Question: "What does the Bible say about compulsive hoarding?"
Answer: Compulsive hoarding is a form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or OCD, and falls into the category of anxiety disorders. Hoarding is not a physiological disease. It is characterized by the compulsive, chronic acquiring of large amounts of things and an inability to discard them. Research suggests that hoarders have problems in decision-making areas of the brain. Acquiring items is how hoarders deal with anxiety and provide themselves temporary relief from uneasy thoughts.
As the hoard accumulates, the hoarder is too overwhelmed to reverse the damage, and the problem escalates into extreme proportions. The hoard starts to replace human relationships, as the person seems to choose the stuff over his loved ones. Hoarders usually feel isolated, depressed, and misunderstood by others—others who want them to throw away their hoards. The objects become a part of the hoarder’s identity and how he sees himself. That is why he feels personally attacked if someone wants to get rid of the hoard.
A hoarder needs to learn how to make healthy decisions that will lead to resisting the urge for more buying/acquiring, disposing of unneeded items, and putting things in a regular place. The best treatment plan for believers is to work with a biblical counselor to gain insight into their own personal values, how they process emotions, and how to walk more closely with Jesus. Working with a professional organizer to practice making better decisions regarding possessions can also be helpful.
From a biblical point of view, hoarding is a result of human nature and our fallen state. It is in all of us to want things and to grow attached to them. We all want more than we need or what others have. The possibility of needing an item in the future is a common reason not to discard it. Other reasons people hoard things are a fear of being wasteful, a fondness for a specific type of object (collections), or a desire for prestige of some kind—a keeping up with the Joneses, perhaps. Hoarders need discernment to distinguish between what is valuable and what is junk, trash, or spoiled. They also need discernment to appraise an item’s value rather than see all items as equally valuable. Although a hoarder goes to extremes, we all have the same problem of grasping material things too tightly.
The Bible explains that we are living in a cursed world that is dying due to sin (Genesis 3:17-24). That means we have weakness in our minds, bodies, and spirits. Hoarding is human nature run amok. We naturally trust in things rather than in God, so it is normal for us to look for security in the material world. Following Jesus means placing our trust in God instead of false treasures (Matthew 6:19-21). In a lapse of faith, the Israelites stored manna rather than trust God for His daily provision. Their hoarding was to no avail; the Lord made the extra manna spoil (Exodus 16).
The underlying cause of hoarding is our human tendency to want things and our inability to discern what is truly valuable. Jesus is the most precious treasure we can possess, and His followers should value what He values. Trusting in Him means we no longer have to rely on ourselves in a hopeless effort to meet our needs or satisfy our souls. Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35).
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