Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Simple Life

Quick survey: Raise your hand if you think you are as rich as you can be, if you say to yourself, “There is literally nothing in this world I want.”  No one?  A few weeks ago, I was reading a study about happiness.  One thing they discovered was that getting an extra hour per night of sleep makes the average human happier than if that same person made an extra $60,000 a year.  And my first thought was, “Hey, if they want to refine that study and they need someone to be in the ‘making an extra $61,000 a year’ group, I volunteer.  I am that committed to science and human flourishing.”  Then I remembered some statistics I read in a book called The Hole in Our Gospel, by Rich Stearns.  40% of the world’s population—that’s 2.6 billion people--lives on less than $2 a day.  15% live on less than a dollar a day—that’s 1 billion people.  The average American, by contrast, lives on $105 a day.  If you make $25,000 a year, you are richer than 90% of the people on Earth.  If you make at least $50,000 a year, you are in the top 1% of richest human beings on the planet.  By the standards of this planet, we are rich.  But we’re not content.  

We’re talking all through this Spring season about the process God uses to transform us.  It is a lifelong process.  And it takes spiritual discipline on our part.  You may not want to hear this, but there’s no way around it: As 21st century American Christians, our money and possessions are a problem in our relationship with God.  We cannot ignore that.  We can’t just pretend that reading Scripture, going to church and praying is going to be enough to change us, if we don’t deal with our attitude toward the stuff we own and the stuff we want.  That’s why, this Sunday, I’m starting my sermon with a look at a parable found in Luke 12:16-21; perhaps the most appropriate parable for our context in all of Jesus’ teachings.  We'll be talking about the spiritual discipline of simplicity: What is, why we should practice it, and how it works.  Don't worry; I won't be asking anyone to take a vow of poverty.  But this subject will address what may be the biggest spiritual issue most of us have.  

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