Living Social Justice

A blog about responding to poverty and injustice, everyday and in all sorts of ways

Archive for the tag “lifestyle”

A Guide to Clearing Life’s Clutter

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.

P.S. For more on living simpler, read The Not So Simple Life and our June newsletter.

Your Thoughts on Simplicity

We’re currently exploring what it means to live simpler in today’s “give me more” culture. Here’s what some of you had to say…

Living Simpler Helped Me Display God’s Love

401301_10151545617250535_302571359_n“At the beginning of this year, I was given the privilege to lead a street ministry in Wynberg. Once a week, we make sandwiches, share the gospel and build friendships with people living on the street. A few weeks ago, as we were about to begin our Bible study on the theme of generosity, a lady approached me from a business situated opposite to where we regularly meet, and offered to contribute towards the costs of making the food for the ministry. I was amazed but that wasn’t the end! The lady’s colleague then started asking me why we would give our time and money to help street people, and I was humbly able to tell him about a God who does the same for us. This incident showed me how when we live simply, and give freely of our time and money, it displays God’s love through us.” – Tessa Brown (P.S. This donation was made on the same day that the ministry’s budget had increased to employ two new people!)

Simplifying Helped Save My Company

263036_10151905376356978_500378962_n-001“In 2012, our company closed down a division that had been running for 15 years and was struggling financially. It contributed 20% of our company’s turnover but consumed 80% of its time and resources. When the division was closed, turnover dropped and jobs were lost. However, within a year, the group had regained the 20% turnover initially lost and had re-employed even more employees than we’d previously had to retrench. This has taught me that as hard as it can often be to simplify – whether it’s a strategic business change or cutting back on personal commitments – it can lead to a level of focus and clarity that God can use to do new and exciting things.” – Roger Warr

I’ve Realised It’s A Lifelong Grapple

556256_10151552833700556_1165619309_n“The question that I struggle with most when it comes to living a life of material simplicity is one of degree: how simple is simple enough? In the Gospel of Luke we are told to sell our possessions and give to those in need. Is it all of our possessions, or just some of our possessions? Is it just enough to feel like we’ve done our bit, but not enough to make our own lives less comfortable? There is always one more thing you can cut back on, one more expense you can do without. A less expensive coat that you can buy this winter, or a dinner at a fancy restaurant that you can cancel. The question is something that I am still exploring for myself, and am not even close to finding an answer to. I do believe that everyone is on his or her own journey, and we cannot judge someone for making a lifestyle choice different to our own. My prayer is that the Spirit will nudge me in the right direction.” – Megan Jackson

What does living a lifestyle of simplicity mean to you? What are some of the questions you’re grappling with?

P.S. For more, read The Not So Simple Life

What does it mean to ‘Live Social Justice’?

We often talk about ‘living social justice,’ but what exactly does that mean for our daily lives?  Today, we unpack what it means to have a lifestyle of social justice.

Living Social Justice stamp

Jesus said: ‘I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full’ (John 10:10).

Unfortunately, as a result of human acts and omissions, many people in Cape Town experience life as anything but ‘full’. As Christ followers, we seek to LIVE SOCIAL JUSTICE by noticing, being moved and making daily choices that address injustices in our city.

God intends that every person should have the protection and provision they need to live productive and purpose-filled lives. In the Bible, God is called ‘a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows’ (Psalm 68:4-5) – always seeking to protect and provide for those who are vulnerable to exploitation. He shows himself as a God who cares for the vulnerable, marginalised people in the world, and he frequently calls his people to be his agents in this care. ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: Administer justice, show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the immigrant or the poor.’ (Zechariah 7:10- 11).

When we seek to LIVE SOCIAL JUSTICE we recognize the purpose, worth and dignity of every human being as an image bearer of God. So often, this image is damaged through violence, abuse and exploitation and through unequal access to resources. We need to ask God to show us his vision for the people of Cape Town – for a city where people are able to work, children grow up in loving homes and receive quality education, there is adequate food and nutrition, shelter, protection and medical care. A place where all have their basic needs met and where people come to know God as their loving father, their protector and provider. A city where all have the possibility to live ‘life to the full’.

When we seek to LIVE SOCIAL JUSTICE we acknowledge that we are stewards – not owners – of our time, skills and resources and we make them available to God for his purposes. We strive to not be like the people of Sodom of whom it was said: ‘She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy’ (Ezekiel 16:49-50).

When we seek to LIVE SOCIAL JUSTICE we commit ourselves to a daily, moment-by-moment awareness of injustice, and an openness and sensitivity to God’s Spirit guiding our choices and actions in support of those without provision and protection.

In the words of Micah: ‘He has shown all you people what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.’ Micah 6:8.

What are some ways that you live social justice?  We’d love to hear!

If you would like a gain a deeper understanding of what it means to live social justice, click here for a more in-depth look at the Biblical mandate. Also, we’d recommend you read ‘Generous Justice’ by Timothy Keller for more insight.

Walking in someone else’s shoes

Murray, second from right, sharing a R5 Live Under the Line meal with friends at the Common Ground Cafe

Murray Armstrong shares his personal journey through the Live Under the Line Challenge.

When I first heard of the Live Under the Line Challenge, I was immediately interested. We’re doing a challenge! I’m a guy – I thrive on challenges. And I remember how quickly that enthusiasm shifted to indecision when I heard it would be challenging, or rather limiting, my typical daily intake of calories. The bar was set: three days of no more than R10 a day for food.

This challenge is a daily reality for over 13 million South Africans. By restricting our budget for food, we would attempt to identify with them and hopefully develop a genuine heart for changing their situation. My enthusiasm got the better of me, much to the dismay of my appetite. The challenge was on!

Sharing a bowl of mash and tomato relish with a couple friends on day one, our conversation shifted from how our oats breakfast tasted to more serious debate about fighting poverty in our beloved country. All of us being UCT students, we realized how easy it is to live in the bubble of campus life and be caught up in our own “student budget” struggles. I can’t say that we solved all our countries problems over that one meal, but there certainly was a change in our mindsets, a shift in momentum towards living a life that is more generous.

My personal journey in charitable living has been filled with ups and downs. Usually, when I have managed to be sincerely generous with my time or finances, I have always felt blessed in return and more motivated to fight injustice. Other times seeing the severity of poverty has left me feeling that my own efforts are either in vain or make little difference. My heart often shuffles between wanting to serve the needy and not wanting to, but feeling as though I ought to. The conflict between wanting to give, but not wanting to give up my precious resources is a constant struggle.

True motivation finds itself in Paul’s words in Ephesians 2:8: “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” Realising that my salvation was freely given to me as a gift from God empowers and encourages me to help those in need whether they’re deserving or not. As Jesus instructed his disciples, the logical outworking of one who recognizes he has freely received, is to freely give. (Matthew 10:8)

Gathering on the final night of the challenge, our home group congregated eagerly in the kitchen. The guys looked on with beady eyes as the girls dished up their modest portions of chicken and rice. The ratio of chicken to rice was far lower than usual, but we awaited this meal with more pleasant anticipation than any previous dinners together. Needless to say all the plates were soon spotless and we cheerfully shared our experiences over the Live Under the Line Challenge. I remember one member humbly confessing how his appetite had got the better of him and lead him to devour a pack of biscuits after coming home from a tough day at work. I couldn’t shake the feeling that what we shared that night with one another was actually being shared with a larger audience. That night we shared a meal with 13 million other South Africans. We shared the struggle they have everyday.

Having spent three days in their shoes, we finished the challenge more grateful and humble than we started. We exited freshly encouraged to pray more earnestly and live more generously for the poor of our city. What a great idea! Let’s do it again!

– Murray is a qualified engineer and is currently serving on Common Ground’s Fuel Team

Learning to live on less

Kirsten and her husband Roan with their three children (aged 3, 5 and 7)

Kirsten Wilkins shares the impact the Live Under the Line Challenge had on her family.

Our family was really struggling financially at the time of the last LUTL challenge. We had just closed down our business and the last thing we were able to spend money on was the kind of food we had been used to. We were making a lot of changes, but when the LUTL Challenge came around it helped us to kick into another gear altogether.

Our home group leader at the time prompted us to extend the 3 days to 7 days – his mantra of ‘push harder, go further’ is amazing. ‘Sure, why not?’ I thought. To achieve this, we needed to look at our whole week’s budget, meal planning and shopping behavior. It was really hard work initially, but with God’s grace we managed. A whole week under the line was a success!

For just about every week since then we have followed this programme. We have had a few wobbles along the way but we strive to live under the line everyday. After about 3 months, we increased out budget to R60/day. That is R12/person/day and through God’s provision we are able to keep it there. We have a great meal planning system which we never had before and my hubby is really happy that I now actually stick to it. What an adventure!

God’s grace has been so obvious and incredible during this time. Everything from people giving us groceries to willing and talented people showing me how to cook them all! (Sorry, Woolworths, we can’t be friends again!) This month, we’re taking the next step. At R12/day options can be a bit limited but I feel very compelled by God to look more closely at what we are eating from a nutritional point of view. Of course, you try and make the best decisions possible, but our home group leader’s encouragement to push harder is ringing afresh in my ears.

So this month our family is cutting out wheat. *Gasp* Under The Line with no cheap starch?! We’re on day 6 and doing great. The bottom line is that everything just takes a little longer and is a little more effort but it is possible. I love to see God’s encouragement through our three young children as they see and accept how important stewardship is of our finances and our bodies. By God’s grace we’ll have even more awesome stories to tell of how He is changing the way we live, think and spend all that He has blessed us with.

The Live Under the Line Challenge was life changing for our family and continues to impact us as we push through a season of major financial upheaval. I thank God for His consistent and amazingly personal, caring and individualized provision. I long to be a better steward of all that He has blessed us with. I can’t help but think of those families who live on R10/day, unsure of whether there will be R10 tomorrow.

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