This topic has raised issues of simplicity. How do we simplify our lives? This is not easy, especially living in a relatively affluent nation like New Zealand. There are some classic resources to help us such as Ron Sider's "Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger" and "Living More Simply".
John Wesley was a great revivalist and preacher. But he was also careful with money. He was born into a poor family, and when he followed his father by becoming a preacher he had no illusions about financial rewards. His income began at 30 pounds a year – more than enough for a single person to live. He determined to live on 28 pounds and give the rest away.
In the years that followed his income rose dramatically: 60 pounds one year, 90 the next. Instead of letting his expenses rise, he kept the 28 pound ceiling, and gave the rest away. Wesley felt that Christians should not merely tithe but give away all extra income once family and creditors were provided for. Wesley’s income peaked at 1400 pounds per annum, but he kept living on 28.
This was so unusual that he was investigated by the English tax commissioners. He limited his expenses by refusing to buy items considered essential for someone of his income. His simple rules were: “Gain all you can, Save all you can, Give all you can.”
Some other key steps:
1. We need others around us for mutual encouragement.
2. Make it a spiritual exercise, not a religious rule. (I paste below some insights I've gathered)
3. Don't forget to celebrate.
Simplicity – as a Spiritual Practice
Simplicity is an inward reality that results in an outward lifestyle that is not extravagant, not lusting for status or power, and not dominated by material possessions.
· The key is in Matt 6:33 “seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” God’s Kingdom comes first – even before a simple lifestyle.
· Try having a simple (and cheap) meal once a week and giving the money you save to someone in need.
· Instead of asking, “How can I earn more?” ask, “How can I spend less?” The greatest saving is the ‘bargain’ you decide you don’t need to buy.
· Learn to enjoy things without owning them. Enjoy the beach without feeling we have to buy a piece of it.
· Avoid making new ‘laws’ about Christian lifestyle, but discover what ‘treasures’ you have that may compete with God for your heart. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt )
· But, don’t be stingy, shabby, small, or mean. God is not poor.
Some Benefits of Simplicity:
Ø Simplicity trains us to be comfortable without having all our wants and desires met.
Ø It helps break the power of mammon (wealth) over us and sets us free to give.
Ø Simplicity helps us to be free from anxiety.
Ø We learn more about being grateful for God’s gifts to us.