Then a scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Matthew 8:18-20).
As the passage of scripture above indicates, Jesus led a simple life. He didn’t have much going for Him as far as worldly goods were concerned–sometimes He didn’t even have a place to lay His head at night. But Jesus understood a beautiful concept that He tried to share with all who would listen and follow after Him, saying:
“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Matthew 6:25-34, NASB
As Christians, we seek to become imitators of Christ in every aspect of our lives. We, therefore, advocate for a simple, uncluttered lifestyle that is focused on one main objective: to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness… knowing that everything else we do in life will fall into place and order itself appropriately in relation to this one main objective. This, however, is not always as easy as it may appear.
Gains and Losses
One day, Jesus asked His disciples a very pointed question: “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). Not long after, a young man who was very rich rich came to Jesus saying, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” (Matthew 16:16, NASB). All he wanted was a simple answer–just something good that he could do to earn his salvation. Imagine his astonishment at Jesus’ reply when He said, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Matthew 16:21, NASB). Jesus was not interested in perpetuating a contented lifestyle wherein people could feel good about themselves and their relationship with God if they manage to do a few good things here and there along the way. Rather, Jesus was all about the total revolution of the soul and calling people into a whole new walk of life. Well, Jesus’ words were a bit more than the young man could handle and the Bible says, “when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property. And Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 16:22-23, NASB).
Imagine if that rich young ruler had followed Jesus’ instructions and opted for a “simpler” lifestyle–a life of focused meaning and purpose! What if he would have unencumbered himself of all the material trappings from which he took his identity and sense of self-worth? What if he had actually realized just Who it was that was standing there before him and was so overwhelmed with joy at standing in the presence of deity that he was more than willing to do exactly as Jesus had said: “Sell all your possessions, give the money to the poor, and come follow Me”?
Imagine how that young man’s life would have been completely revolutionized! And what would he have lost compared with what he would have gained? What unimaginable blessings and eternal riches would have been his? But, sadly, we’ll never even know this pour soul’s name–he’s pretty much a non-entity–because he was, after all, just one more number among all the masses who chose to cling to his earthly treasures for a few more years rather than seek the higher glory. And, of course, regardless of how much longer he may have walked upon the earth, he’s dead now– sooooo… When we stop living for ourselves and surrender everything we have, and everything we are, over to God, what do we lose, really? More importantly, what do we gain?
A Simple Life of Service
Jesus said, “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher” (Matthew 10:24-25, NASB). The ultimate goal of every authentic disciple of Christ is to learn how to be more like Jesus. He is our Lord, our Master, and the ultimate Teacher and Example for our lives. Certainly, as we’ve seen in the passages above, this means that our heart’s desire is to, “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). But how, in practical terms, do we go about doing that? Well, to put it quite simply, Jesus went on to say, “…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28, NASB). So, at the heart of our “kingdom focus” is service to God through service to others. Authentic Christians are being conformed to the sacrificial lifestyle of Christ. That means we’re all about “getting over ourselves,” and getting into loving and serving others, like Jesus did. The distinguishing mark of mature Christians–those who are continuing to grow into genuine Christlikeness–is that they are becoming less and less about themselves and all their wants and desires in life, and more and more about how they can love and serve others. Their primary concern in life is not about how comfortable they can manage to live during their brief time here upon the earth, but rather, how can they make a difference in the hearts and lives of others for all eternity. They go out and make a living so that they can take care of their family, friends, and others. They seek to use their time and energy pursuing endeavors that will, in some way, benefit others. They look for ways that they can use their material resources to bless others. In all that they do, and in all their relationships, they are continually looking ahead, thinking about eternity and how they might help others walk more closely with God and be ready to meet their Lord when they leave this world and step into that eternal spiritual realm.