how I became a hoarder and other unintended COVID consequences

Perhaps there is a fine line between hoarders, savers and collectors. It could be a matter of quantity and also of quality if one wants to qualify as a collector rather than just someone who accumulates a lot of stuff over time. Collector implies taste and discernment and value in whatever items one is purposefully accumulating. It assumes a connection among said items which makes them a collection of something which the collector hopes will be rare, important and therefore valuable.

Saving random, unrelated items however, can quickly turn into hoarding. And hoarders are not held in particularly high esteem. How did COVID turn me toward the hoarding lifestyle? I think it all started with the toilet paper debacle – there were shelves full of toilet paper and then there were only empty shelves where once toilet paper had been. No one saw that coming. No one was prepared. I was not prepared. This also became true for various other items such as disinfectant wipes, liquid soap and other cleaning supplies.

Now I am hearing rumors of supply chain issues and predictions of shortages to come. These seem also to be consequences related to COVID issues such as workforce and vaccine mandates. This comes on the heals of my recent foray into the world of stockpiling, as I attempted to locate and purchase Lipton Green Tea Citrus, which seemed to have vanished from the shelves. (posts “how far would you go?” and “jackpot!”) Now hoarding, (or I actually prefer the term stockpiling because it seems more businesslike, more savvy, than merely hoarding stuff, with its connotations of eccentricity and lack of discernment about just what exactly is hoarded) depends on at least two things to be successful – having space in which to store the desired items and having knowledge of which items need to be hoarded or stockpiled.

Last time it was toilet paper, but what should I be hoarding/stockpiling now? I am not a fortune teller nor a prophet. I do not know what tomorrow will bring. So how can I prepare adequately? I am reminded of the story of a rich man with an abundant crop and no space in which to store said crop. He figured out a solution to his storage problem. Unfortunately, he left a bigger problem unsolved. Luke 12:16-21 tells the whole story –

“And He (Jesus) told them this parable: ‘The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ‘ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”

“Rich toward God.” Hmmm? So maybe I should be stockpiling or storing up something, somewhere – but that begs the question, what should I be storing up and where should I be putting it? Jesus talks about this very thing in Matthew 6:19-21 saying,

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Ok – so I don’t need to be hoarding earthly things, like the rich man with the full, bigger barns. But what about these predicted shortages due to supply chain problems? I find myself becoming anxious just thinking about the possibility of empty shelves, not knowing if there will be enough. But Jesus has something to say about this concern of mine, which perhaps you share too, dear readers? Jesus told His disciples,

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? . . . Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? . . . So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your Heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:25-34)

I’m remembering how God provided manna each morning for the Israelites while they wandered in the desert. They could not store up the manna. There was no need to save, stockpile or hoard this morning manna. A fresh supply arrived new every morning, without fail for forty years. In fact, they were explicitly told not to save any of the manna. There was no benefit in doing so, but there was quite a downside to hoarding manna.

“and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, ‘What is it?’ For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, ‘It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat. This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Each one is to gather as much as he needs. . . . The Israelites did as they were told; . . . Each one gathered as much as he needed. Then Moses said to them, ‘No one is to keep any of it until morning.’ However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell.” (Exodus 16:13-20)

Their need for food was met each morning. Not with just a little something to tide them over, either. We read “Each morning everyone gathered as much as he needed, and when the sun grew hot, it melted away.” (Exodus 16:21) They had a daily abundance – enough for that day. They weren’t able to hoard more than their daily bread, (remember, it would go bad, real bad, real fast, overnight) but they had no need to stockpile the manna – it was new every morning just like God’s mercy.

Do I have that kind of faith today? Of course, the Israelites didn’t have a choice. They were in the desert with no food sources in sight. Out of their lack, they experienced God’s abundance and learned to trust Him. Will I not learn to trust my Heavenly Father until every store shelf is empty and my cupboard is too? There’s some comfort in stockpiling, a kind of false assurance to be sure, but still hoarders hoard in hopes it will pay off. Although it didn’t work out too well for the rich man who built bigger barns to hold his bumper crop or for those Israelites who hoarded manna in their tents overnight and woke up to being overrun by maggots. I love the story of Elijah and the widow in 1 Kings 17, which begins with this conversation between the two of them,

Elijah asks the widow for water and then says, ” ‘and bring me, please, a piece of bread.’ ‘As surely as the Lord your God lives,’ she replied, ‘I don’t have any bread – only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it – and die.’ Elijah said to her, ‘Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord gives rain on the land.’ She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.” (1 Kings 17:11-16)

The widow had no stockpile. The jar and the jug were almost empty. And yet, each day, from them she poured out just enough flour and just enough oil to make bread for herself, her son and Elijah. Each morning when she went to the nearly empty jar and the equally empty jug, she must have been surprised to find enough flour and oil to make bread for yet another day. Not enough to make bread for many days to come or even bread for the week, just enough to make bread for today. Kinda reminds you of the manna, doesn’t it?

I don’t think we were meant to be hoarders but givers-awayers instead. Fear, uncertainty and anxiety will do that though – turn givers into hoarders, myself included. But then I read these words in 2 Corinthians 9:8-11,

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. . . . Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.”

No need to build bigger barns. No need to hoard anything. (even toilet paper?) I think today my prayer will be the one I find in Proverbs 30:7-9,

“Two things I ask of You, O Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown You and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.”

“Give me this day my daily bread,” I need no more – I ask no less – (Matthew 6:11)

sincerely, Grace Day

One thought on “how I became a hoarder and other unintended COVID consequences

  1. This really resonated with me and was something I personally needed to hear this week. A friend of mine recently told me that she was buying some military food that has a shelf life of 25 years. She suggested I do the same. I’ve been kind of agonizing over that this past week…thinking if all these shortages come to pass that would be a wise thing to do. But I had not acted on it yet. Perhaps it was because this blog was going to be coming to me as a reminder to not be anxious about anything and to trust in God for my daily bread.


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