I have 347+ articles of clothing, which is disgustingly typical for the American woman. This doesn’t include undergarments, accessories, or shoes. If each article cost $20 that would be $6,940 wasted, since I wear maybe 17 articles in a week. I have enough clothes to wear something new, everyday, for 5 to 6 months.
Do these envious, gluttonous tendencies our culture tells us we need in order to ‘fit in’, cause us to be discontent and unhappy? People are walking 20 miles, without shoes, to get water to survive. There are homeless people, who don’t have a coat this winter, who might die. There are people starving to DEATH. How can we rationalize our gluttony? Is our clothing/possession reputation more important than real human lives? Wouldn’t we be happier if we saw the lasting and perpetuating joy from helping someone in need?
Guilt is not the response being called for here. God sent the prince of peace. Self-deprecation is a cruel response to Jesus, who died to make us righteous. Guilt is not Jesus’ medium. He is battling for global redemption right now; His objective hardly includes huddling in the corner with us, rehashing our shame again. He finished that discussion on the cross. We’re so conditioned to being a problem that we’ve forgotten we’re actually the answer. God is not angry with you; how could he be? You’re on the team. Don’t imagine He is sitting us down for a lecture. Rather, He’s staging a rally, gathering the troops. He is staging a massive movement to bind up the broken-hearted and proclaim freedom to the captives. The trumpet is blowing. The Bride is awakening. I don’t want to base my life on what I’m against; that’s not inspiring enough motivation. May we embrace unity over infighting, bravery over comfort, us over me, people over principles, and God’s glory over our own. Together, let’s become restorers of Eden. Let’s become His ambassadors ushering in His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. With this in mind, let’s get back to the opening statement.
Eccl. 5:10 – Those who love money will never have enough. How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness.
Solomon was one of the wealthiest people in the world, and he tells us in Ecclesiastes that wealth doesn’t bring happiness, because the those who love money are never satisfied. Rich people are plagued by discontentment. The more we have, the more we want. Most of us don’t even see ourselves as rich. Rich people don’t like to admit they are rich. Their discontentment drives them to ungratefulness and denial.
A poll asked American’s on an income of 30,000/yr how much they would need to make to be considered rich. They said $75,000/yr. Another poll asked subscribers of money magazine how much they would need to make a to be considered rich. They said $5million/yr. We aren’t rich, but we know someone who is… and our eyes get the best of us. Always wanting more. Never satisfied. Never happy. What is happiness lies in living on only what we need and using the rest to help others become able to live on our same level?
We need to admit we are rich. If you make 44,000/yr COMBINED household income, you are in the top 1% of wage earners in the world! Even if you have running water you are better off than most in the world. We aren’t walking 20 miles to get diseased water; we are spraying clean water on the ground.
Acts 20:35 (MSG) – You’ll not likely go wrong here if you keep remembering that our Master said, ‘You’re far happier giving than getting’
1 Tim. 6:17 – Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth.
Arrogant: making claims to superior importance or rights; insolently proud; a sense of superiority, self-importance, or entitlement.
God is not a respecter of persons. We are not superior to anyone because we make more money. Every person is valuable. Ben Carson has a great example of this. His mother had a third grade education and couldn’t read. She worked multiple jobs to raise her children. She is now a doctor. We like to judge circumstances, but God sees our potential. We should start trying to see like God. We need to love people where and as they are.. you know, they way Jesus did. Scripture describes the people who drew Jesus’ eye: the poor widow, lepers, the lost and hungry, adulterers, the outcast, the sick and dying, the already dead. He gave up His life, as a King and as a God, to help them. Finery and opulence never impressed Jesus; quite the opposite. Maybe He knew what riches He was capable of having, and became disgusted by the pride of others. He rebuked religious leaders for their fancy robes, strutting around as if their ceremonial dress had any bearing on the condition of their hearts. Perhaps an obsession with even clothing has distracted us from the point of the gathering: a fixation on Jesus.
Prov. 30:8 – Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread
Give us this day our daily bread. Remember how the manna in the desert rotted if they gathered more than they needed? What if wealth, indulgence, and excess are creating a polished people rotting from the inside out, without even knowing it? Pretty on the outside, but dead on the inside; rotting from excess. We should take only what we need and use the rest to help others; then, we will be happy.
1 Tim. 6:17-19 – Command those who are rich in this present world… to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
He gives us everything for our ENJOYMENT. Then He says, remember that you are happier when you give. Give me my daily bread and help me live a life free from excess, willing to share, so that I will be happy and take hold of the true meaning of life: Love. We shouldn’t be moved by guilt, but by love. Love that shows respect for God and man, and moves us to compassion and generosity. Love, in many versions, is translated charity. If we are giving out of guilt then we still have a heart issue and we won’t be moved out of the key factor: Love. God says if anything we do is void of love, it is useless; we gain no reward. We also gain no peace.
2 Cor. 8:9 – Though He was rich, He became poor, that by His poverty He could make you rich
2 Cor. 5:14-20 – For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. 17 If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation… 20Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ
If Christ loved all, we should love all; if Christ died for all, we should die for all. That is how we follow Him and become His ambassadors. We should be giving to those in need.
Maybe some of you have stopped there thinking, ‘But I tithe.’ We think this basic obedience exempts the rest of our spending. We use this as an excuse to assuaging our consciences, checking the stewardship box. Is 10% really considered laying down our lives? We need to rethink that excuse:
Luke 11:37-42 (MSG) – When he finished that talk, a Pharisee asked him to dinner. He entered his house and sat right down at the table. The Pharisee was shocked and somewhat offended when he saw that Jesus didn’t wash up before the meal. But the Master said to him, “I know you Pharisees burnish the surface of your cups and plates so they sparkle in the sun, but I also know your insides are maggoty with greed and secret evil. Stupid Pharisees! Didn’t the One who made the outside also make the inside? Turn both your pockets and your hearts inside out and give generously to the poor; then your lives will be clean, not just your dishes and your hands. 42“I’ve had it with you! You’re hopeless, you Pharisees! Frauds! You keep meticulous account books, tithing on every nickel and dime you get, but manage to find loopholes for getting around basic matters of justice and God’s love. Careful bookkeeping is commendable, but the basics are required.
The Pharisees, like many of us, never miss a penny of tithing, but shamelessly we neglect justice and totally miss the point.
What if we gave new meaning to the verse ‘love your neighbor as yourself’, and gave 50% of our earnings to them, making them our equals? What if we gave 80% away? American statistics show that the more we make, the less we give. We need to realize we are rich, fight discontentment, not allow our hope to be in money. Not think that money can provide safety.
How can I be socially responsible if unaware that I reside in the top percentage of wealth in the world? Excess has impaired perspective in America; we are the richest people on earth, praying to get richer. We’re tangled in debt, because we feel like we are entitled to more. What does it communicate when half the global population lives on less than $2/day, and we can’t manage a fulfilling life on 25,000x that amount? It says we have too much, and it is ruining us. The day I am unaware of my privileges and unmoved by my greed is the day something has to change.
We think if we save enough money we can not only make ourselves happy, but save ourselves from certain calamities.
Prov. 18:11 – The wealth of the rich is their fortified city. They IMAGINE it a wall too high to scale.
Having a savings account is great; the Bible supports that. But we can’t look to money for safety or happiness. We should look to God who says give for happiness and my protection.
1 Chron. 29:12-14 – Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. 13Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name. 14“But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.
We need to learn to be thankful for the wealth God has given us. It’s that thankfulness that will bring happiness, contentment, fulfilling life, compassion, and love/charity. How can we give our of love, if we aren’t thankful for what we have?
If Christ died for all, we should die for all; that is how we follow Him and become His ambassadors. I no longer want to follow my old man, which thinks about my own pride, is ungrateful, and builds a kingdom for myself. The Spirit is leading me to a fast, where the devil will tempt me to stay the same, but by the strength of the Spirit of God in us, we have the power to change and go against the culture of the world. I will fight for humility, thankfulness, and reconciliation to the hurting.
God’s idea of a fast is less about what we’re against and more about what we are for. True fasting isn’t a month about us, but a life about others. When we hear ‘fast’, we put on a yoke of self-denial. When God said ‘fast’, He meant to take off the yoke of oppression. This fast is not about abstinence; it is a fast from self-obsession, greed, apathy, and elitism.
Is. 58:3 (NLT) – ‘We have fasted before you!’ they say. ‘Why aren’t you impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves, and you don’t even notice it!’ “I will tell you why!” I respond…
Is. 58:5 (NLT) – You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the LORD?
Is. 58:6-9 (NLT) – “No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. 7Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help. 8“Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind. 9Then when you call, the Lord will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.
Joel 2:12-13 – return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; 13and rend your hearts and not your garments.
A true disciple of Christ never stops the cycle of fasting and lifestyle changes. After Christ was baptized, the first thing He did was go into the desert to fast (Luke 4). Fasting helps us renew our minds and become a new creature. The day I realized God was real, I changed my friends, I trashed all my secular music, and I decided to seek Him out. Today, I see His call for humility and I am willing to follow. First through a fast, of abstinence, to renew my mind; then, after journaling through the fast, I will decide which lifestyle changes I can adopt for the long run.
Luke 3:7-13 – John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him,… 11“Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” 12Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?” 13″Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.
This baptism of repentance was not about going without something (a temporary fast), but instead about not taking more than we need (a lifestyle). It was a warning against exalting ourselves above others; a warning about excess.
Luke 4:1-2 – Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
In some supernatural way the abstinence from food was the catalyst for Jesus’ unveiling. After Jesus’ fast, He began healing, rescuing, redeeming. The Spirit filled up the emptiness Jesus created, launching Him into ministry. The fast launched Him into a new lifestyle. Maybe we should do the same, to rend our hearts and change our minds. Jesus gave to those He was around and those who sought Him out. Maybe their is also happiness in forming relationship with the least, instead of being faceless donors…
My new years fast will be this:
One Month FOOD Fasts and Goals:
Food Fast 1: Cut back on food options by picking 7 foods for the month: chicken, bread, eggs, avocado, spinach, sweet potatoes, apples. Use only minimal salt, pepper, and oil. No other foods, products, sauces, or spices allowed. Goal: Gain thankfulness for the surplus of food, and options, that I am used to having. Learn to give thanks before each meal.
Food Fast 2: Cut back on food intake by eating only 1 cup of rice, 1 day of each week. Goal: Gain empathy for the poor who are starving, or who live on 1 cup of rice a day. Give the money saved from daily food purchases to them.
Food Fast 3: Cut back on food options by eating nothing but bread for 1 day of each week. Goal: Gain understanding about how the Israelites felt eating manna for 40 years. Compare those feelings with the idea of staying in the same old mindset (same food), instead of seeking a new mindset (land of milk and honey).
One month PRIDE Fasts and Goals:
Pride Fast 1: Cut back on pride by wearing a t-shirt and jeans everywhere. Exception for work only. No jewelry or other accessory adornments. Use only minimal makeup. Goal: Gain a renewed mind, free from pride, competition, boasting, and stereotyping.
Pride Fast 2: Cut back on pride by not handing out explanations for this months choice of clothing. Goal: Gain humility. Gain focus on the condition of the heart instead of our outward appearance. Gain trust in God’s ability to uphold us, instead of relying on self explanations and excuses.
Pride Fast 3: Cut back on prideful locations. Go spend time with the least by getting involved in outreach ministry. Goal: Gain humility. Gain a renewed mind, focused on the value of people. Gain a serving spirit.
One Month POSSESSION Fasts and Goals:
Possession Fast 1: Cut back on excess home things. Everything I don’t need, want, or use will go in a pile, including everything in storage. This will last much longer than a month, but it will get its start and a lot of focus in this month. Goal: Gain freedom from excessive chores and bills. Gain a heart for those in need of everyday items. Find someone in need to give my excess to and sell the rest on the Etsy store I’ll create during this month.
Possession Fast 2: Cut back on excess clothing. I’ll be doing this by setting apart the clothes I wear in that month. Once I have them separated, I can see what is being used and what is not being used. Things that don’t fit, or that I don’t like, can find new homes. Things that I love, but that are excessive can find new homes. Goal: Gain a heart for those in need of clothing. Find someone in need to give my excess to. Gain willingness to immediately give the shirt off my back when I see someone in need.
Possession Fast 3: Cut back on envious tendencies. No real, or fake shopping (online, in-stores, Pinterest, window gazing, note taking or complimenting friends clothing instead of their heart, etc.) Goal: Gain a heart of contentment. Gain and reallocate money that would have been wasted.
One Month STRESS Fasts and Goals:
Stress Fast 1: Cut back on time induced anxiety. I’ll cut my clocks back 15 minutes. Goal: Gain 15 minutes of travel time to make me drive slower and calmer. Gain time to pray or read if I arrive early. Gain a pure mouth.
Stress Fast 2: Cut back on Sunday activities. Choose one day a week to rest from all work, to gather with believers, and to focus on God. Goal: Gain obedience to the Sabbath commandment. Gain rest. Gain intimacy with God and man.
Stress Fast 3: Cut back on anxious thoughts by praying 4 times a day: upon waking, midday, leaving work, and at laying down. Goal: Gain focus on God’s purposes. Gain peace by handing over anxieties.
For more on this topic:
1. Listen to the Get Rich series here, by Chris Hodges.
2. Read part 2 of this blog post here, which will cover some great ideas from Jen Hatmaker’s Seven: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.