Simple or Simplistic?

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 9:7, CEB
Everyone should give whatever they have decided in their heart. They shouldn’t give with hesitation or because of pressure. God loves a cheerful giver.

Jan and I had the opportunity to take a sabbatical weekend and we want to thank Rick McPherson and the Worship Team for handling services during our absence. We took a trip down to the Virginia District Campground in the heart of the Commonwealth. We always enjoy our time strolling the hills and forests of Buckingham County. It is surprising what you can hear beyond the distractions of everyday life.
One of the “simple” pleasures of the cabin is that there is no TV reception. So we watch movies, read and listen to the radio. Sound quaint? It is to a point.

I especially enjoy the radio as we have tuned in to WFLO in Farmville. It gives the obits, weather, the Farm report and plays a variety of musical styles throughout the day. It reminds me of what we listened to a Grandma and Grandpa’s house.

Listening can make you nostalgic even giving you a longing for “days gone by.” And that is nice but looking in the rearview mirror of our lives carefully you come to recognize that the “simple things ain’t so simple” as the song suggests. We all long for those simpler times and joys. I’ll tell you that there is a part of me that has wanted to “chuck it all” and go raise goats in the mountains of Idaho.

But from a biblical perspective, we can’t just “run away” from our problems or calling. Look what happened to Moses after the burning bush – did his life get less complex? Or Esther – did her decision to follow God’s leading make life easier? Or Joseph and Mary – did submitting to God make their life more manageable? Finally what about Paul? I don’t think that he endured persecution as a lifestyle choice.

All these examples reveal that for God’s people the opposite of simplicity is not complexity but duplicity. This word has an interesting definition when applied to the human condition. All we have to look at is the movie Multiplicity. Here the main character had so many obligations and time crunch issues that he had to create clones of himself. Who hasn’t thought about doing that? But what we find out is that each copy is not “true” to the original – the clones are fake.

Look again at our verse. We typically associate our verse with giving of our money but the reality of a Christian life is that it applies to every resource we have – our time, our energy, or our gifts, talents and skills. What happens is that in our go-go-go/buy-buy-buy world we are often left overextended without the ability to give and find ourselves reluctant or even under compulsion to give. And when this happens we have crossed the line into joylessness.

It is a very ugly world without joy. It saps our energy, the light and the enjoyment of living. Many find this in the jobs that they hold or the ministries they lead or participate in. “Just another few hours in the day” or “if I had just two more hands!” are the phrases we utter. And when that happens we have given ourselves over to duplicity. The symptoms of a stressed-out, overbooked life start to take their toll mentally, physically and spiritually.

A critical step toward simplicity requires us to define and respect the boundary lines that shape our lives. It means starting with examining ourselves; practicing means telling the truth and saying what’s real. And the journey should start slowly. Rather than overhaul your whole life start with one little part of life and then finish. Oh and remember when you start down this path it often gets messier before it improves.

G.K. Chesterton wrote, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.” Moving from duplicity to simplicity requires a new way of life. It requires defining boundaries and being honest about how God has gifted and formed us. For some when you review a jam-packed schedule you will recognize a false self. In this case complexity will be reduced as you face duplicity and work against it. For others as you consider who God has made you to be, you might discover life’s complexity actually increasing as you step out in obedience. But in either case you can learn to rest amid all the complexity if we are resting on the promises of God.

If Jesus gave it all what less can I do to follow his example?

Savior, teach me, day by day,
Love's sweet lesson to obey;
Sweeter lesson cannot be,
Loving Him who first loved me.
With a child's glad heart of love,
At Thy bidding may I move,
Prompt to serve and follow Thee,
Loving Him who first loved me.
Teach me thus Thy steps to trace,
Strong to follow in Thy grace,
Learning how to love from Thee,
Loving Him who first loved me. Amen.