by Shannon Wagers
There was a really popular DIRECTV ad, circa 2010. It featured an abundantly wealthy Russian man with a home furnished in gold-trimmed furniture, lavish surroundings, and even a miniature pet giraffe!
“Opulence, I has it,” he stated, but he still liked to save his money, so that’s why he was a DIRECTV customer. He got five months free for the most premium package, so he says when the great offer came, “I jump in it!”
This commercial was meme worthy and one of the best advertising lines of the decade. Even though the ad didn’t feature a real million- or even billion-aire, there are certainly some ideas we can explore from it.
Opulence and the Most Toys
“He who dies with the most toys wins” is a quote attributed to Malcolm Forbes. You may recognize the name of this entrepreneur from the magazine on finance and investing that bears his family name. This phrase embodied Malcolm Forbes’s ambition and lifestyle. He collected numerous items as a renowned art connoisseur. He had over three hundred pieces created by Peter Carl Fabergé. This included nine Fabergé eggs. Each would sell for “in excess of $30 million,” according to Géza von Habsburg, a former Christie’s Auction House executive and Fabergé expert.
Malcolm Forbes died of a heart attack in 1990 at the age of seventy. He also owned castles, hot air balloons, and various other items that filled a half-dozen residences on three different continents. To say the least, his collection was internationally known for its range and its eclecticism. Three decades after his passing he can no longer access any of it. When is enough enough? That’s the question we asked in our teaching series at church yesterday. If you missed it, you can check it out here.
Jesus Christ gave us words of ageless wisdom when he said in Matthew 16:26, “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” (NLT).
Randy Alcorn is a pastor who reframes this quote in his book, The Treasure Principle: Unlocking the Secrets of Joyful Giving:
“Millions of people act as if it were true. The more accurate saying is, ‘He who dies with the most toys still dies—and never takes his toys with him.’ When we die after devoting our lives to acquiring things, we don’t win—we lose. We move into eternity, but our toys stay behind, filling junkyards.”
Most people are pros in stockpiling “stuff.” No matter what, we fill our homes and ultimately, our lives, but our stuff isn’t going with us when we die. Getting our priorities right according to God’s Word should be our focus.
Over the past decade a new movement has come to prominence. Most people have likely heard of Marie Kondo, whose KonMari method assesses all of one’s possessions one category at a time, and results in keeping only those things that “spark joy.” There is some truth to the KonMari method—but maybe not what you’re expecting.
I completely agree that we should be fixated on joy—but it should be the joy of salvation through Jesus. You will experience discontentment and dissatisfaction in life—count on it! You will never be completely happy on Earth because you’re not supposed to be.
God created you to live in Heaven with him for eternity. Heaven is your home, not Earth! There is no complete satisfaction here because you were made for more. There will be happy moments, but it’s nothing compared to what God has planned for you in eternity. When you realize that life on Earth is just temporary, it radically alters your perspective to reflect eternal values, not temporary ones—and that becomes the deciding factor for your decisions.
Minimalism Deeper Still
Going deeper into minimalism, there are two men with local Southwest Ohio ties, Joshua Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, better known as The Minimalists. The duo from Dayton, Ohio, began their journey to minimalism in 2009.
Millburn’s mother had tragically passed away unexpectedly from cancer. It just so happens this was in the same month in which Millburn’s marriage ended. Millburn began to ask himself, “What’s important to me?” He then discovered Colin Wright, a minimalist who was traveling around the world. Soon Millburn was searching out others who described themselves as “minimalists”—Leo Babauta, Courtney Carver, and Joshua Becker.
He took a hard look at his life and then took account of all his possessions. Over several months, he got rid of an item a day. If it didn’t bring “value to his life,” he eliminated it. Soon, he persuaded Ryan Nicodemus, his childhood best friend, to do the same and the Minimalists were born. In 2015, they partnered with filmmaker Matt D’Avella (yes, he’s a minimalist, too) to create their documentary that’s featured on Netflix.
Treasures Temporary and Eternal
I will be the first to admit that I am not a “full-on minimalist,” but I try to focus more on experiences than stuff. There are a few key pieces of Scripture to guide our journey. Three of the Gospels share the story of Jesus and the rich young ruler (Matthew 19:16-30; Mark 10:17-31; and Luke 18:18-30). The young man asks Jesus about all the things he has accumulated. Jesus responds to him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me” (Matthew 19:21, NLT). The young man departs in sorrow, as he had a great number of possessions.
Jesus warned us in Matthew 6:19, “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal” (NLT).
The apostle Paul challenges us in 2 Corinthians 4:18 to “fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever” (NLT).
No doubt these verses inspired missionary Jim Elliot, who said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
Jesus said it best in Matthew 6:21: “Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be” (NLT).
Shannon Wagers is a Corporate Trainer and Master Facilitator for P&G’s Innovation Lab called “The GYM.” Shannon resides in Liberty Township with his wife Ruth, daughter Katherine, and dog Bear.