The Christian scripture contain strong admonitions to care for the needs of the poor. Back in college I read Ron Sider’s Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger. It was a study of the biblical passages on poverty, oppression and injustice. My guilt was stirred. I didn’t adjust my lifestyle much, but I thought about it.
Then in my first year out of college I decided with several friends to participate in a book study. We read Freedom of Simplicity by Richard Foster. Following our discussions of this book, I dedicated myself to a life of simplicity. I made a commitment to tithe my income, to drive a very basic vehicle, to dress simply, and to avoid extravagant dining and entertainment. This was easy to do. I had no money at the time. Shopping at Goodwill was a necessity. Giving away 10% of nothing was nothing.
Even as I advanced in my career, my wife and I stayed committed to simple living. We had no TV and very few meals-out. We did not get a television set until my oldest son was 10. Major League Baseball made the difference. We did not feel comfortable imposing on friends to each night to watch their television for seven days of the World Series. I couldn’t take my little kids to sports bar.
Now that we have no children in the home, my wife and I are back to no TV, but I must admit that it's hardly simple living. We get everything we want to watch on the computer. The other night while I was watching a comedy show on You Tube, programmed from an app on my iPhone, I wondered once again about my commitment to simplicity.
I don’t have the same level of guilt that I once had about my advantages as an American, but I am deeply aware of the vast differences between the “have’s” and the “have not’s,” and I am passionately concerned about how we can support the elevation of standards for those living in poverty.
Many Christians take 40 days near the start of the year to recommit to simplicity and to actively participate in acts of charity. If more of us did this, and allowed our spiritual insights and emerging healthy habits to shape our lives, I think it could make a world of difference.