By Robert Raker
There is a common misconception about simplicity and its relationship to Christ and Christianity. In fact, this
misconception has caused many within the church to abandon this centuries old Brethren practice completely. But why?
The problem is that, as with mo
st Biblical issues, we have gotten away from what the Bible really teaches. When asked what simplicity in the Bible means, most would probably answer something like giving up worldly things, or living without nice things, or living on the bare essentials.
But this is not what the Bible teaches about simple living. Indeed, simple living is not about the absence of things, but about the absence of the need for things. Here I want to consider two scriptures and hopefully clarify the idea. The first text we’ll examine is Matthew 6:25-34.
This passage should be familiar to those even loosely acquainted with the Bible. Anytime someone faces worry or doubt this passage is used to bring comfort or lend support. It is a part of “The Sermon on the Mount,” one of Jesus’ most famous teachings, .
While the entire passage could be
read in regards to simple living I want us to focus in on three main points. First, in verse 32 Jesus says, “the pagans run after all these things.” The key word here is “run”. It is my belief that what the Bible teaches regarding simplicity is more about attitude toward our possessions than the actual possessions. And here Jesus plainly states that those who run after, or pursue, these things are the pagans, not merely those who own them.
This idea is supported in the next verse when Jesus says we are to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness,” Again, we see the idea that to have these things is not necessarily. Rather, to pursue them before God’s kingd
om and righteousness is bad. Jesus is reminding us what should come first in our lives. In other words, its all about the attitude. This idea is completed in the second half of verse 33. “All these things will be given to you as well.” God wants us to have things, that is the things we need and desire, but He will only give them to us when we pursue Him first.
Our second passage comes from I Timothy 6:3-10. In verse 6 Paul tells Timothy that, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” This is another way of saying, “Seek first His kingdom.”
Simple living is about being happy with what we’ve been given rather pursuing more and more and more. But again, we must be reminded that the possessions themselves are not harmful, but rather our attitude toward them. This is an idea Paul expounds on in verse 10, another well know passage. Who among us hasn’t heard this at some point, “The love of money is the root of all evil.” However, if we scan this verse quickly, without stopping to examine it, we can lose the true meaning.
I have heard people say that this verse teaches that money and the things it purchases are evil and should
therefore be avoided at all cost. This is not what Paul is saying. Paul says that, “the love of money is the root of all evil.” Its our attitude toward it that matters not the money itself.
Try this experiment. Take a dollar bill out of your wallet and place it on the kitchen table, or desk in front of you. Now watch closely. Has it moved? Has it done anything other than possibly been moved by a fan or breeze? Of course it hasn’t! It’s only money. The point is this: money, or possessions have no power in and of themselves. They cannot think, read, talk, or walk. The only power they have is the power we give them. That’s why Paul says the love of money is the root all evil and not money itself. Its all about the attitude.
Still later in this verse Paul takes it one step farther when he tells Timothy that “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
These are just two of the many scriptures which demonstrate that possessions are not evil, but our attitude toward them. Is it wrong to have nice th
ings? If they cause us to pursue more nice things then the answer is yes. But if we are satisfied, or content, with the things which God has blessed us with, and continue to place His kingdom and righteousness above our things then the answer is no. When it comes to simple living, its really all about attitude.
Robert Raker is an ordained minister in the Southern Ohio District of the Church of the Brethren. He is currently between assignments as an interim pastor. He enjoys spending time with his wife and children, writing, and teaching a weekly home based Bible study