Family Values Week 3: "Simple Living"

Head on view of a Rotary PhoneImage via WikipediaWhen I was a kid we had this rotary phone on our wall.  You had to dial the number.  You would stick your fingers into the hole on the rotary that corresponded with the number and you would give it a whirl around until it stopped.  Then you would release your finger and let the dial do it's work.  Then you would repeat.  I used to mess up and would have to hang the phone up to start over.

There was one phone in our house with one line.  If I wanted to talk to my girl, I had to make sure that no one else was planning on using the phone.  When we finally got another phone in the house with a line in my room, my dad would often pick up the other extension and tell me to get off the phone, sometimes when I was in the middle of working some serious game with my special lady friend.
A Dictaphone on display at the IXL Museum.Image via Wikipedia A few years ago, I was working with a group at the church I was serving to clean out some of the junk in the church's attic.  We discovered a huge monstrosity of a machine called a Dictaphone.  This was the tool used by businesses to dictate letters, messages, memos, etc. You didn't send email back in the day.  You rolled up the Dictaphone and like Thomas Alva Edison himself you spoke into a tube and recorded a message for your secretary to play back and type up for you.

When I was in school the teachers still used Mimeograph machines to copy tests, quizzes and study guides.  There were no copy machines or printers.  There were no personal computers to create fancy documents.  You straight up had to run the mimeograph machine to "copy" documents.  And some of these machines had to be run by hand. Oh, and they smelled fantastic or awful, depending on who you asked.

I'm only bringing these items up because almost every single one of them became extinct as a result of newer technologies that replaced them.  And these newer technologies moved from dreams to realities because of desires for a better world. BUT the key word here is "better," and how we come to interpret what is "better" both forms and informs how we understand concepts such as "success," "prosperity," "wealth," and "contentment."  If our understanding of what is a better world is not in line with God's, then even the good things we create to that end can be twisted to serve evil purposes.

Our culture defines success, wealth, contentment, prosperity in purely self-centered, self-absorbed terms, despite it's efforts to sugar coat it. Success is about acquisition: things, power, money, position.  Wealth is all about money.  Contentment happens when you have "enough."  Prosperity is defined by achieving the "American Dream."  

Which brings us to the quandry at hand...  How do we move ourselves and our families away from the ungodly way our culture views success?  How do we move from consumerism and materialism to generosity and faithful stewardship?  How do we learn to live more simply---not as a reaction against the fears of unwanted change in our culture, but as a response to God's transforming grace and redemption of creation?

This week I am preaching from the following passages:
Proverbs 15:16; Proverbs 17:1; Psalm 37:16; Ecclesiastes 4:6
You can click on each one to read it, if you like.

Each of these verses tackles the questions that we posed earlier from different points of view.  I'm going to distill the whole thing down into four basic ways that we can use them to begin living more simply:

1.  Obedience to God (Proverbs 15:16) = Seriously, if the choice lies between obedience and disobedience, obedience is the best choice, regardless of the consequences.  And here's another way to think of this: If a less "successful" life is the price of obedience, then live it. Success according to God is defined by losing your life, rather than saving it.

2.  Authenticity in Faith & Life (Proverbs 17:1) = Christianity in our culture has become a bastion of false piety and conspicuous consumption.  We have been taught to equate "success" and "wealth" with spirituality.  All of this masks some serious dysfunction in our families and our faith communities.  I call this the problem of keeping up with the "St. Joneses."  We need to learn to live authentic God-pleasing lives with our faith and our "stuff." 

3.  Ethical Decisions (Psalm 31:16) = There seems to be a lot of really rotten people in the world who seem to have it "all."  The Bible calls them "wicked" people because they choose to live autonomous lives, apart from God.  What we need to understand is they are not wicked because they are wealthy, they are wealthy because they are wicked. To them it doesn't matter who stands in their way.  As Christians we need to see this as a product of lust, and pride.  We should be asking ourselves in life, in business and in our families, "What Would Jesus REALLY Do?"
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