The life of Jesus starts with being born in a stable, continues with becoming a refugee, passes with barely a nod through his years earning his living as a carpenter, and moves on to his ministry as an itinerant preacher and healer wandering in the hills and by the lakeside before climaxing in his death outside the city gates, stripped naked and pinned on a cross, his body laid in the borrowed tomb of a friend. Somehow you can spot radical simplicity as an emergent theme!
Possibly the most challenging thing Jesus ever said is: “Those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples” (Luke 14:33). We quietly put our cream cake back untasted on the plate and turn the central heating down a degree or two. What are we to make of this? In Jesus we have seen hope. We have experienced his healing and his joy. We have been taught that believing in him is the way to heaven. But this? Give up everything? Really? There is no way round this. Jesus did actually say it. Perhaps we have to bear in mind what the ancient Chinese sage Lao Tsu said: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.”
Giving up everything surely begins with giving up something. We can start by decluttering our homes and schedules and by living more simply and frugally, reviewing our lives to see where we can begin introducing habits of simplicity. If we make this a pattern in our lives, maybe we can inch our way towards obedience, until we live with creative necessity.
Jesus challenged us by his words and life to take up the way of simplicity, yet many of his followers were ordinary householders and some of them were rich. What do you think he meant in practical terms?
Why do you think Jesus identified simplicity as important? What are its benefits?
What are your own experiences of living simply, in your own life or the lives of people you have known?
Beloved Jesus, some of your teachings are hard to understand, and harder still to follow. Help us to get this one right, and to remain true to you, embracing the kind of simplicity that can walk with you all the way home. Amen.