In a country of incredible abundance, we are hooked on food (or avoiding it), money (or lack of it), and sex (or a perversion of it). How do we serve God in the middle of his lavish provisions?
We get distracted by the cares of life and by acquisitions. I recently read a blog on "The Benefits of Scarcity", written by a guy who's not a Christian. When they ran into debt, they sold their house (they moved to a great apartment in the city, close to everything,) sold the car and take public transit or walk (good way to meet people, to really see those around him, as well as exercise.) The family also sold their excess furniture (ah, the ease of sitting in an uncluttered room, the relaxation of not having to move junk when cleaning.) They volunteered their extra time not spent shopping and maintaining things (felt useful serving, and had fun besides.) And finally, he talked about the health benefits of cutting back food (he cut back to eat 2 meals a day to remember those who don't have enough to eat.)
In summary, in the process of shedding extra stuff, he became appreciative of the few things that remain, lost 60 lbs, is in great health, and enjoys his neighborhood. He wrote that their family has never been happier than living in what others might term "scarcity." Just enough. Abundance without piles of "stuff." I was amazed, reading it, surrounded by thousands of papers and lots of things in my office.
Christians sometimes feel entitled to More, to Lots of Stuff, and to The Best. We feel cheated when we lose our house, experience financial stress, and can't purchase the latest fashion. We are consumed by things that should serve us. Overwhelmed by too much. Distracted by trivia that interests us only until it joins the other superfluous possessions in our houses.
"Faith without works is dead," my husband reminded me in a conversation about who is "saved." So if we just say we've made a commitment to Christ without being different from those around us..., so what?! If our lives and priorities don't change from cultural greed and materialism to loving/serving God and others, we show that we are not serious about living in a relationship with God.
I'm not talking about a spirit of poverty or deprivation. God promised a life of abundance, though abundance depends on a focus on God. It includes serving others with what we are given, and taking our portion rather than the portion of others.
It's healthy to ask ourselves, "Are our things distracting or helping us to serve and love God?" What can we give away, share with others, resist purchasing, or sell off to narrow our gaze on Him who is lovely? What can we put aside to see the lonely and needy around us?
*Then Daniel praised the God of heaven and said: “Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him.
I thank and praise you, O God of my fathers: You have given me wisdom and power, you have made known to me what we asked of you, you have made known to us the dream of the king.” Daniel 2:20-23 NIV
*Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'I tell you the truth, it is very hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. I'll say it again—it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!'
The disciples were astounded. 'Then who in the world can be saved?' they asked
Jesus looked at them intently and said, 'Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.' Matthew 19:23–26 NLT