This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: a Story About God, Mammon, and Home Decor

I recently moved, and let me tell you, I’ve been soaking up every awesome moment of setting up the new space. Now, all of a sudden, I have an excuse to spend time on Pinterest. I can spend hours scrolling through all the pretty things, a beauty-drugged screen zombie. On a trip to Target recently, I woke up in the throw-pillow aisle, mindlessly, happily coveting every plush piece of joy.

My husband keeps snapping me back to reality. His idea of decor is the Big Lebowski poster he had in his college dorm room. He’s also the one who keeps track of our budget. And if life was a game where you get points for caring about the stuff that really matters (y’know, serving others, simple pleasures, grateful living…) he would beat me every time.

When I come home from the store with another completely necessary totally superfluous frill (the perfect vase for our bedside table!) he lovingly shakes his head and wonders, I’m sure, when it will be over.

That’s the problem: it’s NEVER over. When it comes to decorating, (or clothes shopping, or cook-book collecting, or [insert your compulsive consumerist behavior here]), there’s always something better out there. And the fine marketing folks of the world are here to make sure that you won’t be content until you get it.

This is a real moral struggle for me. Surely, I have better things to do with my time than scrolling through Pinterest and better things to do with my money than buy more throw-pillows. When so many people in my own city are without any home at all, how can I justify putting all of these resources into beautifying mine?

And yet I believe that beauty is truly valuable. I’m at risk for thinking of beauty and morality as mutually exclusive, but really, God HAS to be smarter than me about that.

I think that God made us for beauty. Imagine God the landscape designer, preparing the garden for Eve and Adam! In Job we see God’s pride in creation, with lines about the dawn, “dyed like a garment,” and the “springs of the deep.” (See Job 38-41 for the whole tour).

And Jesus famously tells us to “consider the lilies of the field,” which are more beautiful than the richest king, decked out in all of his raiment. How did they get that way? Well, certainly not by scrolling through Pinterest. “They neither toil nor spin” says Jesus. They do a total of zero DIY home improvement projects, and yet God gifts them not just with life but with beauty.

The upshot, it seems, is that we are not to worry, saying “what will we eat?” or “what will we wear?” or “what if our color scheme is outdated?” I rather think that the whole question is less trivial than it seems, when you consider what Jesus teaches immediately prior.

“You cannot serve God and wealth.” Some translations say Mammon–that is, the ‘devil of covetousness.’

Yeesh.

Truth is, I buy things because it makes me feel secure. I buy things because I can, because I’m not poor. Because I’m serving wealth.

And I want to serve God. I’m not quite ready to sell all my throw-pillows and give the money to the poor, (maybe I’ll get around to it next week, ok?) but I am ready to turn from my anxious attempts to produce beauty and notice the beauty already dwelling in my home. There is love here. And the lilies of the field are right outside the door.  

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