Recently I was invited to preach at the close of a sermon series called The Gospel of Tidying Up (credit to Rev. Jeff Prothro, DeSoto United Methodist Church). The end of the series coincided with the church’s annual garage sale (brilliant!) and there was clearly excitement about the sermon series.
I suppose by now just about everyone has heard about “tidying up” or has been asked the question, “does it spark joy?”… Both expressions are the words of Marie Kondo, the author of two New York Times bestselling books and inspiration for the hit Netflix show Tidying Up. KonMari, “a lifestyle brand inspiring people to choose joy and complete their tidying adventures,” has captured the attention of a broad audience. Marie Kondo encourages people to thank their belongings and decide to keep or give away things based on the feeling of joy the objects spark.
But could Tidying Up be an example of doing the right thing for the wrong reason?
Marie Kondo’s concepts are based on the Japanese Shinto religion. Shinto focuses on Shinto gods, called kami. According to Shinto, kami are sacred spirits which take the form of things and concepts important to life. Followers believe that humans become kami after they die. Shinto is an optimistic faith that teaches humans are good and that evil is caused by evil spirits. Shinto rituals — prayers and offerings to the kami — keep evil spirits away. In simple terms, the Shinto religion is based on idol worship. Thus, thanking inanimate objects (like your house) and finding joy in things (like your pajamas).
As Christians, we thank God, not objects. We are reminded not to accumulate stuff — not to store up treasures on earth, but instead to store up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6). If we were less focused on accumulating things, our houses would be tidy, right?
So I’ve been praying for Marie Kondo. Her house may be tidy but it’s built on a foundation of sand. May she, and the audience who are “completing their tidying adventures,” realize that lasting joy will never come from things. It won’t even come from tidying up things.
In the search for what truly sparks joy, may we find Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the living God.
Julie Schropp serves as the Kansas City District Director of Lay Servant Ministries. In her free time she likes to organize and get rid of things. Preaching sparks more joy than any clothes in her closet.