Maintaining a Simple Lifestyle in the Midst of Prosperity

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Maybe we think times are not so prosperous. But if we open our eyes a little and see our standard of living, and if we look around at other countries, we will see that we are living in prosperous times. God is very interested that we maintain a simple lifestyle even in times of prosperity, and that we are examples of the believers in our lifestyle.

In the world today we can go out and buy all kinds of things. The devil makes it easier than ever before. As if it’s too hard to go to the store, people can get on the Internet and do their shopping while sitting in their living room. It is yet another way to spend money. We can just keep spending and buying as if there’s no end to it. We can buy all kinds of labor-saving devices until we are bound so tightly financially that we just have to work and work to buy more time-saving devices.

With mass production, a lot of things are so cheap we think we just have to have them. But do we really need all these things?

We want to look at some principles in the Bible on maintaining a simple lifestyle in the midst of prosperity.

The first principle is faith in God (Heb 11:8-16). We all say our faith is in God. But do we really believe that God has called us to live a separated life? We can easily see that God called Abraham to leave his homeland, but do we understand that God is calling us to leave this world and the things it offers, the things they hold so dear, the things that take our eyes off Him? Do we understand God says that so many of these things our flesh wants aren’t necessary, and that accumulating things just for the sake of accumulating them can take us the wrong direction?

“Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (2Cor 6:17,18).

Without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb 11:6). Because of Abraham’s faith he obeyed God. He separated himself from the idol worship and all that was taking place in his homeland. In order to maintain a simple lifestyle that pleases God, first of all we need to have faith in Him, believing His promises to the point of obeying them.

It behooves us to take an example from Abraham. He sojourned in the land of promise as in a strange country. Some things are very important to the society in which we live. How much does that affect our standard of living and the things that we feel are so necessary?

Why did Abraham sojourn as in a strange country? It was because he looked for a city that has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

There is nothing wrong with having a nice house to live in, owning property, and possessing some things. Sometimes God blesses us in ways we don’t understand; He blesses us with a lot more than we expected. Let’s be very careful that we don’t just want more and more. Let’s be sure our possessions don’t possess us, and that they are on the altar. If God wants us to have them, we want to use them for His glory. If He sees fit to take them away from us, we will not be bitter. Our eyes are on heaven, our goal is to reach heaven, and these earthly things are temporal. May we ever live here as in a strange country.

Our calling is to be ambassadors for Christ and His Kingdom. We are in a foreign country. Yes, by birth most of us are citizens of the United States. But we need to have the concept continually that we are strangers here. We are only passing through; heaven is our home.

Abraham lived in tents. We are not suggesting that we sell our houses and live in tents. But we do not have to have the biggest and the finest and the most trinkets sitting around. We are to live simply, in a way that shows we are strangers and pilgrims here.

It concerns us when we think of all the financial needs around us, even in just the Pilgrim churches. Then we see the way we are living. If we didn’t have to have so many things, we would have more money to give. The Scripture says it is more blessed to give than to receive.

Just in my lifetime, I can remember when my mother did not have hot running water in the house. Cold water was piped to the kitchen, and that was it. There was no indoor bathroom. Mother heated all the water on the woodstove that was needed for dishwashing, bathing, etc. Today we say hot running water is an absolute necessity in our society. If we would build a house without plumbing, it would not meet the code. So some of these things have changed over the years. Let’s just keep in mind that these things we have done without. And while they are nice, let’s not have the idea that we must keep adding and adding things so that we can have a better life here. It is so important to keep first in our minds the city that has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

It needs to be riveted in our minds that these material things we think are so necessary will pass away. It seems this truth becomes a bit foggy at times. We work and work—and we need to work; work is biblical. But our intention in working must be, that as the Lord provides and allows us to gain, we will not just swallow up this gain to make an easier life and buy more things for ourselves, but will remember the needs around us.

In the world we see homes where both husband and wife think they need to work, and there’s a real lusting after material things. May we be very careful that we are not swallowed up in the American dream. We have something so much better to look forward to. Let’s not allow the American dream to keep us out of heaven.

The challenge we want to take to heart is that our lives are plainly saying that we seek a heavenly country, where God is (Heb 11:13-14). Let our neighbors and friends see, not that we are hoarding up material wealth for ourselves and that all our labor is going to make our little kingdom greater, but that we are laboring for the kingdom of God.

Another principle we find in the Scripture is contentment (Matt 6:19-34). Jesus says here, “Lay not up treasures on earth.” Jesus was not saying it is wrong to work and gain. But when the attitude is wrong and we are laying up for ourselves, we become like the person Jesus talked about in Luke. When his fields produced an abundant crop, he said, “What am I going to do? I will tear down my barns and build bigger and say to my soul, ‘You have goods laid up for years, take your ease, and have the easy life.’” That is not for the Christian. We need to always remember that what we gain by work belongs to God, and we are only stewards. May we use it for His glory, for the advancement of the Kingdom.

It is hard to lay up treasures in heaven because it takes sacrifice. We are expending energy for something that we won’t handle in our hands. But by laying it up in heaven, we are giving it to God. May we be challenged that our treasures are truly being laid up in heaven.

Even the simple act of handing out tracts on a Sunday afternoon is a way of laying up treasures in heaven. It might be easier on the flesh to go home and get a good long nap so we can work harder on Monday to gain more money. But what are we more concerned about?

Jesus was not teaching here that we should be irresponsible and not provide for ourselves and our families. His teaching was that we need to keep our focus on the right thing. It is right and good that our sisters can and freeze food for the winter months when there are no fresh vegetables out of the garden. Jesus was not teaching against that here. But in all this our focus is on God, we are doing it for Him, and all the gain that we get, whether from our garden or from our jobs, is for the glory of God. We are to first seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness.

We hope we can say with the Apostle Paul, “For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (Php 4:11). No doubt we are still in the process of learning true contentment, but may it be our heart’s desire.

Some of the wealthy people in this world probably don’t even know what contentment is. But God says that godliness with contentment is great gain (1Tim 6:6). So do we want to be rich? Then let us live godly lives and be content with His will for us. For that is great gain. That is when we will experience peace and the joy of the Lord.

“For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content” (1Tim 6:7-8).

The poorest person can lust after riches to the point that he can’t be happy or content. And the richest person can still want so much more that he’s not happy or content. So we all must be diligent to seek God and His will, content with however He wants to bless.

Romans 13:8, “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.” The first part of this verse does not mean we can’t borrow money. But we need to be very careful when we do. The Scripture says that the borrower is servant to the lender. Before we borrow, we need to seek God’s will. It is very good to seek counsel from the brethren, especially when it is a large sum. We want the church to help us in our financial crises—and we are here to help each other—so it is a good idea to ask counsel before we borrow.

Borrowing makes it very easy to live above our needs. We are living in a time when we want a lot of things. It’s not all just out in the world. And with the availability of credit cards, we can buy what we want right now. We don’t have to wait until we have the money to pay for it.

Here is an interesting example from an actual credit card statement. With a balance of $5,060, the bill said, “If you make no additional charges using this card, and each month you make only the minimum payment, you will pay off the balance shown on this statement in about 18 years.” And that was for just 30 days’ worth of buying. It also said, “You will end up paying an estimated total of $9,098.77.” So by making no additional purchases and paying the minimum amount each month, one would wind up paying almost double. Just that, without even thinking about God’s will for us, should put the brakes on using credit cards. Before we make the purchase, we should be as sure as possible that we’ll have the funds to pay at the appointed time. As Christians, we need to discipline ourselves in our buying.

A simple lifestyle is difficult when credit is easily available. The thinking is, you have your credit card, you have the Internet, you can buy it, sitting right in your living room. Let’s be careful. It’s a snare of the devil. What we call “needs” many times are just wants. We can exist on a lot less than we have. Most of the world does. True, according to government laws and codes, we couldn’t live as they do in many parts of the world. But we still can live a simple lifestyle in this country if we want to.

It is difficult to find a certain line where we say that this is luxury, and this over here is alright; this is necessary, and this is not. But we have an advantage over many in that we have a brotherhood, the Scripture, and the Holy Spirit—all these ways to show us how to go.

Whether it’s guns, cars, pickups, or whatever it is, there are brands and makes that are top of the line, most loaded, most sought after. Let’s be careful that we don’t have to have the top of the line; we don’t need it to do the same job that something less expensive would do.

As the Apostle Paul said, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” And that includes our buying. It includes discerning what is a need, or just a want. It’s a real challenge to maintain a simple lifestyle in the day in which we live. But we are convinced that we can.

Colossians 3:1-2, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.”

~ Amelia, VA
February 2015