it's actually very simple

it's actually very simple
Photo by Arno Senoner / Unsplash

In my last post on simplicity, we decided that simplicity is centering your life on things that are certain:

tis the gift to be simple, tis the gift to be free...
’Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free, ’Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be, And when we find ourselves in the place just right, It will be in the valley of love and delight. ’Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis

Foster begins his chapter on simplicity by saying,

Simplicity is freedom. Duplicity is bondage. Simplicity brings joy and balance. Duplicity brings anxiety and fear... The Christian Discipline o fsimplicity is an inward reality that results in an outward life-style... Experiencing the inward reality liberates us outwardly. Speech becomes truthful and honest. The lust for status and position is gone because we no longer need status and position. We cease from showy extravagance not on the grounds of being unable to afford it, but on the grounds of principle. Our goods become available to others. We join the experience that Richard E. Byrd, after months alone in the barren Arctic, recorded in his journal, "I am learning... that a man can live profoundly without masses of things."

Let's borrow from Skye Jethani's spectacular book, What if Jesus was Serious?

Adapted from Jethani, What if Jesus was Serious?

In Matthew 5, Jesus says, "Blessed are the poor in spirit..., the meek..., those who hunger and thirst for righteousness..., the merciful..., the pure in heart..., the peacemakers..., those who are persecuted because of righteousness..., [and] you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me." And in Luke 6 Jesus says "Blessed are you who are poor..., you who hunger now..., [and] you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man."

I've heard hundreds of interpretations of what that might mean. For the time being, let's just assume he literally meant the actual words that he said.

If we fear the world and all the harm it can do to us, we truly believe that not being poor is a blessing. In fact, I wake up most mornings and thank God for the wonderful apartment I live in, the food in my fridge, and the ease with which I go through my days.

But what about the opposite? In the eternal words of Job, "Naked I was born, and naked I will die. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised... Should we accept only good from God and not trouble?" Do we fear that the world will harm us if we become poor, or do we believe Jesus when he said, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." When trouble comes (and trust me, I know trouble), do we still hang on to the fact that, "...the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans... And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him"? (The emphasis is mine.)

I don't know how else to say it: We as human beings are very, very bad at understanding good and bad. We've created extensive systems and equations to help us understand right and wrong. We foolishly tell ourselves that some things work out to hurt us. That's not the case. Jesus tells us to rejoice under even the worst persecutions. We deny the simple and universal truth that God works all things for the good of those who love him.

Do we trust the book of Proverbs? Some try to weaken its impact by saying its simple cause and effect statements are more, "general rules" or "the ideal case." Jesus didn't believe that! He emphatically states over and over (e.g. Matthew 5:3, Matthew 5:42, Matthew 6:3-4, Matthew 19:21, Mark 10:21, Mark 12:43, Luke 6:30, Luke 21:2, Luke 12:33, and Paul in 2 Corinthians 9:11-15 just off the top of my head).

We're afraid that if we're generous, we'll be taken advantage of. In fact, you will be! When you go the extra mile and give to all who ask of you, you may find that your resources begin to dwindle. You may find that you've given away your last two pennies. You may enter such a state that you have to stop relying on material possessions in this world to save you and begin relying entirely on God. (The same God who has already promised that all things work together for your good.) You may become... poor.

But we're right back where we started: "Blessed are you who are poor... you who hunger now." "Blessed are the poor in spirit." I can't think of a better example of "poor in spirit," than someone who, by living generously in the Spirit, becomes poor.

Blessed are the poor in spirit.

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