By Rachel Hamman
Stories abound of people who quit their six-figure jobs in pursuit of a simpler lifestyle. We often hear of people relocating from a large city to the country to “get away from it all.” From the tiny house movement to the minimalist culture, the “less is more” philosophy has become quite trendy for a variety of reasons.
The way Jesus lived on earth was the quintessence of simplicity. During his short, three-year ministry, rich and poor alike were attracted to Jesus because of his simple way of teaching. Jesus summarized his earthly mission as he spoke with Zaccheus in Luke 19:10: “For the Son of Man came to seek and save what was lost.”
Simplicity is a word that seems straightforward but can be difficult to define. For some, simplicity means a quiet life with few distractions. For others, it could mean having the same routine every day. Still others may equate simplicity with the Amish culture or another group of people who choose to live without modern conveniences or inventions because of tradition or religious reasons. My definition of simplicity is simply this: knowing there is always more you could have and not caring less.
For those who are interested in living a simple life for the purpose of becoming more kingdom minded, this article will explore some ways to achieve simplicity in the following areas:
• Your lifestyle
• Your gift giving
• Your ability to give time
Simplicity as a Lifestyle
Simplicity and contentment are closely related. We often hear Philippians 4:13 quoted in Bible lessons or sermons. We seldom hear what Paul says in the preceding verse: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”
People who live a simple life are often admired but seldom copied. It is easy to talk about being content but difficult to practice. Living a simple life is meaningless in view of eternity unless our purpose is to become more like Christ. We should constantly guard against the temptation of materialism. Even if we are blessed with financial security, our trust should be in God and finding ways to use our resources for his kingdom.
Tithing to our local congregation is a good place to start. Did you know the only Scripture where God challenges us to test him is in regard to tithing? “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it” (Malachi 3:10). Who wouldn’t want God to bless them to the point where they couldn’t contain it? I challenge you to test God in this area and watch how he provides for you and your family.
In Matthew 6, Jesus taught his followers to seek first his kingdom and depend on God to supply their physical needs. The apostle Paul said in 1 Timothy 6:6-8: “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”
In Luke 12:16-21, Jesus told a story about a rich man who had a good crop but didn’t have enough room to store it. The man decided to build bigger barns to make room for his stuff. His plan was to sit back and “eat, drink and be merry.” He did not stop to consider he had no promise of tomorrow. God called him a “fool” and told him he would die that night.
Simplifying your life means making room for the stuff that really matters. It means examining your life to see if you are letting material things come before God. It sometimes requires self-denial or saying no to a bad investment. Before you buy something, ask yourself if you can live without it. Pray about purchases that involve large sums of money. Consider your motives for making the purchase. Is it something that may hinder you from accomplishing more for his kingdom? Do you have bills that need to be paid first?
Simplicity requires self-control, which is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:23). Are you someone who can’t resist a bargain, even when it’s something you don’t need? Then stay away from yard sales and limit your shopping. Only go shopping when you truly need something. Once you find it, buy it and go home.
Simplicity in Gift Giving
The early Christians were great examples of people who freely gave of their resources to help other Christians who were in need: “There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need” (Acts 4:34, 35).
Gifts do not need to be extravagant for the recipients to know you care about them. The more useful or thoughtful the gift, the more it will be appreciated. The wise men brought gifts to Jesus that had specific purposes and were practical. While you probably don’t have gold, frankincense, and myrrh on your gift list, consider giving such items as homemade canned or baked goods, crafts or wood creations, or other items made by your skills and creativity. Gift cards are great if you don’t have much time to shop.
Simplicity in gift giving requires planning ahead in order not to be stressed out at the last minute. Many people buy items on sale throughout the year to be used as Christmas gifts later. Christmas Clubs are another great way to save during the year. If you start a Christmas Club in mid-February and only deposit $20 per week, you will be able to save approximately $700 by mid-October. This still allows plenty of time for shopping and will enable you to select gifts without feeling rushed and fighting the crowds and traffic right before Christmas.
Simplicity to Give Time
Even though we have a plethora of time-saving appliances and gadgets, we seem to have less time than ever to spend with our friends and families during the Christmas season. There’s a good chance your family members would rather have more of your time and less of your money.
This Christmas season, will your guests remember you for being so frazzled from cooking and baking that you were too tired to enjoy the meal and have a relaxing visit with them? This year, instead of making five desserts, try scaling it back to two. Instead of baking turkey and ham for Christmas, do one or the other. Try serving simple dishes such as a pot roast, casserole, soup, or stew with bread and salad. You will be much more relaxed and your guests’ stomachs will be just as full and satisfied.
Last year my sister and I were having difficulty coordinating our busy Christmas schedules. We were finally able to get together the Sunday after Christmas. We had lasagna, bread, and salad. After the meal, we attended a family movie with our children. It was one of the most memorable times we have been able to spend together in recent years.
This year, try simplifying your life so that you have more time to spend with those who may be lonely, shut-in, or who have recently lost a family member. Invite those who are able to attend a free concert, Christmas cantata, or other community function with you. These are things you can also do year-round.
As you endeavor to live a more simplified life, remember to stay Christlike in your purpose. As you begin living a more kingdom-focused life, you will have more time to spend with friends and family, volunteering in your local congregation and community and reaching out to the lost.
Rachel Hamman is a freelance writer and is on staff at the Church of Christ at Mountain View near Winchester, Virginia.