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But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.—Matthew 6:331
God recognizes our material needs, and His Word contains plenty of promises of supply; in fact, all that we need.2 But Jesus also warned that a vain pursuit of wealth can be a stumbling block to a Christian life.3 Human nature also makes it difficult for us to correctly assess our needs. As Benjamin Franklin observed, “The more [money] a man has, the more he wants. Instead of filling a vacuum, it makes one.”
So how much is enough?
The apostle Paul addresses this big question in a letter to Timothy, and his conclusion is surprising in its minimalism: “If we have enough food and clothing, let us be content. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it.”4 He doesn’t say anything negative about living above this minimum standard, but his point is that real contentment isn’t related to material prosperity.
Studies have confirmed that beyond a certain point, increasing wealth can have diminishing returns as far as happiness and quality of life. That makes sense—we all need some money to provide for ourselves and our families, but once our basic needs and aspirations are satisfied, the pursuit of wealth often ends up being at odds with the pursuit of happiness.
The bottom line seems to be that much depends on our attitude and what God is doing in our lives at a given time. Above all, whether we are currently “abasing or abounding,”5 we should remember that true success and fulfillment in life come through learning about and getting closer to our heavenly Father. “A person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.”6—Samuel Keating
The key of simplicity
Our true treasures are not money and possessions. Our true treasures are the kingdom of God, His love and interaction in our lives, our salvation, God’s provision and care for us, and our coming rewards. Understanding this puts our finances and their use in the right perspective.
In Psalm 24, David exclaims, “The earth belongs to God! Everything in all the world is his!”7 God Himself claims ownership over creation: “All the earth is Mine,”8 “Everything under heaven is Mine.”9 From this, we understand that all that we “own” is actually owned by our Creator, which includes not just our possessions, but ourselves as well. We are simply stewards or caretakers of what God has put in our charge.
While God may own everything, He also wants us to be happy and enjoy the things He has given us, as it says in 1 Timothy 6:17 NIV: “God … richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” As custodians of God’s resources—specifically, the things in our possession, and generally, the resources of the earth—we can use them for ourselves and our loved ones, to live our lives, and to enjoy what He has placed in our care. Having the right relationship with possessions, money, and wealth is vitally important to our relationship with God.
Understanding the principles of ownership (that God owns everything), stewardship (that we are to use what God has given us in conjunction with His will and His Word), and the need for developing a proper relationship with possessions and finances helps us to adjust our attitude and behavior regarding those things that we have control over, both tangible and intangible.
One key to this relationship is simplicity. Simplicity can be understood as a means of being freed from some of the unnecessary attachments to the things of this life, a means to set our minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.10
Jesus told us that our heart is where our treasure is; therefore it’s wise to examine what we consider our true treasure to be. We should have a right relationship with our possessions and recognize the damage that can occur if that relationship gets out of balance. Simplicity can lessen our focus on ourselves and our things and help to keep us focused on our true treasure, our loving God who has given us the most valuable things we could ever possess—His love and salvation.—Peter Amsterdam
The discipline of simplicity
Simplicity is to focus on the few things that are most important, and to place less emphasis on the many other competing things that are unimportant.
Simplicity is an inward focus that also results in a different outward way of living. … Life becomes less anxious and less complicated. It is freeing to let go of things and to be willing to share what we have with others…
A life focused on acquiring things is deadly to the Christian walk. Jesus says you can’t serve both God and money. He says that blessed are the poor, and that where your treasure is, that is where your heart will also be. The problem is that it’s not possible to seek God’s kingdom first if we spend all of our time seeking more material things.
At the same time, God intends for us to have adequate material possessions, and he intends for us to have joy in life. Extreme asceticism (forced poverty and denying all pleasure) is itself the wrong focus. It is not simplicity. Simplicity is to put possessions in their proper perspective. It is to be content with what we have, to thank God for those things, and to be willing to share them with others…
[Richard] Foster gives ten examples of outward simplicity. These are not “rules” (which lead to legalism), but general principles we can apply. The outward is accompanied with the inward.
1) Buy things for their usefulness rather than their status. Utility and durability are important. Prestige is not.
2) Reject anything that is producing an addiction in you. An addiction is a compulsion you can’t control. Refuse to be a slave to anything but God.
3) Develop a habit of giving things away. De-accumulate. Consider giving away something that you’re especially attached to.
4) Refuse to be propagandized by the custodians of modern gadgetry. Advertisers tell us that we need the latest and greatest. What we already have usually works just fine.
5) Learn to enjoy things without owning them. Go to the park or the library. Enjoy the beach without feeling like you need beach property.
6) Develop a deeper appreciation for creation. Go for a walk. Listen to the birds. Smell the flowers.
7) Be skeptical of buy-now-pay-later plans. Use extreme caution before going into debt.
8) Obey Jesus’ instructions about plain and honest speech. Let your yes be yes and your no be no. Avoid flattery and speculative matters.
9) Reject anything that breeds the oppression of others. This could mean not buying something made by slaves. It could also mean doing something menial that you expect someone else to do.
10) Shun anything that distracts you from seeking first the kingdom of God. It’s easy to become distracted, even by good things. Don’t let it happen.—Kevin Jackson11
Published on Anchor April 2019. Read by Jason Lawrence.
2 Philippians 4:19.
3 Matthew 19:24.
4 1 Timothy 6:8,7 NLT.
5 Philippians 4:12.
6 Luke 12:21 NLT.
7 Psalm 24:1 TLB.
8 Exodus 19:5.
9 Job 41:11.
10 Colossians 3:2.