Simplicity — Week 6

Monday, February 12

Read: Romans 12:9-13

Consider: We’ve spent five full weeks thinking and praying about simplicity. Today and tomorrow (before we begin the Season of Lent on Ash Wednesday), we’ll look at two ways in which God can use us as we practice simple living.

As we’ve seen throughout this journey, Christian simplicity is a spiritual endeavor. It transforms our values and priorities. It demolishes the idols that can sabotage our lives. It teaches us that contentment and joy are available to us because of our increased awareness of Christ’s presence.

But for all that Christian simplicity does for us, it is important to remember that we don’t live our lives for ourselves. While a simple life is a much more satisfying life, if that’s the only reason we pursue it, we just may miss the point.

There are a lot of stories about people who got tired of their hamster wheel existence. So, they left their high-powered careers, sold their expensive homes and moved to a remote place in Montana or in the Virgin Islands. There they “simplified” by living with no responsibility. They left behind the most stressful part of their lives—other people. They decided that a joyful existence was an existence centered on their own needs and desires.

Is that what we’re called to do? Even if we could afford to live the rest of our lives pursuing pleasure because of the fortunes we amassed, would that be a life that satisfies us?

Simplicity does not free us from giving and serving others. It frees us to love and serve others—and to give ourselves fully to God.

I can remember times when I wanted to help someone, but I couldn’t because of the complexity of my life. I was overextended when it came to my calendar. I had too much debt to give someone a hand financially. I was so exhausted emotionally—so peopled out—that I didn’t have anything left to give from my heart. And every time I had to forego giving something that I really wanted to give, I realized that was not God’s intention for me. He wanted me to have the freedom to give away my time, my resources and my heart—especially my heart.

Now, of course, none of us have unlimited resources. We must manage our time, our energy and our material resources. I’ll never have enough to impact every need that I see or to touch everyone that crosses my path. That’s not what God is expecting of me. But I believe that we are made for the highest priorities, and a simple life empowers us to see those priorities and to embrace them.

Again, let’s remember that this is a journey. It takes years to reduce debt. It takes planning to re-purpose your schedule. It takes rest to have enough emotional energy to share with people in need. But if we take the small steps, we’ll progress on this journey and find great joy in being the hands and face of Christ to others who are on this journey with us. 

Pray: “Lord, I’m excited to arrange my life so that I have the freedom to give. Liberate me from the old ways of worrying first and foremost about me. Help me to be your presence in someone else’s life today.”

 

Tuesday, February 13

Read: Ephesians 4:1-6

Consider: As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called to “glocal” ministry—ministry that is both global and local. Through solidarity, prayer, giving and hands-on ministry, we try to do the work of Christ in our neighborhoods and around the world. That’s why we cannot minister on our own. We labor together as members of the Body of Christ.

Yesterday we looked at personal and local results of a simpler lifestyle. But Christian simplicity also has global ramifications.

You and I live in a culture in which we consume more than our share of resources. None of us intentionally took the resources of another person, but our society operates in such a manner that people around the world suffer because of the way we live. Take, for example, the vast amount of refuse that we throw away every day. Our globe is feeling the strain of it, and the results are most severely felt in the poorest nations. (Some of our waste is even illegally transported to other countries.)

Part of our responsibility as stewards of God’s resources is to simplify our lives in such a manner that we lessen the negative footprint that we leave behind. I know that, for many Christians, this doesn’t seem all that important. Recycling, buying used items, shopping for Fair Trade goods, and drinking ethically grown coffee seem like fads that have nothing to do with the gospel. And yet, our Bible teaches us that we are to care for God’s creation—for everything he created and for everyone created in his image.

And, our course, it’s easy to feel as though these things don’t really make any difference. But we believe that anything done in Christ’s name matters. And we believe God multiplies our efforts, making them more effective than we could have ever imagined.

Let me juxtapose two famous quotes to make the point.

“We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Live simply so others may simply live.” — Mohandas Gandhi

To me, Paul summed it up beautifully when he said…

“There is…one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6)

If God dwells in us and in all of his creation, we need to take care of his people and his world.

Pray: Don’t feel overwhelmed with the task of simplifying your relationship with creation. Simply pray for the Lord to help you see the first, small step you can take. And, even though it seems small and unimportant, do it in the name of Christ. Do it as an act of love for God and his people.