the most terrifying thing I had ever seen. It was the first episode of A&E’s Hoarders.
You may laugh, but I am only half-way kidding.
Each episode of Hoarders is a collection of stories about people who, well, they hoard. Their lives have become marked by a combination of garage sales purchases and garbage heaps. People collect everything from cats (which is an absurd thing to collect, in and of itself!) to children’s clothes, and the junk starts to cover the floor. Then it slowly creeps up the wall. Before you know it, the living room looks more like an entrance to a cave than a place of rest. On a comical note, people are so attached to things they never knew they owned that parting with them takes every ounce of willpower- on a human note, families are torn apart because a hoarder cares more about accumulating things than nurturing their children in a safe environment.
The show is television at its best- sad, ridiculous, pathetic, neurotic and always entertaining- but I still prefer the word “terrifying.” It becomes quickly apparent that this is a uniquely American problem. We have so many things and so small of an understanding as to how to use our resources. We can point out the obvious disparity between people who are killing themselves with too many things and people who are dying without basic necessities. There are a host of reasons this is terrifying but one in particular stands out- Hoarders hits home.
Jonah, the prophet of God in the Old Testament is an ancient example of a hoarder. A spokesman for the Lord, the God of Israel, Jonah had the unique privilege of speaking truth, grace and redemption into the life of his people. Ever since Solomon’s sons had taken over the reins of Israel, neighboring countries were fighting for and winning the land God had given them. Jonah’s first message was that the original boundaries would be restored. His career was off to a great start but somewhere along the way, Jonah became a hoarder.
Jonah started assuming that God hated his enemies as much as he did. He began to see the neighboring nations as threats to the plan of God. Maybe something happened to Jonah personally to embitter him- but one way or the other, Jonah started to hate all things Assyria, baptizing his hate under holy auspices. Jonah was a grace-hoarder.
The story of the reluctant prophet takes a major shift when the Lord calls him to the very people he hates. Grace, it seems, is not something to be stored up and saved for a rainy day- it is a gift to be re-gifted. God’s blessing for his people has always come with the express purpose that his beloved would be a blessing to others- our enemies, as well as God’s.
Can you feel the clutter in Jonah’s heart? His emotions were the mouth of a treacherous cave, waiting to implode on him. His resting place had become a stress-inducing hazard.
Is this sounding familiar yet? Maybe only Jonah and I have missed the point time after time. Grace is meant to re-gifted to annoying coworkers and frustrating bosses. The love of Christ is not meant to be one more thing to tuck away for a rainy day- we are loved expressly to love.
Don’t be afraid to give out of your wealth of grace- God- who is not short in his bank account- is for you.