The Ethic of Simplicity

As an American so much of what I am fed by the media (and sometimes Christian teachers) is a hunger for financial independence. I want so much money that I don’t have to rely on anyone. What I am starting to realize is that what I really crave is not just financial independence from others, but financial independence from God. My quest for a big fat bank account, my desire to retire rich, is really an attempt to be free from reliance upon God.

– Scott Bessenecker, Urbana.org Least of These blog

1. Are my possessions free for anyone to use? If so, why are they still in my closet?

Am I ok with anyone using anything I have? When someone uses, or abuses, something I own, do I think, “it’s just stuff”? How often do I get angry at a person, an eternal being of great worth, for the way they treat “my stuff”?

And the second half of that question, how much stuff do I have because of sentimental attachment? What would be better off my back. What things do I carry with me through this journey called life, and why? (A short story I’ll never forget, The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien. If you can get a hold of a copy, read it. This may be it online (it’s been a while since I read it, but this seems to be the full text).)

2. How much of my savings is for a future, known need, and how much is simply insulating me from dependence upon God?

All of my savings are for unknown future needs. I feel constantly aware, however, that while we may be doing the “smart” thing by planning ahead, no amount of planning can deliver security. I view our savings as something we’re doing that God will let us know what’s it’s for later. I hope it’s something good, and not like, cancer treatment.

3. Do I have “the plunder of the poor in my home?” (Is. 3:14)

I didn’t read this question at first (these questions are from the same article as the quote). It surprised me when I got to answering it. What does that even mean?

Isaiah 3.14 The LORD enters into judgment
against the elders and leaders of his people:
“It is you who have ruined my vineyard;
the plunder from the poor is in your houses.

Here’s an earlier part from the article that I think expands this idea:

“If you have two shirts, give one to the poor. If you have food, share with those who are hungry” Luke 3:11 (NLT). One could not really repent while hoarding clothes or food according to John the Baptist. In fact, in the same passage the tax collectors and soldiers asked him what they should do to show the fruit of repentance. To each he gave financial answers which involved divesting themselves of the quest for money and things.

Am I hoarding the things I’ve aquired (leaving the poor out to dry?). Am I questing for posessions and things, while failing to serve those that need my help?

Where is my time going? Where are the poor in my life? Have I effectively removed myself from a place where I have to give of myself to the poor?

It’s so much easier to give to friends. In fact, I’ve learned to love giving to friends.

And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Matthew 5:47

The answers are easy, the implementation is hard. That’s where I think the next part of Matthew is so important.

God calls us to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Don’t get hung up on the perfect part, as I often have in the past. Get hung up on the “your heavenly Father” part.

A couple verses earlier Jesus says Love your enemies … that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.

And as Jesus continues (this is from the sermon on the mount), he warns us not to do these righteous acts so everyone can see; if you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

It’s all about your Father in heaven. It’s all about Jesus’ Father. It’s all about that relationship.

How can you be perfect? How can you do righteous acts when no one’s looking (what’s your motivation)? It’s all about recognizing where you came from, who you’re serving, who loves you, and who you love. Jesus doesn’t miss out on the fact that we’re just here on this colourful sphere for a little bit. He came from elsewhere, and he’ll end up elsewhere. But he invites us into that heritage when tells us about “our” Heavenly Father.  I am that same Father’s child. But is my heart with Him, or is it here?

Arg. Big ideas. Hard to wrap my head around. But I like it. There’s a certain peace, security, and calm that comes from placing your hope and making your foundation in Christ. Everything else will pass away, and that’s…ok.

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