Jesus lived a life of simplicity. He did not clutter His days with unnecessary baubles, dress extravagantly or live in a huge house with a meticulously manicured lawn. None of these things were important to Him. All that mattered to Jesus was carrying out the mission of God. He lived His life diametrically opposed to societal norms. If we are committed to live a life that looks like His, we need to reflect on how we are measuring up to His simplicity.
We who live in the West live in the wealthiest societies that the world has ever known. Every day we take for granted what others around the world and throughout history have never known. On a typical morning, I will retrieve food from the refrigerator and cupboard, heat it in a microwave oven, and pour a glass of clean, cool water before heading upstairs for a long, hot shower. On a typical morning, half of the world’s population will wake up hungry and remain that way because there is no food; if they can find water, they must often walk for miles to access it, and then it may be anything but clean and cool. They live in filth because there is nowhere to bathe, nor any kind of bathroom facility in their one story, one room, and tin-roofed hut. They live in fear of the darkness because there is no electricity to illuminate their nights.
Yet the multitudes of blessings we find in our typical morning, if we would stop to consider them, are not enough. It’s not enough that we are blessed with comforts unimaginable for half the population on the planet. A typical Western household will have a couple of automobiles, several sets of clothing and shoes, and several pieces of electronic forms of entertainment. By contrast, the typical household for half the world will have no motor vehicle, one set of clothing but no shoes, and no useless gadgets with which to amuse them. Their days are spent working, farming, walking and helping out in their community. Meanwhile, we leave our houses only to go to work, shop or for the occasional barbecue.
Whose life more closely reflects that of Jesus? We have become a people dissatisfied with simplicity. We require excess and comfort. Oh, we’ll follow Jesus, we’ll live as He did, but we’ll do so in the context of the comforts and pleasures of our modern society. Jesus was countercultural, but we live a life of assimilation. An honest look will reveal that our lives look like anything but that of Jesus’ life. He modeled simplicity and we live in complexity. He modeled generosity and we live in selfishness. Yet still we claim to be His followers; still we claim to be striving to live a life that looks like His.
This is about the time when we generally hear the disclaimer of, “Now I’m not asking you to sell everything you have”, from our pulpits. It always amazes me that in almost every church I’ve ever attended, preachers will follow up a convicting statement with another that softens and perhaps even nullifies the first. For example, “You can’t spend all your time watching television or going to the mall. Not that there’s anything wrong with those activities by themselves, but…” So I’m not going to soften the blow here. The rich young ruler (perhaps a forerunner to you and me) asked Jesus what He needed to do to be like Him and inherit eternal life. Jesus told him to sell everything he had and give it to the poor. There was no but, there was no follow up excuse, and there was no retraction later on in scripture.
Jesus wasn’t bogged down by earthly trappings or possessions. He lived a simple life of utter dependence on God. He did not give thought to what He might eat or what He might drink, but rather trusted His Father to provide for His needs. When was the last time you lived in such abandonment? When was the last time you placed that kind of trust in God?
It is no wonder Christ identified with the poor; their lives more closely reflected the manner in which He lived. Can Jesus recognize anything of Himself in our own lifestyles? I am ashamed and convicted by my own surroundings. I am blessed beyond measure and take almost all of it for granted. God forgive me. I want to live a life that looks like Jesus. I want to follow Him in every way. I have the desire, but do I have the will? It is the question I must ask myself, and it is the same question that I ask you. Are we truly willing to live a life that looks like Jesus? Are we willing and ready to walk in His simplicity?