Living Social Justice

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

Archive for the tag “simplicity”

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

The Not So Simple Life

How can we live simpler in a world that is demanding that we consume and do so much more? Mother and freelance copywriter, Julie Williams gives us an honest glimpse into how she is grappling with this in her own life.

A funny thing happened as I settled down to write this piece. I was going to fill it with inspiring thoughts on the art of living simply. But then I got blind-sided. By the giant log in my own eye.

You see, my story of living simply is not as simple as I’d like to admit. Let me let you in on some of my struggles, in the hope that we’ll find real simplicity on the other side of complexity…

A few months ago, our beloved domestic help, child minder, kitchen whisperer and general wonder woman of grace, Fez, was diagnosed with cancer. Amidst all the thoughts I have grappled with in response, the one that I have felt most frequently and acutely is this: “Life sucks for me right now.”

Yes. I did just write that. And I’ve thought it a hundred times.

Life sucks. For me. Right now.

As a mother with 3 small kids, and a freelancing career that I juggle between nappy changes, school runs and church meetings, I depend on Fez to keep all the plates spinning. Without her, the plates don’t spin. They just pile up and risk breeding new forms of bacteria that could wipe out half of the human race.

Life does suck when she is not around. But when did my life, and the idea that it should run according to plan, overtake my humanity? When did my (trivial in comparison) needs eclipse her own?

As I’ve wrestled with this question, I’ve begun to see just how entitled I am. And if simplicity is a superpower, entitlement is its cryptonite.

You see, simplicity is about living with others in mind whilst entitlement is all about me.

Entitlement tells us we deserve all the good things we have, and none of the bad. It helps us to constantly justify our insatiable desire for more – and to expect the best of everything as if it were our ‘right’. I may be wrong, but it seems to me that the more we have, the more entitled we can become. I’ve come to this conclusion after witnessing one too many hostile encounters between luxury sedans in the Constantia Village parking lot. In essence, entitlement is the opposite of simplicity – which is rooted in the idea that your needs are not more important than those around you. And hence, you have enough (yes, even you).

Below are three points I want to remember as I attempt to gouge entitlement out of my own life. I suspect, like pulling weeds, it’s going to be a life-long exercise.

1. I have enough. I already have all that I need. I don’t like to admit this but it’s true. Of course, there are tons of things that I would like, but I will never be happier than I choose to be right now, right here – with our siff brown couch, our chipped plates and the oldest car on our road. Replacing these things will feel momentarily wonderful, but that euphoric feeling will wear off quicker than cheap perfume, and in no time, there’ll be other things I feel I should, no, must have in order to be truly happy. Let me be clear here, there’s nothing wrong with getting nice stuff, but in acquiring that stuff, have you cut off your ability to be generous toward others? Get comfortable with the space between what you have and what you want. Settle in there, and don’t try to make it go away too quickly. Remind yourself that the purpose of this life is not to have all your desires met. He who has the most toys at the end of his life is not the winner! This is not being complacent. It’s learning the forgotten art of contentment.

2. People matter most. They matter more than stuff. Much more. And in a country with one of the biggest disparities between rich and poor, it’s inexcusable for me to be overly concerned about a new couch, and not attempt to narrow the gap at some level. How? That’s up to each of us to work out. But work it out, we must. We must aim to simplify our lives so that we can have the means to be generous and let others less fortunate than ourselves share in our good fortune. Does that hurt to think about – let alone do? Good. It should hurt a little when you punch mammon in the face. It will hurt each of us in different ways and to different degrees. Remember that this life is not all there is. And that all that will remain amidst the dust and the bones, the gold teeth fillings and the bronze belt buckles… will be the memories of who and how we loved

3. God simplified. It’s really not about me in the end. Ouch. Again. I am part of a much bigger story. One in which the true hero gave up everything to come and find me. Talk about simplifying life! Christ stepped away from everything he was ‘entitled’ to. Because of love. It’s not because of my hard work that I have, it’s because of God’s kindness toward me. I want to remember a man giving up far more than a latte – but his last breath. For me. I want to lock eyes with that man more often. And in so doing, let the things of this world grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.

– Julie Williams is a part-time freelance copywriter, mother of three and pastor’s wife. She serves on the Common Ground Church leadership team together with her husband, Terran. 

P.S For more on the topic of generosity, read “How I Learnt to Give” and “Confessions of an Amateur Giver

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