“If you have two coats, one of them belongs to the poor”
— Dorothy Day
John Wesley was one of the wealthiest men in 18th century England but he undertook a vegetarian lifestyle while at Oxford in view of the paralyzing poverty of the underclass of his day. His reasoning is as convicting now as it was then: “How can I eat meat when others have no bread?” Wesley determined to live as simply as possible and earn as much as possible so he could give more alms for those living in hunger and poverty.
Does this seem extreme? Not if we take seriously what Jesus says he will say to those of us who spend our lives over-consuming and ignoring the needs around us:
Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or
needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?
He will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for
one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”
Pray for me. I want to begin practicing what I preach. I have been reading a lot about “minimalism” and I keep hearing God say to me, “Un-clutter your life Richard.” What I am seeking is this: A lifestyle that helps me question what things add value to my life. If I begin clearing the clutter from my life, I can make room for that which is most important. I plan on spending the next year unpacking what this truly means for me and making the necessary changes.
James Mulholland was watching a Christian from Sudan being interviewed on television. “How can our rich Christian brothers and sisters in America ignore the fact that we in Sudan are starving to death?” Mulholland thought to himself, “I’m glad I don’t have to answer that question.” At that moment the Holy Spirit tapped Mulholland on the shoulder and whispered, “You do.”
There are some who interpret the miracle of the feeding of the 5000 (Mark 6:35-44) in a more human and practical way. Could it be that what happened was that people saw Jesus take the little food he had and offered it to them? And, being deeply moved by his compassion and generosity, suddenly the baskets and packages of food that had been hoarded and hidden by hundreds were freely offered to those around them.
We may not think that’s much of a miracle but it is definitely a miracle when people turn from selfishness and decide to be gracious and generous. Over-consumption is not a Kingdom principle and when we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” we are asking to be blessed with a spirit of simplicity and frugality. May we all look for ways to clear not only our homes but our heads and hearts in order to embrace a minimalist lifestyle that reflects the kingdom of God.
How much stuff can you give away in 2017?