It is hard to live a faithful life in a very materialistic and wealthy society. We have so much and there is so much to have. It becomes difficult to separate the needs from the need to have. Materialism seeps like a poison into all our plans and choices without our even seeing it because we are immersed in a culture which claims the pursuit of more stuff as a worthy goal.
Others have eloquently spoken on the dangers of materialism so I will not belabor that point. What I want to share today is a hope. There is a practical hope that life doesn’t have to be owned by owning and filled with the acquisition of ever more stuff. This hope can become realty only with a dramatic mental shift, a conversion of our desires. The first part of this is difficult It is hard in a society that defines success in such a material fashion to let go of material desires. No one wants to feel that they are not successful and what is almost as bad, and to some no doubt worse, no one wants to feel as if the world looks down on them.
We need to introduce a new way of looking at our lives and looking at success. I would call this a dignified poverty that strives towards a holy poverty. The type of poverty of possession that is chosen, much like many religious take a vow of poverty but with the difference that we are responsible for the maintenance of our selves and our families without the community to support us financially. The goal, to draw closer to the divine remains the same. By freeing ourselves from the goal of owning more we can look at those things that really matter most. For the Christian this is undoubtedly attaining heaven and for the Christian parent educating our children in the faith so that heaven will be their end as well. Western culture, with its maddening race to own more leaves us exhausted, with little time for our families, our faith life or even sleep. This is extremely dangerous to the goals of Christian living and Christian parenting.
Poverty, even a self willed poverty, itself is not a virtue it is only made virtuous by the motive that propels it. The scriptures don’t advocate poverty as much as they caution against the accumulation of wealth. This is where the concept of simplicity lives. Simplicity in the context of this essay and of this site in general means: living for God unencumbered with ease and modesty, lacking in affectation and pretense. There is a dignity implicit in this approach to living.