When my family and I immigrated to the USA years ago, we brought with us two suitcases and two boxes. While there were six of us yet we took only the essentials. Because we didn’t have much, our house during the first year was clean and spacious. Later on I noticed how fast clutter built up. Furniture, books, shoes, toys, backpacks, paper work and kitchen stuff slowly piled up. We needed to do spring cleaning regularly to de-clutter the house.
In a similar way, our lives can also become cluttered. This clutter or mess can become an obstacle in our relationship with our love ones and with our God. An effective approach to removing clutter is to simplify.
Unfortunately, many things around us work against simplifying our lives. Our world is itself a cluttered complicated world. There is so much in this world that competes for our attention. There is so much stuff. So much noise. All these distract us from listening to what God is saying. I have been serving for thirty years as pastor and I have seen the nonstop onslaught of a busy life in people, including believers. I don’t think God created it that way in the first place. At the beginning, in the Garden of Eden, there was innocence until the serpent came into the picture and planted doubts in Adam and Eve.
The Bible tells us that God made men and women true and upright. “…We’re the ones who’ve made a mess of things” Ecc. 7:29 (The Message).
The mess continues. It continues because we live in a society where materialism is the way of life. Everyone wants more. More! Supersize it! TV advertisements tell us “but wait, there is more!” Enough is never enough. Most everyone like to have the latest gadgets or the latest version or the newest fashion. Success is defined by how much money one has in the bank or how nice their house is. From the time a child is born, we are bombarded by messages similar to what Adam and Eve heard.
“Humans, you can’t trust God. You have to fix your own problem.”
And so, not before long every little child learns to compete and fight for himself or herself. Children grow up where parents are absent. They may be physically home but are mentally and emotionally absent. Generations after generations, humanity continues to degenerate into ungodliness. While competition has its benefits, who can measure the bad results that come when it gets terribly out of control?
Surely, God is not the author of mess. He wants us. He loves us. He saved us. He cares for the relationship we can have with Him. He knows there is eternal joy in being with Him in relationship. Our relationship with God gets better when we intentionally take the time with Him. I studied Azusa Pacific University and I love our school motto: God First. Simple, yet profound.
God First. Honestly, I have to admit that there are times I, too, feel the same breathless, feverish pursuit of the non-essentials. Being led astray can happen to any of us. Even in Christian families, in churches, seminaries, we can all be deceived into the exhausting busyness of life to get more of what we mistakenly think is important.
The battle for our attention continues. The apostle Paul writes, “But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians11:3). God wants us to come back to how He intended it in the first place. He invites us to a relationship with Him. Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
In order to grow in deeper relationship with our great God, we need to move towards cultivating intimacy with Him by beginning to re-order our private lives. Live simply. Remove the clutter and give priority to the essentials.
The story of Jesus cleansing the Temple illustrates this. The people believed that the temple was the place where God in heaven met people on earth. It was a symbol of God’s relationship with His people, and it served as a constant reminder of God’s claim upon their lives.
But something was desperately wrong.
It had become something other than what God intended it to be.
The temple had become corrupt!
You see, while the sacrificial practices were spelled out thoroughly in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers; somewhere along the way, the religious leaders found a way to profit personally in their perversion of God’s commandments.
As Jesus enters the Temple, all of the trappings and additions of the Law become apparent, without any sense of the heart, of what God truly intends in worship – the intimate relationship with God – being fulfilled. Jesus enters the scene and drives those who are selling things, and those who are exchanging money out of the Temple. He is sure that God does not want any barriers, or any distractions alienating people who wish to return to a relationship with God.
Jesus is clearing out the clutter. He is cleaning out the mess. He is pushing away distractions. He is demolishing the barriers that set people against an authentic worshipful relation with God.
I wonder. If Jesus came to you and me, what would he see obstructing our relationship with God? In what ways can our lives be simplified to truly become a place of worship — a place where God lives?
I am not saying that we remove all that we own. Living simply is not about WHAT we own. It’s about HOW we see the things we own. It’s about how things own us or control us.
The truth is, simplicity is more about your heart than it is about your inventory. It is about where our affection is. The Bible says, “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2). Heaven is simple. Earth is complicated. Heaven’s way is simple. Earth’s way is a mess.
The foremost thing about being a Christian is to see that the main thing remains the main thing. The main thing is that at the heart and core of your life is the simplicity that is in Christ, a simple thing. I have observed over many years that when religion becomes complicated, it is always a sign that it is drifting away from the reality and simplicity of faith. The world around us is getting increasingly complex and convoluted because it is drifting farther and farther from God.
Come back to the simplicity of Christ. Let Him de-clutter your life. In him you can’t help but experience a greater sense of peace. In Jesus, it’s easier to relax, it’s easier to enjoy what you do have, it’s easier to quiet yourself, and it’s just easier to handle life. The Bible tells us to cease striving and know that God is God (Psalms 46:10). This tells us that when we are too cumbered with too much clutter, we don’t see God clearly as God is God.
Christ teaches us that the value of our life is not measured by stuff. In Christ, it is much easier for us to give that stuff away, to give to those in need, to become a giving person instead of a getting person.
What did the early believers do? They shared. They shared their possessions, they shared their resources, they shared their meals. They were very generous, and they were all that much happier because of it. Not one of them regretted sharing what they had. They had complete trust of God. Remember, nothing under God’s control is out of control. We can surrender to him fully.
This is what it all boils down to. If your self-worth, if your security, if your happiness is all-dependent on your stuff, then that’s what you’re trusting in. And the reality is, you’re going to be very disappointed.
But when you live simply in Christ and get all that “stuff” in perspective, then you’re able to place your trust where it really belongs… with God.