Saturday, August 23, 2008

on Jesus and furniture

Brian preached at church last week. He read the Sermon on the Mount aloud, in its entirety, as his sermon (as an aside, using the Sermon on the Mount as a sermon was not originally our idea, but we liked it so much that we have both used it several times. Thanks, Greg, for the inspiration). It is usually met with an uncomfortable silence, and in that silence I would imagine I am closer to following Christ than in any praise for something I might write on my own. But I digress. He gave the Sermon the Mount, which means he spent the week before reading and discussing it. Hearing it all was refreshing.

Refreshing and challenging.

This isn't something I talk about very often, precisely because of the Sermon on the Mount (where it says not to let your left hand know what your right hand is doing). But one of our primary goals as a family is to live simply. It is the best way I know to be a good steward of all that has been given to me - of relationships, time, money, the environment, and the heaping mound of STUFF that is used in daily American life. We are still mostly mainstream in our lifestyle, but our goal is to need as little and share as much as we possibly can. We aim for this for two primary reasons. The first is because that's what I hear Jesus saying over and over in his teachings. The second is that time is always traded for money. We prefer to have the time. The less stuff we need, the less money we need to buy stuff, and the more time we have - with our kids, with music (for Brian), with each other. For us, it's worth the trade.

Living simply gets complicated.

An example: Since we bought our house, I've had a picture in my head of how our home could look. It could be so cute, if we had a few key pieces of furniture. The idea was to buy slowly and pay cash (because avoiding debt means that I need less money). But the reality is that when we have the cash, I question if this is the best way to use it. How can we buy a new chair with a clear conscience, when we know a family who has been without income for three months? That could be food on their table, and I already have a chair that is usable. But what's wrong with wanting nice stuff?

Nothing. Nothing at all. Please don't hear me telling you that new fill-in-the-blank is wrong. I don't believe that. I guess what I'm asking is, where do we, as believers, draw the line? Or do we? This is our allotted space in history. I live here, now, and functioning in this world means owning and consuming many things. I'm already picking and choosing how I live simply - I spend money on internet access and good coffee, don't I? And Jesus doesn't really seem to draw a line. He let the rich young ruler walk away when sharing what he had was too hard. So how do I know when to buy furniture, and when to share that money?

I don't have an answer. In the end, I'm reminded that Jesus is always hard. Believing in a higher power is simple; trusting Jesus is not. My best hope is grace to act when I'm prompted and the grace of forgiveness when I am wrong.

What do you think?


Mercy's Maid said...

I think that's a very interesting question.

I don't know the answer to it either, but it is very thought provoking.

Elizabeth said...

I struggle with this too. Especially now that I'm employed full-time in the very low-paying (fiscally speaking) job of "Mom". I honestly don't mind sacrificing most previously-enjoyed luxuries to stay home with our baby. It is hard, though, to figure out the best way to use the money have left after we pay bills and buy groceries. Stewardship of our resources is one of those things we pray about and re-evaluate on a regular basis. It is hard not to be grateful and generous when you see others who have so little.

LMilky said...

Indeed, thought provoking. I had the same situation occur just yesterday. The conversation went as follows:
Me: I want to do something really selfish.
Nick: What's that?
Me: I am tempted to use out SSI check to buy an armoire for our bedroom (to replace the cluttered three shelved bookcase that serves as a tv stand in the corner of our bedroom).
Nick: (un-approving look and nod of the head).

Clearly this money should be used to provide basic needs for our family and donation to Footprints Ministry.

I don't know the line but like your theory of knowing that we give when the spirit moves us and ask for grace when we are wrong.

Greg Salyer said...


Heather said...

I don't know where that line is either. I debate it, myself, as we look at buying a house and selling this one, hopefully replacing some furniture along the way. Le sigh...

And, I like the new look. Simple and natural. Very you.

Jamie said...

Ug. I ask myself this all the time. I have no idea the answer...