Does Less Truly Mean More?
“Surely everyone goes around like a mere phantom;
in vain they rush about, heaping up wealth
without knowing whose it will finally be.Psalm 39
Our current culture has us striving for more. As soon as we leave education (whether that be after GCSEs, A-Levels or higher education), the main goal is to get a job or career. More than that, it is to ensure we are paid well so that we can go for that flat or house, buy that car, afford those holidays, enjoy life and live comfortably. Once we reach our so called dream job, or the job that’ll do for now because it pays the bills, we are taught to work hard to ensure those pay rises and promotions. Once we reach our next financial pay bracket, our wants become more – we spend more on those luxury items, or at least lusting after them, so we can keep up with the Jones or Instagram ‘friends’.
I was, and still am guilty of falling into that trap. Straight out of uni I didn’t hold out for my dream job that would have paid me hardly anything, I fell into marketing and though I enjoyed it on the whole, I stayed in marketing for the money. Each year I would dream of leaving in search of my passion, but each year I looked at my bills (mortgage, car, TFL monthly ticket, the nice restaurants and holidays I went on) and thought, nope, I’m better off here. And I achieved a lot through marketing. Not to boast but my husband and I were able to buy our first 2 bed flat together when I was 26, since then we have gone on at least 3 holidays a year (minus pandemic times), own a 4 bedroom house, a nice car and all the lovely stuff that goes within it. I am lucky and I know it.
But the pandemic put a pause on my desire of wanting (and, in my head, needing) more. I lost my job while I was pregnant, having just moved into a 4 bed house. Great timing right?!
In actual fact it was perfect timing because it meant:
- more time for me to enjoy my pregnancy and get ready for my beautiful daughter
- me landing a job I actually love through and through, that is flexible and has me working from home for the foreseeable
Why did I just bother with this story? To use it as a case in point for this weeks focus to help ‘unhurry’ your life, as set out by John Comer in The Ruthless Elimination Of Hurry. Simplicity. The way Jesus sets it out, it really could be that ‘more money, more problems’ is the truth. Granted I’m not talking about those who are poor or living on the breadline, but the likelihood is that if you’re reading this, you’re at least getting by.
Matthew 6:19-24 says:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
Broken down, Jesus is saying:
- Don’t invest your time, money and energy into things that get old or rust, instead put time into the things that matter: your relationship with God and life in His kingdom; where you put your resources is where you put your heart.
- a ‘healthy eye’ meant you were living with a high level of intentionality in your life and were generous to the poor. An ‘unhealthy eye’ meant you were like a magpie; obsessed and distracted by all the things that glitters in the world, without focus on what really mattered.
- God and consumerism are mutually exclusive; you have to pick. Either it’s more money, things and therefore more time and energy spent striving for that, or you fix your focus on pouring into your relationship with God and all that He provides.
So when we talk about Simplicity what do we mean? It’s not minimalism in terms of decor, nor is it poverty and having nothing, or organising the copious amount of things you own. Instead it is purely living with less. It is:
“The intentional promotions of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from them.”Joshua Becker
As Comer says, to follow Jesus, especially in the Western world, is to live in a tension between grateful, happy enjoyment of nice, beautiful things and simplicity. When in doubt, always err on the side of generous, simple living.
So how does Comer say we should work to achieve this? He put together a thorough list of 10 things to help us out:
- Before you buy something, ask yourself; ‘what is the true cost of the item?’ Can you actually afford it? Will you need to put more time into work in order to sustain it? Will it add value to your life and help you enjoy God and His world even more? What will it do to your pace of life
- Before you buy something, ask yourself; ‘by buying this am I oppressing the poor or harming the earth?’ We know fast fashion is usually made by an or many exploited people (man, woman, child, old or young). Over 90% of the UKs fashion is imported and according to Comer 1 in 6 people in the world are in the garment industry with 80% of them being women and less than 2% making living wage. That plus the fact that 50% of our clothing is non-biodegradable (polyester), once we get rid of a lot of items it’ll still always exist in landfill!
- Never impulse buy Impulse buys always feel so good for that instant gratification but we don’t actually think the purchases through. As a general rule, if you’re still thinking about an item for a while, work it into your budget as it means you actually want/need it.
- When you do buy, opt for fewer, better things These are things my friends and I would call ‘investment pieces’, things you actually need like a winter coat, but rather than buying that one from Primark that’ll be cheaper but won’t last as long, invest in a higher quality item that’ll last you a few years
- When you can, share Raid your friends’, sisters’, mums’, wardrobe. Whoever you’re close to and share the same size as, share clothing, shoes etc. Especially for event wear where you’d otherwise buy a dress for just once and probably never use again. Do the same with things like power tools and your neighbours. Not everyone needs to have a power washer on the same street!
- Get into the habit of giving things away Want a more blessed life? Give. Generously. Regularly. I know I clear my wardrobes out every year and I always have 3 piles: (1) charity shop (2) family/friends in Ghana (3) rubbish. But each year I try and give away rather than just throw away
- Live by a budget I’m so guilty of not doing this, but if you have a budget to stick to, it makes impulse buys that much harder. Comer suggests having a budget and then sharing it with a friend to help keep each other accountable.
- Learn to enjoy things without owning them Nature is free, enjoy the lovely parks and forests London has to offer. The library is an easy way of being able to read more books without having to buy. If you’re living in Barking Riverside, take advantage of the worships Participatory City and The Wilds put on
- Cultivate a deep appreciation for creation Creation has the potential to wake us up to our Creator in ways many other things can’t. It invokes gratitude and wonder; it ‘respiritualises’ our soul.
- Cultivate a deep appreciation for the simple pleasures It’s the small things in life; your morning coffee, a stroll in the evening, a family meal enjoyed around the table
- Recognise advertising for what it is – propaganda. Call out the lies Do you really need that item? Will it really make you as happy as those staged people are in the ad? Likelihood is no, not in reality
- Lead a cheerful, happy revolt against the spirit of materialism Saint Francis and his followers ‘led a cheerful, happy revolt against the spirit of materialism’. This shouldn’t be a chore, just smile, relax and let joy be your weapon in the fight
Now I’m not going to pretend I do these things, in fact I’m probably one of the furthest from living a life of simplicity as Comer sets out. But I definitely can say, I have a new understanding and respect for more simple living and I have already started with a few of the above. I know for me, the whole list is quite overwhelming, so don’t feel bad if this all sounds like too much. As Comer says we should be asking ‘What would Jesus do if He were me’; if He had my gender, career, income and relationship status. To follow Jesus is to ask that question until our last breath.
Simplicity is not the answer to unhurrying your life but its a way to do so and it will cost you, as discipleship does, but the cost of non-discipleship is even higher. The bottom line of simplicity is that contentment in your current state is possible right now, if we look to follow in Jesus’ footsteps.
Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.Philippians 4:11-13