What Do You Mean by Living “Simple Lives?”
Highlands Ministries, one of the ministries for whom I labor, has from its founding affirmed that its purpose is to “help Christians live more simple, separate, and deliberate lives for the glory of God and for the building of His kingdom.” I knew from the beginning in writing this statement that Christians would not readily grasp what I could mean by simple. Given that Highlands was formed when I moved to rural Virginia, given my misadventures in chicken farming many assumed that “simple” means something akin to agrarian. While I find much to commend in the agrarian lifestyle, this is not what we encourage all Christians to embrace.
It is my conviction that we grow weary, that our lives grow complicated principally because we refuse to heed the warning of Jesus who tells us that no man can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). The Old Testament testifies to our myriad failures, as well as our constant folly in trying. Syncretism, the blending together of true and false worship existed then as it exists now precisely because we seek to serve two masters, the true and living God of the ages, and the god of the age. While our Lord is gracious, every false god proves to be a cruel and demanding task master.
In our age that false task master is he whom Francis Schaeffer called “the god of personal peace and affluence.” We Christians frantically seek to serve the Lord, which we ought to do, while pursuing the American dream, which we ought not to do. Too many Christian ministries offer up counsel on how we can have it all. Our desire has been instead to encourage believers to tear down our high places, to destroy our idols, and to hear and heed the voice of the Master alone.
Over the years we have sought to argue that we often miss the Master’s voice precisely because we are dancing to the beat of the broader culture’s drum. When the call of Christ tells us to set aside our American dreams we determine that Jesus must give way. When following Him leads to even the mildest persecution we think He is misleading us. When peace and affluence let us down, we blame Him.
Our heavenly Father, however, has told us what we must do that it would go well for us in the land- we must honor Him. His Son has told us to put away those worries we share with the Gentiles, and to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. And the Spirit calls us to think on that which is noble, pure, lovely.
The glorious promise of Christ is that when we pick up His cross, we discover that its burden is light. The glorious promise of Christ is what when we lose our lives we gain them. We are not called to victory. We are not called to power. We are not called to success. We are not called to strategize. We are called to obey. Everything we hope for has already been won; everything we fear is in His hands. One Lord, one faith, one baptism. And one Voice.