Living simply

Dan:

I’m not sure I could answer your (very important) questions in any kind of programmatic way; actually I’m not sure anyone could. But a few random thoughts:

  • the NT does not require the Jerusalem-church’s communalism, though it clearly sets it out as a good example
  • the NT does not say being rich per se is sinful or wrong, but it does condemn rich people who do not share very generously with the poor
  • Jesus has a significant section of the Sermon on the Mount devoted to not worrying about money, clothes, food, etc. (i.e., all the things our anything-but-simple culture is obsessed with)
  • the NT explicitly calls greed “idolatry”
  • the OT and the NT extoll contentment as our ethical ideal
  • the NT tells us “the love of money is the root of all (kinds?) of evil”; it is not money itself, but the desire for it (presumably in excess of what one needs to live) that is severely condemned
  • desire for our own happiness is not condemned in Scripture, but desire for private happiness in contradiction to the common good of all is condemned

What does that mean for us, practically speaking? Well, a few things jump to mind: consciously avoiding falling into cultural trends that are essentially about marking our status (e.g., wearing the right labels, etc.), giving generously to the poor within our means, not making the accumulation of wealth for the sake of our personal security a goal in our careers or life, thanking God for the gifts we have and sharing them with others in general. I remember in my hermeneutics class in first year at my undergrad, my prof pointed out that the verse people often cite as encouragement for themselves, that “I can do all things through Him/Christ who strengthens me” is actually, in context, about specifically dealing with having plenty and having nothing (though obviously it can apply beyond the financial). I think that’s a good passage to guide our thinking.

What do you think? Anything else? Anything you would want to qualify from my suggestions?

I’m sure Keith will have a few good things to say about all this…