Category Archives: Encouragement

Tidying Up After Marie Kondo

I’m going to admit it right from the start: I’ve watched a few of the “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” episodes on Netflix, and I like it. I like the idea of decluttering and even “sparking joy.” I even fold my clothes her way now, and wow! I can fit so many clothes in my drawer now!! Here’s the thing though, I find it troublesome how many people on the show so readily bow to thank their houses or thank their clothes or pots and pans. Like Paul wrote so long ago: “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things,” (Romans 1:21-23). One may say, “Chris, they aren’t worshiping man and birds and animals and creeping things. They are thanking their clothes and homes and stuff. What’s the big deal?”

JAPAN-KONDO
taken from thestar.com

The big deal is what lies behind the thanksgiving. Marie Kondo is Shinto as are 83% of Japanese.* Most tend to think that the Japanese are Buddhists, and they are, but more are Shinto. Only 72% of those in Japan are Buddhists.*  Being Shinto means by its definition that one is an animist. Animism comes from the Latin word for breath or life or soul. Thus the Shinto believe that everything has a soul or a spirit, and those spirits, known as Kami, are interconnected. “Kami are associated with various supernatural and sacred forms of life, including human ancestors, spirit figures, and the natural forces of mountains, rivers, trees, and rocks,”* and apparently houses and household objects. Thus to “thank” a house is not necessarily to thank an object in life, but to thank an object that is living.  It is easy to dismiss this and say that it is nothing, but I would not be so fast. I believe that Paul’s message to the Corinthians can be applied here. The Corinthians didn’t think that a syncretistic life harmed anyone. They thought that could believe in Jesus and still enjoy the food offered to idols. Paul told them to rethink, to think about the people of Israel. They ate the peace offering after part of it was offered to the Lord. In other words, they were, as Paul wrote, “participants in the altar,” (1 Corinthians 9:18). Such were the Corinthians, participants in the altar with the pagans if they sought to synchronize their religion with them. While Shinto allows for that sort of thing, Christianity is exclusive. We cannot synchronize our beliefs. “What do I imply then? That food offered to idols (or thanksgiving offered to a house) is anything, or that an idol (or clothing) is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice (offer thanks to) they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons,” (1 Corinthians 10:19-20).

While the Shinto do not have sacred scriptures, no known founder, and no doctrine, the Shinto are devout in their beliefs and practices. There are about 80,000 shrines that serve as community centers as well as purification sites and religious activities. In fact, the Shinto are typically nationalistic and often militaristic.* As stated, they are fine with synchronizing their religion with others, but not so much with those that have fixed doctrines, like Christianity, which is only about 2% of the Japanese population* (and much of that from outsiders).  Even the Shinto understand that Christianity is exclusive and that Christianity, as a religion does, not fit with Shinto ideology. It is something we Christians should consider.

That being said. . .what do we do with Marie Kondo and her thoughts on “tidying up” with things that “spark joy”? I think we can accept the principles without the pagan Shinto influences. However, we need to be careful with the idea of sparking joy. What may spark joy for one moment may not spark joy for long. We are after all materialistic beings. We want more and more, always looking for the next thing that will spark joy. “When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven,” (Proverbs 23:5). At the same time, everything that does not spark joy at the moment of cleaning is not guaranteed to never again spark joy. Christians do not simply live in the moment, but live for eternity. Thus we need to meter out our joy-sparkers with eternity in mind.

If there is an article of clothing that you no longer like, get rid of it. I don’t mind. But rather than thanking that piece of cloth, thank God for the grace of letting it clothe you and keep you warm. If you have 5 too man spatulas and they don’t spark joy, toss them. But don’t thank them. Thank God for the tools and the food that they flipped. After all, we are called to “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you,” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, italics mine).

As always, I would love your input.  Thoughts, questions, and comments are welcome here. If this blessed you, I am grateful for the opportunity. If not, I’m grateful you gave me a shot. If you think this would bless others, feel free to share it.

*All info about Shintoism came from:
Terry C. Muck, Harold A. Netland, and Gerald R. McDermott, eds., Handbook of Religion: A Christian Engagement with Traditions, Teachings, and Practices, (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2014), pp. 269-272.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV, published by Crossway.

Escaping Sin

In my personal Bible reading, I came across the story of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea and I was reminded that the cloud/fire had already led them along a certain path, but “Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Tell the people of Israel to turn back and encamp in front of Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, in front of Baal-zephon; you shall encamp facing it, by the sea,'” (Exodus 14:1-2, italics mine). Turn back! Turn back, people! They were out of Pharaoh’s reach and God tells the people to turn back. And where? Not only closer to Pharaoh, but near the sea. In essence, God is calling on the people of Israel to put themselves in a place of no escape.

The purpose was two-fold. The first: to finally rid the people of Pharaoh and his army. The second: to show the people of Israel how great He was. What seemed to the Israelites as them being led to the slaughter was actually being led to deliverance. They didn’t see that; they didn’t know that at the time, as is clearly shown in the account given by Moses: “They said to Moses, ‘Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt,'” (Exodus 14:11)?  If you read the rest, they let it be known that they would have rather died in Egypt than have Egypt fight against them.

What a perfect illustration for sin. While Egypt did literally go after Israel, the writers of Scripture would often use Egypt as an allusion to sin. Like Egypt (and Pharaoh), there is a great struggle over God’s people, yet when God calls, Egypt, Pharaoh, and the false gods are no match. But often, like the Israelites, living without the “comforts” of sin, there is a longing to go back. Sometimes, it isn’t the “comforts” but the punishment that sin gives to those who leave. Though not the perfect illustration, those on heroin generally go back for another hit because the body punishes them through withdrawal symptoms. Not being able to handle the havoc upon their bodies, souls, and minds, they simply return to the drug to stop the pain. That’s what sin does to us as well, especially if it was an addictive sin.

Here is God, taking His people and putting them into a situation, not to tempt them to go back, but telling them to trust Him. Sin, I mean Pharaoh’s army, is near. There is no way of escape that they can see. Will they respond in faith? Paul told the Corinthians, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it,” (1 Corinthians 10:13). When sin is near, so often we see no way of escape. Like the Israelites, we simply want to give up and go back to Egypt. Get the worst of it over with, and at least not be in such a situation. The sea is before us, the sin is behind us. There is no way to escape. Except, there is. Moses knew it. God knew it. But the people were blind to it. “And Moses said to the people, ‘Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent,” (Exodus 14:13-14).

I am not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet, and I do not pretend to tell you that you’ll never see the same sin ever again in your entire life. But I do have the same confidence that God is able to deliver us no matter how many times sin seeks to capture us and no matter how many times the Red Sea (no escape) is before us. That is the promise of 1 Corinthians 10:13. The way of escape, more often than not, is the way of faith. Walking and living–not by what is seen (all we can see is the temptation and the futility)–but walking and living moving forward, even if it means walking into the sea. What was once thought to be a hindrance to moving forward and escaping the wrath of Pharaoh, became the means of deliverance. “Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the LORD drove back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground,” (Exodus 14:21-22). . .

Even when the Egyptians pursued them through the sea, the people kept moving. They never stopped. Once they saw the way of escape, they had the courage to go all the way through, no matter what. What became the way of escape for them, became the grave of their pursuers. Sin so often gets our eyes off the escape route. We can’t imagine how God will use what is in front of us to get us away from that which is behind us. Let God worry about that. Let Him fight on our behalf.  I love Exodus 14:25, where someone in Pharaoh’s army shouts, “Let us flee from before Israel, for the LORD fights for them against the Egyptians.” No longer were the Israelites fleeing from Egypt but Egypt was fleeing from the Israelites! Only by God’s strong arm and grace is that ever possible.

The next time you pray the Lord’s Prayer and get to the “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” part, maybe Exodus 14 will come to mind. While God does not tempt us, He does try our faith (“temptation” can be translated as putting on trial); but if He so chooses (the request is ours, but the choice is His), like Israel He has the strong arm and the grace to deliver us.

I’d love to read your comments. If you would be so kind as to leave them, I will get back to you. If this article was a blessing or you believe it could bless others feel free to copy the link and share it on your social media.

All Scripture was taken from the ESV, published by Crossway.