Saturday, September 28, 2013


Following up the last post about "Living Below the Line", I am interested to hear of people's experiences of taking up the challenge.  Sue and I, for a number of reasons couldn't tackle the challenge last week, but are planning to do so this coming week.

This topic has raised issues of simplicity.  How do we simplify our lives? This is not easy, especially living in a relatively affluent nation like New Zealand.  There are some classic resources to help us such as Ron Sider's "Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger" and "Living More Simply".

John Wesley was a great revivalist and preacher. But he was also careful with money.  He was born into a poor family, and when he followed his father by becoming a preacher he had no illusions about financial rewards.  His income began at 30 pounds a year – more than enough for a single person to live.  He determined to live on 28 pounds and give the rest away.
In the years that followed his income rose dramatically: 60 pounds one year, 90 the next.  Instead of letting his expenses rise, he kept the 28 pound ceiling, and gave the rest away.  Wesley felt that Christians should not merely tithe but give away all extra income once family and creditors were provided for.  Wesley’s income peaked at 1400 pounds per annum, but he kept living on 28.
This was so unusual that he was investigated by the English tax commissioners.  He limited his expenses by refusing to buy items considered essential for someone of his income.  His simple rules were: “Gain all you can, Save all you can, Give all you can.”

Some other key steps:
1. We need others around us for mutual encouragement.
2. Make it a spiritual exercise, not a religious rule.  (I paste below some insights I've gathered)
3. Don't forget to celebrate.

Simplicity – as a Spiritual Practice

Simplicity is an inward reality that results in an outward lifestyle that is not extravagant, not lusting for status or power, and not dominated by material possessions. 

Some Hints:

·  The key is in Matt 6:33 “seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.”  God’s Kingdom comes first – even before a simple lifestyle.

·  Try having a simple (and cheap) meal once a week and giving the money you save to someone in need.

·  Instead of asking, “How can I earn more?” ask, “How can I spend less?”  The greatest saving is the ‘bargain’ you decide you don’t need to buy.

·  Learn to enjoy things without owning them.  Enjoy the beach without feeling we have to buy a piece of it.

·  Avoid making new ‘laws’ about Christian lifestyle, but discover what ‘treasures’ you have that may compete with God for your heart.  “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  (Matt 6:21)

·  But, don’t be stingy, shabby, small, or mean.  God is not poor.

 Some Benefits of Simplicity:

Ø  Simplicity trains us to be comfortable without having all our wants and desires met.

Ø  It helps break the power of mammon (wealth) over us and sets us free to give.

Ø  Simplicity helps us to be free from anxiety.

Ø  We learn more about being grateful for God’s gifts to us.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Live Below the Line

Next week (23-27 September) offers an opportunity to both help eliminate extreme poverty as well as experiencing something that will shape you as a disciple of Jesus.  It is called Live Below the Line.

The idea is that we spend 5 days feeding ourselves with $2.25 a day – the New Zealand equivalent of the extreme poverty line. The reason? To give a glimpse into the lives of 1.4 billion people who have no choice but to live below the line every day – and who have to make $2.25 cover a lot more than food Live Below the Line is a campaign that's changing the way people think about poverty - and making a huge difference - by challenging everyday people to live on the equivalent of the extreme poverty line for 5 days.  Click on the link below to find out more!

You can sign up on the Live Below the Line website and choose which charity you will support.  TEAR fund is one example.

Like the 40 hour famine, this kind of experience has the potential to shape our lives because it addresses both our thinking and our behaviour.  For 5 days we behave differently, and while doing so we will be thinking about the realities of poverty and how we can make a difference.

I believe that developing a simple lifestyle is one of the biggest challenges facing people today.  I know I am wealthy by world standards, so I am not writing this blog as a claim that I have arrived.  But I want to be on the journey.  If we are to end extreme poverty, we need to simplify our own lives.  If we are to be good stewards of the earth's resources, we need to reduce our consumption.  If we are to worship God not mammon, then we need to curb our desire for more.  If we are to have time to reach out to people who do not yet know Jesus, we need to reduce the frantic busyness of our lives.  The practice of simplicity is key.

Let me know what you discover.