Better one handful with tranquillity
than two handfuls with toil
and chasing after the wind.
– Ecclesiastes 4:6
Simplicity and giving seem to be two opposing things, but when you approach them from God’s upside down economy they really go hand in hand. Like two opposing forces that are magnetised to one another, both simplicity and giving should bring us to a point of freedom. When sought after and practiced faithfully, the result is that those around us are blessed and God gets the glory.
What is simplicity, really?
It seems as though the definition of simplicity has changed depending on the generation in which you were raised. Boomers knew simplicity as the signs of the times, Generation X saw simplicity as less restrictive, Generation Y saw simplicity as something fast (microwave meals and the like abound here), and Generation Z sees simplicity as coming back to things that are non-digital (the return of vinyl records, hardcover books, and paper planners all come to mind).
As a society, each generation has put their own stamp of what simplicity is for them, but when we really take it at it’s core, there’s much to be revealed.
Here’s a definition of simplicity that might clear things up:
the quality or condition of being plain or natural.
Some synonyms that stand out to me, for our purposes, include: naturalness, purity, modesty, quietness, innocence.
Does your modern day life reflect any of those? In many of these, I know mine does not.
As we look to simplicity as a spiritual discipline, Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes above that simplicity equates to tranquility and peace, while he equates the pursuit of more to chasing after the wind.
It’s an unattainable goal. It’s a fruitless pursuit.
In the last year that we’ve lived in a state of pandemic, a majority of us have been forced into a life of simplicity where most everything has been stripped, except those that are deemed essential.
I don’t know about you, but for me it was freeing. Freeing to be relieved to running from place to place, freeing from non-essential “obligations”, and freeing from all the extra stuff.
Giving isn’t just monetary
Although monetary giving is helpful, it’s not the only way you can contribute to something. In fact, in the New Testament, we’re told that our offering is not even welcome in one particular circumstance.
Jesus teaches that if we bring an offering to the Lord and remember that a brother or sister has something against us, we are to leave and reconcile with them first, then come back and give the offering (Matthew 5:23-24).
In this illustration, Jesus is prioritising loving our brothers and sisters over giving an offering. Later, he also calls this love out as equal to God greatest command (Matthew 22:34-40).
It’s important to remember that in these instances, Jesus addresses giving as being done out of obligation, which it can be. But to see the importance of giving as a spiritual discipline, we have to dig a little deeper.
Yes, God did command that we tithe ten percent of the first-fruits of our labor as an offering back to him. This is right and it is good. It reminds us where our provision comes from. If we are willing to let go of ten percent, we are saying we trust God to fill that gap.
But what if you are like many who, in this pandemic season, have been the one in need? What can you do? This is where giving can transcend a monetary offering.
Ways to give beyond money:
- Homemade meal
- Quality time alone
- Running errands
- Helping with chores
- Giving someone a ride
Where’s the freedom in that?
How can trimming down our material things and schedules, and giving our time and money bring us freedom?
When we shed ourselves of the excess things in our home and schedules, what we’re left with are, in fact, those things that are essential. The most important and most valuable to us.
When we surrender our tithe and our service to God and others, what we’re left with are, in fact, gifts from God because we know that (1) it definitely did not come from us, but from God and (2) God makes a way not just for us to serve, but for others to be blessed.
God works best in the orchestration of many things into the one singularly important thing—our connection with God.
When simplicity and giving are practiced as spiritual disciplines (being done unto God and not for our own recognition), we get to see God fill us in our perceived sparseness and in our perceived meagre offering. He uses it all and adds even more.