The man who thinks nothing of goods has freed himself from quarrels and disputes. But the lover of possessions will fight to the death for a needle. –John Climacus
John Climacus was born in 570 and lived as a monk on Mount Sinai in Egypt. Yet his wisdom is timeless. For it is not the amount of one’s possessions that makes one possessive, it is the inner disposition of heart.
Possessiveness is rooted in a disposition of scarcity, a fear of there not being enough. It isn’t limited only to possessions. I have known people who are possessive of spouses or friends. They see love as a scarce resource. Possessiveness can extend to experiences, where a fear of missing out keeps one always focused on the next vacation, the next concert, the next big event.
Scarcity tells us that we are not enough just as we are and that having more, doing more, or receiving more attention will assuage our insecurity. But this is fear’s way of blinding us from trusting God, who loves us as we are and whose love and provision are abundant and limitless.
When our inner disposition is fear, there is always something to protect and defend. Fear builds walls. When I live in fear, I see situations and people as a threat to my well-being. This happens in obvious ways, but also in ways so subtle and insidious that we may not recognize fear as the driving force. When we are jealous of another because they get more attention than we do, when we worry about what others think of us, when we are obsessed with holding and increasing our possessions, fear is controlling how we see the world and how we see ourselves.
When our inner disposition is contentment, we can share our time and possessions freely with others. We don’t build walls when we live from a place of abundance. We don’t have to quarrel with others when we have nothing to protect or defend. When we can be content with however others think of us, when we act out of desire for the well-being of another and don’t need to be appreciated or recognized, we can come to know the inner peace that passes understanding.
All around us is a culture of fear and scarcity. But we don’t have to buy into that way of seeing the world. That way is a way of bondage. The way of abundance is the way of freedom.