After you read this, I have some questions, and I would love to hear your answers.
Mother Teresa said, “Live simply so others may simply live.”
Eleanor Roosevelt said, “A little simplification would be the first step toward rational living, I think.”
Leonardo da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
Henry Thoreau said, “Our life is frittered away by detail…Simplify, simplify.”
The prophet Zechariah may have said it the most succinctly, “Keep your lives simple and honest.”
Our western culture is everything but simple and honest.
We love to be connected and busy 24 hours a day.
We are complicated people and we love our stuff.
And it seems we can never have enough stuff.
There are 2.2 billion children in the world and 1 billion of them live in poverty.
640 million children live without adequate shelter (1 in 3).
400 million live with no access to safe water (1 in 5).
270 million live with no access to health services (1 in 7)
1.4 million die each year from lack of access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation.
2.2 million children die each year because they are not immunized.
In 2005, the wealthiest 20% of the world accounted for 77% of total private consumption.
A mere 12% of the world’s population uses 85% of its water.
YET: Consider what our global priorities in spending are.
The U.S. spends $8 BILLION a year on cosmetics.
Europeans spend $11 BILLION a year on ice cream.
The U.S. and Europe spends $12 BILLION a year on perfume.
The U.S. and Europe spends $17 BILLION on pet food.
The Japanese spend $35 BILLION on business entertainment.
Europeans spend $50 BILLION on cigarettes and $105 BILLION on alcohol.
The world spends $400 BILLION on narcotic drugs and $780 BILLION on military spending.
Compare that to what is estimated as additional costs to achieve universal access to basic social services in all developing countries:
Basic education for all would cost an additional $6 BILLION.
For water and sanitation for all, an additional $9 BILLION.
Reproductive health care for all women would cost an additional $12 BILLION and for basic health and nutrition, an additional $13 BILLION.
Mother Teresa said, “It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.”
Solomon wrote “God made us plain and simple, but we have made ourselves very complicated.” Ecclesiastes 7:29
And Solomon had a lot of stuff.
Nobel Prize-winner and world renowned scholar Albert Schweitzer spent much of his career traveling on trains. Someone once asked him why he always traveled third class, and his answer was plain and simple: “There is no fourth class.”
Philip Yancey reflected on a trip he made to a monastery. After the monk showed him his small room, he said, “If you need anything, let us know and we will teach you how to get along without it.”
The question Americans, especially American Christians, need to be asking is “How much is enough?”
A simplified life helps us obey God and love people in greater ways.
And even though Proverbs 19:17 says, “If you help the poor, you are lending to the LORD—and he will repay you!”
And even though Proverbs 21:13 says, “Those who shut their ears to the cries of the poor will be ignored in their own time of need.”
And even though Proverbs 28:27 says, “Whoever gives to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to poverty will be cursed.”
And even though the prophets over and over say, “Be generous to the poor and you will be blessed. Be stingy with your money, and you will lose it. Take what God has given and take care of the orphan, the widow, the poor and you will receive blessings you cannot believe.”
And even though most American Christians know these scriptures and truths, only 9% of them give the biblical tithe.
American Christians give on average, 2% of their income towards the poor.
If the 138 million American Christians who attend church at least twice per month were to tithe, it would result in two hundred and fifty billion dollars per year that could be used to eradicate extreme poverty.
Smith and Emerson write, “Ordinary American Christians have within their power the capacity to foster massive and unprecedented spiritual, social, cultural, and economic change. In order to achieve such dramatic, world-transforming change, ordinary American Christians simply need to do one thing: start giving reasonably generously from their incomes, let us say 10% of their income.”
Many Christian Americans understand this in their minds, but they do not live it out in their lives.
Let’s ask some personal questions together:
Do I have some possessions that complicate my life but don’t really bring me any enjoyment?
What are some things that do bring me enjoyment but may not be worth the cost in time, money, and concern?
Do I buy things I don’t need, won’t use, or can’t afford?
What do I really need, and what do I merely want?
Do the statistics about how children live around the world break my heart enough to change my lifestyle?
Recently many people at my church fasted for a week on rice and beans, just to more closely identify to people who do not have the food options most Americans have.
At every meal we prayed for those around the world and in our own country who were hungry.
Rice and beans are a delicacy in poor countries, so we were not really sacrificing too much.
But by not eating anything else for a week, it taught us how to simplify. It taught us to be thankful.
After the fast was over, we realized how much food we waste, and how we could eat more simply..
Since that week of fasting, our grocery bills have been less, because we learned you can still eat well, with a smaller budget.
I have a friend who is not rich, lives a modest life, has avoided debt and believes the promise from Jesus that “you are more blessed when you are giving rather than receiving”.
He sponsors 20 children through Compassion International’s sponsorship program.
They say that conservatively speaking, if you sponsor 1 child, you end up impacting at least 5 lives.
My friend, sponsoring 20 children, at $38 a month, that’s $760 total a month, is impacting at least 100 lives.
These lives are being introduced to education, health care, nutrition, faith and a Compassion project that will invest in their entire families.
Many are being saved from malaria, HIV and other preventable diseases.
Many have full stomachs.
Many are experiencing a community of Grace.
Many are being educated, breaking the cycle of poverty that has affected their families for generations.
Many are finding the hope and the knowledge that Jesus loves them.
My friend drives a used car, does not have credit card debt and has a reasonable mortgage payment.
He does not live on water and crackers, he does take vacations, and in his words, has not had to sacrifice to do this.
To him it is just obedience, and with obedience comes blessings.
He tells me he has more money than before he started sponsoring children.
This is a spiritual principle that cannot be explained, only lived and experienced.
I know another woman, who during our churches fast of rice and beans, realized how much she was spending on diet Coke. She decided at the end of the week to stop drinking diet Coke (her husband called it rat poison) and she has used the savings to sponsor another child through Compassion.
John Wesley was a student at Oxford University. As a student he had a fixed level of income and a fixed level of expenses.
His income that exceeded his expenses was given away to the poor.
After graduating from Oxford, he became an extremely popular preacher/writer and went on to make a sizable amount of money through the sales of his books.
His income gradually rose and rose, but he kept the level of his expenses the same as when he had been a student and continued to give away the excess income to the poor.
Very different from our American philosophy:
The more I make, the more I what? Spend!
Wesley didn’t see money as an evil.
Money was a good thing to Wesley because it was a vehicle through which God’s love could be expressed to the poor.
Simplify your life, because you are more powerful than you think to change our world!
SO HERE ARE SOME QUESTIONS WHERE I WOULD LOVE TO HEAR YOUR ANSWERS. Please reply so we can all learn and be inspired.
1. What ways have you simplified your life to help the poor?
2. How has simplifying your life affected your family and relationships?
3. How has God paid you back when you have lent to the poor?
4. Share some future goals when it comes to simplifying your life.
5. Share a favorite quote or scripture about giving to the poor.