Clement of Alexandria wrote, “Many will never reach the Kingdom of Heaven for they have fixed their eyes on wealth. They are sick for the things of the world. They live proudly through luxury. But those who are serious about salvation must settle this beforehand in their mind. All we possess is given to us to use for sufficiency, which one may acquire by merely a few things.” For those of us in the West, this should be especially convicting. We live proudly in our luxury.
We take more for granted than half the world can even imagine possessing. All this extravagance will count for nothing when we stand before God and give an account of our lives. He will ask what we did with what He entrusted to us, and we will only be able to hang our heads and admit we hoarded it for ourselves (Luke 12:16-21).
All the wealth given to us is for the provision of our families, with the balance to be given away to others in need. Our excess can and should fund ministries and support people less fortunate than ourselves. Instead, we pile up niceties and luxuries to make ourselves more comfortable. I find nowhere in Scripture where we are called to comfort. We are called to persecution and suffering (Matthew 16:24-26; John 16:33), but never to comfort. The reason is we are called to live counter cultural lives, lives which will disturb and make others uncomfortable. We need only a few things to sustain us, but we have come to see extras and luxuries as things we deserve. As disciples of Jesus, all we deserve is to follow Him to the cross.
If you have been blessed with more than enough, recognize the reason you have more is to help those with less. Generosity is a hallmark of the Church (Acts 4:32-35). We should all strive to live as simply as possible in order to free up the maximum amount of resources we can to be deployed into the Kingdom. How many cars or square feet do we actually need? How many acres or pairs of shoes are required to sustain us? There is nothing wrong with wealth, but there is something very wrong with using it for selfish reasons rather than sharing it with those in need.
The problem isn’t money, it is self. Until we have put self to death, we will not consistently use money in a God honoring way. I am not promoting a destitute life, although some have chosen to go that way. I believe the Bible is clear about taking care of the needs and your family first (Isaiah 58:6-7; 1 Timothy 5:8). The reason is it’s hard to be effective helping others when we are dying of malnutrition ourselves. It is much harder to provide shelter for someone when we are homeless. So definitely take care of your family first. But there is a large gap between caring for your needs and indulging in worthless desires and wants.
When you boil it all down, we each need only a few things. Most of us have been blessed with the resources to afford far more than we need. I encourage you to take a look at how you are allocating your means. Are there things you could eliminate and put that money to work for the Kingdom instead? Let’s learn to live simply and focus on only the few things we truly need. Figuring out all the different ways you can give of your excess is not only fun but it is beautiful in the eyes of God.