Less Is More


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 116; 147:12-20, 1 Kings 11:1-13, James 3:13-4:12, Mark 15:12-21

Is it human nature to be dissatisfied with what we have? Chronic dissatisfaction may seem like a modern ailment, but James had words of advice about it almost two thousand years ago:

Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts.

Our inability to be content with what we have is about more than a lack of personal growth: it can tear at the fabric of our community.

King Solomon was revered for his wisdom and he still struggled with dissatisfaction. Despite warnings from The Lord, his desire for hundreds of wives and concubines of foreign lands eventually led him to follow foreign gods. As a result, God tore all but one tribe from the rule of Solomon’s son.

Consumer culture puts us at odds with each other. It defines contentment as having what everyone else has, and success as having what others don’t. For people that may be things; for churches that may be members; for both it may be status.

In parables about pearls of great price and hidden treasures, by asking rich young men to give up all they had, and by commending the widow who gave when she had almost nothing, Jesus taught us over and over that we find true satisfaction in serving The Lord. So why are we able to say money doesn’t buy happiness, but so reluctant to actually downsize before we’re forced to?

Maybe because downsizing is associated with failure and diminished capacity. We move into smaller homes when we can’t maintain the big one we bought with the maximum loan we could secure. Congregations launch capital campaigns when we believe God calls us to grow, but never seem to think God might call us into a season of simplicity and lean but effective mission to build the community up.

When we learn to view contentment with what we have as a preferable choice rather than a consolation prize (or a resignation to failure), opportunities open up. Resources once dedicated to acquisition or mere maintenance are freed up for the work of the Kingdom – work more concerned with what we give than what we get. We may even learn the more we give away, the more space we make for God’s peace.

Comfort: Your true worth is not determined by bank balances or possessions. 

Challenge: For one month, see if you can give away one possession a day (not something you were going to throw away anyway).

Prayer: God of mercy and love, teach me to desire only your heart and will. Amen. 

Discussion: What’s the difference between contentment and laziness?

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