Week 3 | February 12, 2020
Follow the Leader: Simplicity
WHAT’S THE MAIN POINT?
Following Jesus doesn’t simply mean knowing about him or doing things now and again to please him. Being a disciple of Jesus, literally means apprenticing under Jesus. Living lives where Jesus is in the driver’s seat. And our daily lives start to look radically different from those around us.
One practise that Jesus lived out was the practise of Simplicity.
In doing so Jesus seemed to live a life that was incredibly intentional but also completely FREE.
Simplicity is living a life of freedom with intentionality.
So, what does the simpler life look like?
Here are a few options to help youth wake up to the idea of the devotional you are teaching:
- As we are talking about simplicity. Many people in Canada struggle with the blurred lines between poverty and wealth.
Here’s a good wealth test, ask these questions:
- Have you eaten today?
- Do you have more than 3 sets of clothes?
- Do you have your own bed?
- Do you have a cell-phone/ipod/laptop?
- Does your family have a car?
- Does your family go on vacations?
If so… your family sits in the top 1% of the richest people in the world.
Funny video on “minimalism”
Main scripture: Matthew 6:19-25
Additional Scripture: Luke 12:15; Acts 20:35; Luke 12:33; Mark 4:19
Simplicity is a word that can be wrapped up in so many connotations. Sometimes because we live in a wealthy western culture, the idea of simplicity has been lost in the way we think about life. Before we talk about how Jesus approached the subject, let’s begin with what simplicity is not.
Simplicity, or known in today’s culture as “Minimalism” is not a style of architecture or design. It is not the latest looking atheistically pleasing coffee shop or clothing store that has the vibes of an OCD clean freak, with everything having its perfect position or angle.
Secondly minimalism (simplicity) is not poverty. It isn’t a bare home, with an empty closet, and a joyless life with no freedom to enjoy any material thing. The whole goal of simplicity is actually the complete opposite – FREEDOM.
“Minimalism isn’t about living with nothing; it’s about living with less.” John Mark Comer
Thirdly minimalism (simplicity) is not about organizing all your stuff into nice little neat boxes and “Marie Kondo-ing” your life. If you have so much stuff that you have to spend hours every spring organizing it all… you probably have too much stuff.
The goal of simplicity is not to declutter your closet or garage…but to declutter your life!
So what does Jesus say?
Our passage in Matthew 6 is one of the instances where Jesus addresses the topic of money & stuff. If you were to live a life that was the complete opposite of simplicity it would look like gaining as much money, possessions, stuff and things as possible. Did you know that about 25% of all of Jesus teachings are on money and stuff?! And basically none of them are positive. And often when we read Jesus teachings on money and stuff they can seem cringeworthy, like they would suck the joy right out of life.
Matthew 6 is Jesus famous “Sermon on the Mount”, and about 25% of this famous talk was on… you guessed it… money & stuff.
Basically Jesus starts lightly… he says don’t invest all your time, energy and money into things that will inevitably fade, rust and disappear. Instead put your life into things that matter, like your relationship with God and life in his kingdom. Because where you put your resources… is where you put your heart. And that steers your life direction.
WAIT… if you are thinking, what does my eyesight have to do with money… this is a first-century expression that’s lost on modern ears. In Jesus’ day, if you said someone had a “healthy eye” you would be saying two things:
- You were focused and living with a high degree of intentionality in life.
- You were generous to the poor, you saw those in need and did your best to help out.
So an “unhealthy eye” was the exact opposite. When you look out on the world you are distracted by everything that glistens, that you have lost your focus on what really matters. And in turn have closed your hand to the poor.
Then Jesus takes it over the finish line…
Dang. Interestingly Jesus does not use the words “should not”.. he says “cannot.” For Jesus it’s a non-option. You cannot serve God and serve the overconsumption system that is normal in our society. The two are mutually exclusive. You have to pick. The love of stuff, or the love of God.
What is amazing is that Jesus doesn’t leave it there. He doesn’t say “take a blind guess and good luck!”… he actually says what will happen if you choose the love of God over the love of stuff.
Notice how Jesus connects money and stuff to worry.
You see that?
The word “therefore” is key to this whole thing! It ties together three little teachings on money and stuff to one LARGE teaching on worry (read the rest of Matthew 6).
Basic point: “We worry about what we worship. If you worship money, it will eat you alive.”
WHY DO I CARE?
Do you ever worry? Are you ever anxious? Do you ever wonder what God’s plan is for your life? Do you want to be able to help those in need more?…. SIMPLICITY matters.
Ask yourself the question: What does more stuff and overconsumption do?
Think, how does the impact the environment, animals, the poor?…
Jesus lived a life fully devoted to God and did not have a desire or love for money and stuff. It meant that he lived a life that was intentional and FREE. Meaning he did not worry. Can you imagine developing a “worry-free” life?
Jesus actually commands his followers to not love money and stuff, it is an attribute of his disciples. Think how this changes the way you live.
WHAT DO I DO?
- Assess, do you live a life of simplicity or has your thoughts and desires consumed with stuff, money, possessions and things?
If there is any trace of the answer yes to that question, it is time to recognise that there is a problem, and ask Jesus to help you turn your focus back to God and not things.
One of the great things about Jesus style of teaching is he often gave small, handy, creative practises to live out a life full of the kingdom of God. So let’s try it with money and stuff, to try and live a life that is more simpler.
- Before you buy something, ask yourself, what is the true cost of this item?
Can you afford it? How much time will it cost you? How often will you use it? Will it add value to your life and the ways of God’s kingdom? Will it distract you from what really matters?
- Before you buy, ask yourself, by buying this, am I oppressing the poor or harming the earth?
Scientists argue that it would take something like 5 earths for everyone on the planet to live with the same ecological footprint as a North American.Some of us care more about the earth than others. But the earth isn’t the only victim of overconsumption. 2% of the clothing worn in North American is made outside of North American. Much of the clothes are made in eastern countries where corruption is rife and officials do nothing about the victimisation of workers. One in six people in the world work in the garment industry. Fewer than 2% of them make a living wage. Do our purchases oppress?
- When you do buy, opt for fewer, better things.
If Jesus was right that all our money is actually God’s money, and we are simply stewards, then consider buying less unjustly made cheap things that will break quickly and be replaced fast. Why not buy something that is ethical, quality and will last.
English designer William Morris said: “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”
- Don’t pester your parents for more and more and more.
As youth, you can set the trend in your home. Often our parents can buckle to the pressure of demand after demand after demand. What would it look like for you to come from a place of gratitude, than constantly asking for the latest or newest thing?
- Get into the habit of giving things away.
If mom just bought you that new coat, it may not be wise just to hand it away to a friend the following day. However there are many things we have or own that we do not need. Jesus said it is more blessed to give than receive. What things could you give away?
- Cultivate a deep appreciation for the simple things.
What are the little experiences that can actually bring great joy? That morning coffee, or tasty toast and jam? A home-cooked meal? A beautiful Edmontonian sunset? When the head hits the pillow?
This type of living says less about what we have and more about our relationship to time and the kind of attention we give to God and the goodness of his world.
It’s the little things, ya know?