“What profits a man if he gains the whole world yet loses his own soul?”

Michael Landy is an English artist who produced something a few years ago that both shocked and enthralled the British public.

London-born Landy spent three years cataloguing every possession he had in his life. Everything from a couple of postage stamps to his most important life documents such as his birth certificate and passport. He documented all his clothing (including his late father’s favourite sheep-skin coat), any old magazine he had, his books, and all his furniture. He wrote a list of everything he owned including his beloved SAAB sports car. His list of possessions came to 7,227 items exactly.

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British artist Michael Landy standing in front of some of his list of 7,227 possessions

In 2001, at the age of 37, Michael Landy then spent two weeks destroying EVERYTHING (yes everything, including the SAAB)! He set up conveyor belts in a shop window on London’s busiest shopping street and invited people to watch as he disassembled, crushed, and shredded all his possessions. Over 45,000 people stopped at the shop window during the next two weeks as Michael Landy eradicated his life’s entire accumulation into nearly six tonnes of waste. The resulting bags of scrap were sent away to either be recycled or dumped into landfill.

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Michael’s SAAB being disassembled and destroyed

At the end of the self-inflicted exercise Landy was left with nothing but the clothes he was standing in… and some financial debt!

The response from the British public ranged from anger and outrage for such a waste, to applause for his courageous stand against consumerism. It caused many to think about their own relationship with the material things in their lives.

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Michael Landy sits amongst almost six tonnes of assorted waste as the London public look through the shop window on Oxford Street

In a similar way, Jesus Christ has been challenging us for two thousand years on how we approach possessions.

“What profits a man if he gains the whole world yet loses his own soul?” Jesus poignantly asks us in Matthew 16:26. A few chapters later Jesus challenges a rich young man to give away all his possessions and be a part of Christ’s Kingdom, something the wealthy gentleman simply couldn’t do when he considered his worldly riches.

In our daily walk with Christ we’re told that our life is more than the sum of our possessions and status but is instead a realisation of who our Creator is and His love for each of us.

The Bible says Michael Landy’s destruction of all his earthly belongings in 2001 is simply a forerunner to what is going to happen at the return of Jesus to this world. Where reminded by the Apostle Peter that: “The return of the Lord will come unexpectedly like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; and everything will be destroyed…the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare for judgment”
(2 Peter 3:10).

As you look to our Lord’s return with expectation and readiness let’s make sure our possessions don’t take possession of us.

Click here to watch a short interview with Michael Landy about his experience destroying all his possessions 


About this blog: Pastor David Riley is a minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and he lives on the Gold Coast in Australia. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series – which you can subscribe to by clicking “follow” on this website.

Want to read more inspirational stories of faith from this series? Click here to read the fascinating story of a European king’s funeral and how in death we are all the same

David speaking 2

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