Living Simply so that Others may Simply Live

And he told them this parable: The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:16-21)

Have you ever been outside your country? Have you ever visited some of the poorest of the poor in another country or in the inner-cities of your own country? If you have seen the reality of poverty in our world today, like I have, you will view this passage differently.

I have to be honest.  Years ago, I read these verses in Luke and thought other people were the greedy ones.  Some of Jesus’ parables are confusing, but this one he explains right off the bat in verse 15.  The whole point of telling a story about a rich guy who keeps all his “grain and goods” to himself is to warn us against all kinds of greed.  And a while back I always thought that meant others.  I am not really rich, right? I don’t have to worry about this.

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Now I am convinced this rich fool is me—and maybe you. I have seen up close too many people who are suffering from poverty, disease, disasters, and bloody warfare, that I cannot pretend anymore.  How can you or I say that we are not greedy if we eat three enormous meals a day while a third of the world’s population starves? How can we live in our huge, comfortable houses while billions have nothing? I ate an ice-cream cone last week that cost as much as a farmer in some of our countries makes in a week to feed his family.  

So what are we going to do about it? We can continue as rich fools or we can begin to live more simply so that others may simply live.  We can store our possessions or learn to share and sacrifice in order to truly change the world.

“Watch out!  Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

Feet

By Frederick Buechner

“HOW BEAUTIFUL upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good tidings,” says Isaiah (52:7). Not how beautiful are the herald’s lips, which proclaim the good tidings, or his eyes as he proclaims them, or even the good tidings themselves, but how beautiful are the feet—the feet without which he could never have made it up into the mountains, without which the good tidings would never have been proclaimed at all.

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Who knows in what inspired way the heart, mind, or spirit of the herald came to receive the good tidings of peace and salvation in the first place, but as to the question whether he would actually do something about them—put his money where his mouth was, his shoe leather where his inspiration was—his feet were the ones that finally had to decide. Maybe it is always so. When the disciples first came upon the risen Christ that Sunday morning of their confusion and terror, it wasn’t his healing hands they touched or his teaching lips or his holy heart. Instead, it was those same ruined, tired dogs that had carried him to them three years earlier, when they were at their accounts and their nets, that had dragged him all the way from Galilee to Jerusalem, that had stumbled up the hill where what was to happen happened. “They took hold of his feet and worshiped him,” Matthew says (28:9; italics mine).

Generally speaking, if you want to know who you really are, as distinct from who you like to think you are, keep an eye on where your feet take you.

This article was originally published in Wishful Thinking and later in Beyond Words

Coffee and Wine

“Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.” (1 Cor. 8:13)

When my father was pastoring several years ago, there was a woman who wanted to become a member in the church.  However, she disagreed with the fact that our denomination encouraged abstinence from alcohol.  “Why can’t I have a little sip of wine every now and then? Lots of Christians drink coffee, and that has caffeine in it.  What’s the difference?”

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My father thoughtfully replied.  “Alcohol has caused so much more societal damage than caffeine.  But so you know how important I believe this to be, I will never knowingly drink anything with caffeine again, if you will decide to never drink alcohol again.”

Although the woman has not lived up to her end of the bargain, my dad has only drunk decaffeinated coffee since that conversation.

It’s been 13 years.

Do you care so much about your testimony that you would be willing to give up something you love if it would help someone else in their Christian walk?

*This mini-devotional was written for the app of Mesoamerica Region Nazarene Youth International (NYI). We encourage you to download and use that app, through which short devotional thoughts like this (written by a variety of leaders) will be shared daily.

Stumbling Block

“Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.” (1 Cor. 8:9)

As a new youth pastor, I invited one of the sophomores in the youth group to grab some ice cream after school.  As he climbed into my car and I turned the key, the radio blasted out the words of a popular rock song.  A song everyone knew.  A song I liked.  But not a song with a…ahem…biblical message.

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Can Christians only listen to hymns all day long? Nah.  Was it a sin to listen to a secular song on the radio? Probably not.

But the way he looked at me I knew it could cause him to justify his own questionable music selections.  His Christian walk was affected even if my eternity wasn’t.

“Sorry,” I said, turning off the radio.  “Neither of us should be listening to that.  It won’t happen again.”

*This mini-devotional was written for the app of Mesoamerica Region Nazarene Youth International (NYI). We encourage you to download and use that app, through which short devotional thoughts like this (written by a variety of leaders) will be shared daily.

Loving, Knowing, and Being Known

“The man who loves God is known by God.” (1 Cor. 8:3)

On my wedding day, I was head-over-heels enamored with my wife. I thought I could never be more in love.

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However, eighteen years later the love is even deeper.  We’ve shared many tears and countless belly-splitting times of laughter.  Just one look can speak more than a 1,000-word soliloquy.  We still surprise ourselves from time to time, but more often, we are able to express what the other is thinking or feeling better than they can.

This type of love comes out of knowing each other, faults and failures included. Our whispered doubts and shouted struggles have found safety in the trust built between us.

You see, loving is vitally connected to knowing.  The more I know Emily, the more I adore her.  But it is also true that the more I am known by her, the more my love grows.

What is more powerful: to know God or to be known by God? Both are astonishingly beautiful!  And both result in loving Him more and more each day.

*This mini-devotional was written for the app of Mesoamerica Region Nazarene Youth International (NYI). We encourage you to download and use that app, through which short devotional thoughts like this (written by a variety of leaders) will be shared daily.

The More You Know

“The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know.” (1 Cor. 8:2)

In college, I was given a topic for a research paper.  I spent a good part of the semester reading, investigating, checking sources, and taking notes.  Every article cited another 20 journals and papers.  When I finally sat down to write the paper, I had so much new knowledge, but I was also convinced of something else: I was nowhere near understanding this subject completely!

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Has that happened to you? Have you ever had a moment where you read or researched a topic extensively, only to find that all the knowledge you had newly acquired was only .01% of the vast information on that subject?

“The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.” – Aristotle

In this world of bravado and braggadocio, both Aristotle and Paul were onto something.

*This mini-devotional was written for the app of Mesoamerica Region Nazarene Youth International (NYI). We encourage you to download and use that app, through which short devotional thoughts like this (written by a variety of leaders) will be shared daily.

The Famous Know-it-All

“We know that we all possess knowledge.  Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” (1 Cor. 8:1)

Have you ever met a know-it-all? He (or she) justifiably has a lot of information in his brain, and he wants to let the world know every bit of it.  You’ll know when you’ve met one if they cut off your story or exciting piece of news with a “Well, of course, but did you also hear that…”

There’s no better way to bring a conversation down than with a know-it-all.

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Through social media today we all seem to want the world to know our thoughts and opinions.  We work hard to graduate and get a diploma that verifies that we possess the expertise necessary in a certain area.  Knowledge is vital, and we should strive for more knowledge every day.  However, if all that knowledge is used to bring attention to ourselves or –even worse– to disrespect someone, we have missed the boat.  Knowledge very often puffs us up.  But love? Love builds both you and others up.

*This mini-devotional was written for the app of Mesoamerica Region Nazarene Youth International (NYI). We encourage you to download and use that app, through which short devotional thoughts like this (written by a variety of leaders) will be shared daily.