If your life is so full of “to do” lists and stuff that you’re battling to find God in among it all then maybe it’s time for an early spring clean, writes Richard Lundie.
First up, a confession. If you were hoping for a step-by-step guide on how to live simpler, this isn’t it. But it will hopefully point you to the ultimate life coach: Jesus. Jesus said some radical things about how we should live in the Bible. Often so radical that we tend to skip these sections so we don’t have to feel too uncomfortable. I have this experience when I read Jesus’ teachings on material possessions. In Luke 12:15, Jesus taught, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
A little uncomfortable. A little hard to contemplate. A little awkward when I consider how much stuff I have. And even more awkward when I consider how much more stuff I want.
We run, chase and pursue things that we believe will bring satisfaction, but rarely do. We then cling to these things, these inanimate objects that have no ultimate significance in our lives. How much of our joy is consumed by worry over these things? How much of our fears are based on the loss of these items?
These ‘things’ are not bad, just as wealth and physical comfort are not bad, but when we want something out of them – some meaning, fulfillment or identity – that it is impossible for them to give, that’s when they can become bad for us.
As a family, we’ve had to make some tough decisions around how we’re going to live simpler and steward our finances for God’s glory. A couple of years ago, a friend of mine was struggling to finish his studies. He was in his final year of Bible college but having grown up in an under-resourced community didn’t have money to pay the final semester. By cutting back on other things and creating margin financially, my wife and I were able to invest in his education so that he didn’t have to leave college. It wasn’t easy but by choosing to live more simply we were able to bless not only him but the future of his family as well.
A few years ago, we also decided to unplug our TV so that we would have more time for each other and more money to spend on things that really mattered. I think back to how I would drop everything to make sure I watched the next episode of my favourite programme. I don’t miss that. Our evenings are simpler now. I read to my kids every night. I enjoy conversation with my wife, and there is no rush to wrap things up or have serious conversations during ad breaks. I enjoy my simple evenings.
But it’s difficult. I have to keep reminding myself that who I am is not dependent on my material possessions. Life is not about keeping up with what “The Jones’” have. How much of my hard work is steered towards impressing others? Will I give them the power to determine how I live my life? Or will I realise that all this striving and chasing is for a temporary comfort and satisfaction that doesn’t lead to contentment?
I think part of the problem is that we trust the voice of culture a bit too much. Billboards, the Internet and TV are constantly telling us that we need more – more clothes, more gadgets, more stuff. With all this ‘noise’, we can lose our ability to hear the still small voice of the Spirit. God may want us to get involved with a particular initiative, to build a relationship with someone, or to contribute to something that will help the city to flourish… But we need to take the time to listen to him.
A strange thing happens as we start to simplify our schedule to make more time for others, and as we give more freely of our finances and things to bless others. Our hearts change and we begin to desire God more than we desire anything else. With this comes a realisation that there is nothing simpler and yet more powerful than relationship – with God and with others.
Perhaps what our country needs is not more stuff but more people willing to give of their finances, time and talents to love their neighbours. So let’s begin clearing the clutter in our lives, not out of guilt but out of hearts so moved by gratitude for all that God has graciously given us that we can’t help but live generously in return.
– Richard is the Initiative Programme Manager at Common Good and serves on the Common Ground Church Wynberg leadership team.