Hoarders. I cannot hardly stomach watching this show. I am not even sure why--of all things in my Netflix Instant Queue—I decided to watch this show last night. But I did and it was painful. Not because of the rat feces, or the rotten squash, or the other disgusting debris that cluttered houses. No, what made it really painful to watch was the sheer brokenness of the people portrayed.
One of the stories that I watched last night was of this guy, Bill:
What you saw there was nothing. There was one scene where Bill pretty much chose a box of old woodworking magazines over his daughter. These people were created in the image of God and their obsession with stuff has made them much like the idols that they have bowed down to. Their families are broken and their whole life is consumed by “stuff”.
One of the most angering things about the show is the really shallow counseling that happens. That is not surprising because I doubt A & E would not show stories of how the gospel transforms a hoarder. Yet, as I see the brokenness in these peoples lives and all of the root issues that need to be dealt with I could not help but think—Jesus could transform this.
You Can’t Just Clean The House
One thing that the counselors do get right, though, is that they cannot simply have a team of dumpsters go into these peoples homes and start throwing everything in the trash. If you really want to help a hoarder you are going to have to get to the root issues. Of course, they believe the root issues are things like “self-esteem”, etc. Which may in part be true but they do not go deep enough and apply the only thing that can bring lasting change in the life of a hoarder; namely, the gospel of Jesus Christ.
As I think through Hoarders I am left to wonder whether or not my preaching only “cleans up the house”. If I am preaching in such a way that people are simply cleaning up their lives, but I am not getting to root issues then the gospel is not really being preached.
If I preach against alcohol, homosexuality, anger, cheating on taxes, gambling, pornography, or any other sins but the root idolatry is not being addressed then I’m not really pointing them to Jesus. I’m just making sure they don’t have rat feces in their house and that they live lives sanitary enough that they get to keep their kids.
Transforming a Hoarder
Consider the story of Bill. If I convince Bill that his hoarding is silly or that this spray can doesn’t have much worth he may reluctantly throw away the spray can. I may have added to his shame but at least there is one less piece of junk in his home. We may be able to keep plodding along with Bill and convincing him that he is hurting his family. At this point it becomes a matter of whether he loves his “wife” (I don’t think they were married) and daughter more than woodworking magazines. That may get a few more nuts and bolts thrown in the trash. But at the end of the day it’s not going to go deep enough.
The only thing that will transform Bill is a beautiful Jesus. Bill’s deeper issues of shame and idolatry do need to be addressed. But they must be addressed in light of the glorious gospel of Christ. It is only through the beauty of Christ that a naked man can stand before the Lord—otherwise he continues to hide (in Bill’s case behind piles of junk). It is only when Christ is seen as a treasure that sticks, magazines, screws, bolts, and saw blades are seen for what they really are; namely, tools. Bill will not be actually healed until he is swept up into the much bigger than himself story of the gospel.
So I’m left to ask, is your gospel big enough to transform a hoarder or would it only clean his house?