What can we conclude about living simply in abundance? Here are eight thoughts.
First and foremost, living simply is not a matter of material wealth. It is relational matter with God. It is our singular focus on God that will orient our relationship to our wealth, and to every other aspect of our life.
Second, God’s intention for humanity is not mere subsistence. It is human flourishing. God intends widespread communal abundance. The biblical narrative begins in a garden and ends in a garden-city. God pronounced creation good but he will also redeem human cultural affectations and pronounce them good as well.
Third, material abundance is not a zero-sum game. Our abundance is not reciprocal to someone else’s deprivation. We have learned the wealth generating benefits of trade and technological innovation. We need to draw more people into trading relationships and diffuse technological innovation so others may experience material prosperity.
Fourth, extending from the previous thought, we are right to enjoy the abundance God has provided for us. We should thankfully embrace the gifts God provides for us with the caveat that our consumption of those gifts exists within a broader context of holistic stewardship.
Fourth, contrary to dark visions painted by neo-Malthusian pessimists, we are not on the verge of imminent resource exhaustion or climate catastrophe. Problems exits but our aim should be to bring as many people as possible into prosperity now as we prudently work to develop alternative energy options.
Fifth, our stewardship begins with ourselves and extends to our families. From there, the biblical model suggests that our churches should be communities of families that look out for each other. The primary way we transform communities is by inviting others into our communal abundance. Subsidiarity comes into play for civic institutions and government beyond this localized level but it is a supplementary role, not a lead role. We need to rethink what it means to be in mission as a community.
Sixth, we are limited human beings with limited resources who alone can not save the world. Seeing a need does not constitute a calling. Our stewardship and our response to needs has to flow from our relationship with God and from our community with others.
Seventh, we know that the love of money is root of all kinds of evil. Possessing great wealth can actually make us more anxious if we let it define our identity. Possessing great wealth in a culture of wealth dulls us to the plight of billions around the world. Possessing great wealth can detract from our singular focus on God. Therefore, we need strategies in our lives that challenge our “need” impulses. We need financial strategies, born of prayerful reflection, that render us less easily influenced by impulses that may mislead us. We must be intentional about reducing our isolation from the poor, as we strive to keep our abundance and its relative importance in perspective.
I’m aware this is an incomplete coverage of the topic but it took me 24 posts just to discuss this much. :) It has been helpful for me to process some of this out loud and I truly appreciate the interaction it has generated. Down the road I may have to write more after this initial attempt has had a chance to simmer awhile.
Any thoughts you want to add? Stuff you think I should have covered? (I'll be happy to steal ideas for future posts. :) )