Now Featured in the Patheos Book Club
Finding More By Living with Less
By Will Davis Jr.
Your purpose in life isn't to make money. It isn't to live a comfortable lifestyle, to prepare for your retirement, or even to provide well for your family. Believe it or not, you're designed for something far better and much more exhilarating. If you limit your life's purpose to acquiring wealth or living comfortably, then you'll never have enough and you'll never be satisfied.
Meet Mike. From all outward appearances, he has it made. He and his beautiful family live in an affluent part of Austin. He's a Christian who loves his wife and kids and is sincerely committed to giving them the very best of everything—the best home, the best education, the best traveling experiences, the best sports and recreational opportunities, the best clothes, the best medical care—everything. As a result of that lofty goal, Mike works sixty-plus hours a week, the bulk of which he spends on the road away from home.
Recently, I caught up with Mike on one of the few days he's actually in Austin. Over breakfast tacos and coffee we talked about his goals, his frantic schedule, and his overall spiritual health. Mike confessed that he wasn't doing well. He was tired all the time and lonely on the road. He missed his wife and kids, and the relentless travel had taken a toll on their relationships, especially on his marriage. He also confessed that he and his wife were up to their ears in debt and weren't giving financially to the church, even though they knew they should be and that they were clearly living an affluent lifestyle. They simply had too much debt and overhead to be able to write checks to their church.
I asked Mike if there was any end in sight to his long workweeks, if he saw a finish line in the future where he had enough, had accomplished enough, and could back off the travel. He didn't. Then I asked him what he would have when he was at that finish line, wherever it was. "Security," he responded. I hated to burst Mike's bubble, but I had to tell him that the goal of security he was pursuing was a myth. Not only was it unattainable, but pursuing it might actually be killing the very things he was trying to protect.
It's a bit ironic, isn't it? Mike wouldn't tell you that the purpose of his life is to be rich or allow his family to live comfortably, even though he is and they do. He would tell you that he's only trying to do what God expects him to do, what any good Christian man should do—work as hard as he can and provide as much as he can for his family. He would tell you that the goals of his life are to honor God and to love his family. The ironic part is that he's working so much he simply doesn't have the time or energy to do either.
Mike is one of millions of Americans and billions of others around the world who somehow think that more matters. They've never really stopped to ask the question, "When is enough enough?" Maybe, at least in Western culture, it's due to our capitalistic drive. Maybe it's because our celebrity role models in government, sports, and Hollywood—and perhaps even the couple next door—all spend money like it's limitless. Or maybe it's caused by the cultural mantra that claims if we spend enough money and have enough stuff we really will find peace, prosperity, security, and happiness. It's hard to not want to try and keep up. There's only one problem—it's all a lie.
The Bible offers a better way. In the wisdom of God, the Bible includes countless verses about money and wealth, and the futility of pursuing either. The Bible teaches that it's foolish to try to satisfy the needs of a priceless, eternal human soul by throwing stuff at it. Beyond that, it tells us that we are going to be held accountable for how we manage what God has given us—specifically, our money and other resources. It tells us that we are to care for the poor, the widows, and orphans, and to help spread the hope-giving message of Jesus Christ. And it promises that there is great joy and contentment to be found in living with less, giving more, and seeking to serve others by using what God has given us. While Mike hasn't yet discovered how to have more by living with less, many others have.
Now don't panic. I'm not asking you to take a vow of poverty, and more importantly, the Bible doesn't either. I am asking you to consider the Bible's promises to those who willingly choose to live with less. I know it's counterintuitive, but the Bible actually says you'll be richer if you scale back what you have. It says your life will be fuller. You'll have less stress, more time for the things that matter, the potential for better relationships, and more joy. Bottom line: in the language of our culture, you'll be happier.