For today’s devotion, we are going to look at the outward disciplines, starting with simplicity.
In a sense, this discipline focuses on the difference between God’s kingdom and our stuff. At its core it is an issue of the heart, and it brings to light where our priorities are.
As we look at simplicity, Richard Foster points out that the
“… central point for the discipline of simplicity is to seek the kingdom of God and the righteousness of his kingdom first, and then everything necessary will come in its proper order.”Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Disciplines, The Path to Spiritual Growth, Harper Collins Publishers; 1978, 1988, 1998; (New York, NY) p. 86
Simplicity is a kingdom first mentality.
There are some who may have just enough for their daily bread, but the majority of us in America have more than just our daily bread. Many have leveraged their credit to take care of their wants, and there is often a displaced understanding of needs and wants.
I have had people come to me in need of financial help because they don’t have enough food to eat, yet they have multiple big screen TVs from Rent-A-Center, cable with all the channels. I have had people who can’t pay their rent or mortgage because they got into houses that they couldn’t afford, or they need help because they also leased a luxury vehicle that they couldn’t afford.
And how is it that the data shows that the more people make, the less they give to the church? Often those who make more, spend even more on things they desire, and in the end they actually have less to go towards His kingdom. You would think that the more God blesses us, the more we would want to use for His kingdom.
Richard Foster makes the following point regarding our desire to indulge ourselves, allowing society and mass media to feed this desire to “keep up with the Joneses:”
“It is time to awaken to the fact that conformity to a sick society is to be sick. Until we see how unbalanced our culture has become at this point, we will not be able to deal with the mammon spirit within ourselves nor will we desire Christian simplicity.”Ibid p. 80-81
And I love the comment he makes, “… conformity to a sick society is to be sick.” He also shares that we have put a positive spin on sinful behaviors (like covetousness, hoarding, and greed) by using words such as ambition, prudence, and industry. They all sound so good until you understand that without Christ as the center, without the Kingdom being first, these are sinful behaviors.
And this is seen throughout scripture, and especially in today’s text. Today’s text is found in the Sermon on the Mount, a teaching that was as shocking back then as it is today.
We see many of the spiritual disciplines mentioned in the Sermon on the Mount. Fasting, prayer, giving, and now simplicity.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. … No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”Matthew 6:19-21,24 NIV
You cannot serve both God and money. It is one or the other.
Jesus starts by telling us not to store up treasures on earth, but focus on treasures in heaven. The treasures of this earth are fleeting, they are here today and gone tomorrow.
Jesus spells this out clearly in Luke 12:13-21.
If we are not rich towards God, but choose to be rich for ourselves and our families, we may be considered wise and prudent from a human standpoint, but we will be foolish from a spiritual standpoint.
Being stingy toward God can also be an issue of faith, as we often worry and look to make sure that we are all set and to provide for ourselves and our families for the future. When we put ourselves before His kingdom, we can lose sight of the fact that He is the one who is actually providing for us and our loved ones.
Beginning in Matthew 6:25, Jesus tells us to trust His provision. This doesn’t mean we don’t save, but is His kingdom first, and don’t we trust that if we put His kingdom first that He’ll take care of the rest?
Today, life seems to be about money and possessions — things that make us look good. Some churches have even bought into it as they “sell” their prosperity gospel… the health and wealth gospel.
My daughter shared with me a link to PreachersNSneakers. The website focuses on some of the expensive sneakers pastors wear while preaching or on their social media. It is crazy to see pastors sporting $1200 Nikes or Versace sneakers at $995.
This isn’t even getting into the crazy expensive clothing, cars, houses, and even planes that some pastors show off as their favor from God. Is this really biblical?
And it isn’t just about pastors and religious leaders. We are all called to be wise with our money. Ultimately, we are to look towards His kingdom first.
Jesus, who could have chosen to be the richest Man ever, chose to live. a simple life. He is the perfect Man, and He is to be our model.
Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven. Utilizing words, deeds, and yes, even our money and stuff, should be for His kingdom first. If we aren’t focused on His kingdom first, then our hearts aren’t in the right place.
Where is our heart?
One way to know if our hearts are right is to look at our focus on possessions. I think Foster is right when he shares that Jesus condemns money as a god that we sometimes put before the Lord.
As we look at this, we can begin by looking at what we have, and what we gravitate towards. Do we need things that appear to be the best? Are we reflecting a world viewpoint of status and prosperity?
Or do we do the opposite? We don’t want to move to legalism, where we expect everyone to give up everything. Jesus didn’t ask everyone to give up everything. Jesus looked into the heart and when pride, or greed, or covetousness was there, He called it out.
The goal, once again, is to make sure that the kingdom of God is first in our lives.
For this week:
-Reflect on what you have and don’t use, and see if there is a way you can bless the kingdom with it.
-Look at your giving, and see what your giving to His body says about His place in your heart.
And is there anything that has mastery over you? Maybe it is a certain drink or food, maybe it’s TV or social media. How can you make your life simpler by removing things that are not of God that you recognize that you “have to have” on a regular basis? Begin the process of removing those things, so that the only thing that has mastery over you is Jesus.