Living Simply for the Mission
The idea of living simply is a relatively foreign concept to our Western culture. We want free refills at restaurants, 10-year warranties on our cars, and regularly have yard sales so we clean out our slightly-used stuff to make room for more stuff. Our obsession with having more – whether blatant or passive – does more than just take up room in our homes. It muddies up our hearts. In chapter eight of Habits for Our Holiness, I deal with the idea of possessing our possessions so that we can live missional lives. Take a few moments to read this important excerpt.
Living in simplicity will make you stand out from the cultural norm. Although contentment and generosity are seen as character virtues, those two qualities are rarely demonstrated. Allowing them to be regular occurrences in your life—and thus pursuing God over things—will become a visible witness of the gospel, one that can yield fruitful conversations about your faith.
Generosity is itself a form of missional living. Giving anything away runs counterintuitive to our cultural standards. Particularly in the West, we negotiate for more, buy more, and keep more. Yet those who abide by the ethic of God’s kingdom don’t just give away more, they actually pursue generosity as a lifestyle.
Make no mistake about it. If you live by the values of God’s kingdom, you will be questioned. People will wonder if you’re saving enough for retirement and all manner of other things you need. As you find ways to be generous to unbelievers, they might question your motives. Great! It is an open door to describe God’s generosity in sending Christ for us.
Contentment is also the witness of Christ’s work in us. Unbelievers will not understand why you have “settled” for an old car, or why you don’t scramble to attain the latest device or smartphone to hit stores. They might think your simplicity and contentment are strange. As you explain that your self-image, self-worth, and self-esteem come from your relationship with Christ, they will want to know more. Perhaps it will take a bit of time as they’ll want to watch your life play out. But the persistent witness of a person who is happy with what they currently have will demand an explanation. Once again, it is an open opportunity for believers to discuss how they find their worth in Christ rather than in their possessions.
Simplified living will change your conversations as well. While neighbors hold conversations over who got the newest gadget, you will stand out. Rather than talk about the things people own, you can focus on the people who own the things. When you cease dwelling on and wanting what others have, it changes how you speak about other people. Compassion and honor become habitual. Thankfulness for how God has supplied good gifts to us becomes a natural topic.
We can live actively with our possessions as well. Using our possessions for the good of others is an idea that dates back to Old Testament times. God told the Israelites during their exile in a foreign land to settle down, build houses, have families, and “seek the welfare of the city” (Jer. 29:7). When you use what you own to bless the city where you live, your possessions become tools rather than idols. Our money and possessions are tools to assist us as we participate in God’s kingdom.
If we trust money to bring us peace, anxiety is the normal result. We put ourselves at the whim of the stock market or a cranky supervisor. But if we will use our money, possessions, and the like for God’s kingdom, then peace is the result. As Jesus taught us, value the treasures of heaven and you’ll never want for anything more.