Enough: Live Simply
5-6This message was offered at Lee Memorial United Methodist Church on Sunday, June 14, 2015.
We are just over halfway through with our church-wide conversation, Enough: Discovering Joy through Simplicity and Generosity. Two weeks ago, we talked about how, if we’re not careful, the American Dream can become a nightmare. Last week, we reviewed Six Key Financial Principles that can help free your finances so that you can live a purposeful life. Today’s message is really quite simple: literally. The gist is this: live simply.
Gracious God, in the moments to come, give me the words to speak and they the ears to hear that together, we might be inspired to not only speak but to live your Word in the world starting today. It’s in that most holy Word’s name—Jesus the Christ—we pray. Amen.
We live in a culture of consumption. Our consuming habits have, not only personal, but global implications.
Consider, for example, our consumption of renewable and non-renewable resources. Every year Americans consume over 1.2 billion trees to support our needs for packaging, paper, napkins [,plates], and bags. We use 2.5 million plastic bottle every hour—most of these for water. We represent only 5 percent of the world’s population, yet we produce 40 percent of the world’s garbage—an average of 1,609 pounds per person. This is not only wasteful; it is unsustainable. If the rate of our consumption continues to increase each year, as it has for some time, it soon will outpace the growth of the population. We cannot continue this trend and think that everything will be okay. Eventually, we will exceed the rate at which resources can be renewed.
Gandhi is attributed as saying, we must “live simply so others may simply live.” We simply cannot continue using more and more without significant consequences that ripple around the world and beyond our time; the consequences of our consumption will be felt (good or bad) globally for generations to come.
Don’t buy into the cultural mantra that happiness is found in having a little bit more. Every day we’re attacked by messages that tell us if we just purchase this gadget or that insurance policy; if we just had that car or lived in that neighborhood our life would somehow be better. Culturally, we live as if money can buy and possessions produce happiness; but, Jesus reminds us that “life isn’t determined by one’s possessions” (Luke 12:15, Common English Bible). It “does not consist in an abundance of [stuff]” (Luke 12:15b, New International Version). Joy and happiness in life isn’t found in the things you buy—not even in that “happy ending sundae” from Friendly’s (not even the one with peanut butter ice-cream, peanut butter sauce, and Reese Pieces). Live simply that you and others might simply live. The key to simple living is cultivating contentment.
There is, I believe, an eternal discontent in each of our heart. We all try to fill it with different things—for some it’s shopping, for others its food, for still another group it may be sexual pleasure or some other desire. There is within us a deep yearning for something and given our warped and sinful nature we seek to fill that desire with anything and everything but that which can truly satisfy and make our hearts content. The writer of Ecclesiastes (2:10-11a, Common English Bible) found that out:
10 I refrained from nothing that my eyes desired [he writes]. I refused my heart no pleasure. Indeed, my heart found pleasure from the results of my hard work; that was the reward from all my hard work. 11 But when I surveyed all that my hands had done, and what I had worked so hard to achieve, I realized that it was pointless—a chasing after wind.
Perhaps, you’ve gotten to that point. You know what I’m talking about, right? The long hours at work, the frantic pace of running from one thing to another, the acquisition of more and more stuff to the point that we can’t fit it all in our closet so we move it to the garage and then the garage gets full and we purchase a storage unit (yet another monthly payment!): it can suck the life right out of you. It’s symptomatic of an unsettle heart: a discontent life.
Sitting in a damp prison cell, the apostle Paul wrote (Philippians 4:11b-13, Common English Bible),
I have learned how to be content in any circumstance. 12 I know the experience of being in need and of having more than enough; I have learned the secret to being content in any and every circumstance, whether full or hungry or whether having plenty or being poor. 13 I can endure all these things through the power of the one who gives me strength.
The secret to Paul’s content the way to settle our restless hearts and find true satisfaction and contentment can be found only in God.
Deep in our hearts we…desire to be connected with the One who is the Creator of the universe. We need to believe our lives have meaning. We need to know there is grace and mercy when we have blown it. We need to know there is hope in the face of the darkest circumstances. We need to know we are loved unconditionally by Someone who knows us better than we know ourselves. And we need to be able to share this love in meaningful relationships with others. Contentment is found in our relationship with God and our relationship with others. This is why Jesus said the two most important things we must do are to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” and to “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37, 39). If we keep our focus on these two things, we will find satisfaction for our souls and lasting contentment.
Far from what our culture would have you believe, your hearts will never find peace in the latest and greatest gadget, pleasure, or thing. True, lasting and eternal contentment—peace—is found only in God.
Live simply. Love God and love others. When your primary concern is with the quality of your relationships instead of with the quantity of your stuff, that’s when you’ll find abundant and eternal life.
It sounds so basic and easy, but the cultural pull to consume is strong. So, I want to provide you briefly with 3 question to consider and a tool to use as you strive to live simply and find contentment.
First the questions…
How long will this make me happy?
Have you ever bought something that you just though you needed only to find out that it wasn’t worth it? Ask yourself: how long will this make me happy?
Am I grateful for what I have?
So many times we already have what we need. There’s nothing that says we have to trade in our vehicle every few years or buy new clothes every season. “Contentment comes when we spend more time giving thanks for what we have than thinking about what’s missing or wrong in our lives. In any situation, we either can complain or be grateful. We can focus on all the things we don’t like, or we can begin to search for the things we do like and be grateful for them. We can focus on the disappointments, or we can give thanks for the blessings.” So ask yourself: am I grateful for what I have?
Where does my soul find true satisfaction?
Culturally, we’re told that satisfaction comes through the things we own, convenience and luxury; but Jesus reminds that our life is not defined by the stuff we buy (see Luke 12:15), our worth is not in what we own. True satisfaction comes as we grow in love with God and neighbor.
How long will this make me happy? Am I grateful for what I have? Where does my soul find true satisfaction? It’s my prayer that these questions might guide you on the journey as you seek to find contentment and live simply.
Now the tool…
I have for you a key tag for you to place on your key chain. Each key tag has the prayer of contentment we’ve been praying for the last few weeks. It will, I pray, be a tangible and daily reminder to re-focus on contentment and simplicity.
Dear friends (Hebrews 13:5-6, Common English Bible),
5 Your way of life should be free from the love of money, and you should be content with what you have. After all, [Christ himself] has said, I will never leave you or abandon you. 6 This is why we can confidently say,
The Lord is my helper,
and I won’t be afraid. What can people do to me?
Live simply—love God and love others—that you might simply live.
 Adam Hamilton, Enough: Discovering Joy Through Simplicity and Generosity (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2012), p85-86.
 Hamilton, Enough, p82-83.
 Hamilton, Enough, p80.