Living on Less

Every year my life gets more complicated. I’m trying to think back to the days where I wasn’t kept on track by a calendar, because I didn’t make appointments and my only commitment was to go to recess early for a basketball game. Now as the years pile, so does the responsibility. I’m married now, helped plant a church, run a business, looking to buy a house and am trying to follow Jesus intentionally in the midst of it. All those things take up a tremendous amount of time; time well spent. Yet I can feel the pressures already to focus and be consumed by things that are bi-products of those things, especially now that we are looking to buy a house.

The pressure to live in a constant state of consumption is behind every door. I am always going to need new paint colours (at least every seven years right?), new furniture (to match my new paint colour), new tv (crt looks horrible compared to watching plasma), best surround sound system, new deck, new floors, new rooms, new cars, new pictures, new knick knacks and new clothes. In fact you are seemingly out of taste and our culture if you refuse to match, or refuse to buy something new, or God forbid you by your mattress second hand.

I’m fascinated by the pressures of design, fashion and the latest. This video explains it beautifully (we are showing it at theStory in March). I want to try and live simply. Buy used things to stop the production of old things. Buy less things, because I don’t really need them. Buy only things that I need for survival, instead of comfort, luxury and pure greed. I really need to learn this discipline, because I find myself getting drawn into the opposite daily. Why do I have to eat out as much as I do? Why can’t I just stay home and eat healthy and save money?

Our job as Christians should be to teach and help each other model a way of life that doesn’t keep others in bondage, and one that models Jesus. A life that is dedicated to the causes of the kingdom, not the causes of materialism, capitalism and consumerism. Simplicity, selflessness, peace and giving our trademarks of this kingdom we are to model. It becomes hard to do that when I’m chewing on a $7 big mac meal, in my expensive shoes and sweater, reading news about the poverty in Africa and shopping for my new big house. God continue to teach us to live on less and give more.

16 thoughts on “Living on Less”

  1. I buy nearly everything second hand. It’s cheaper and it’s funner.

    “Our job as Christians should be to teach and help each other model a way of life that doesn’t keep others in bondage, and one that models Jesus.”

    But isn’t it putting people in bondage to endlessly ask Christians to live like bohemians and eschew materialism?

  2. Well here’s the thing…by distancing themselves from catagories like sin, repentance, etc and focusing primarily if not exclusively on the “following”/law aspects of Christology people are in fact putting people in bondage, IMHO. The law that Christ gave is impossible, so to tell people merely to follow him without knowing what He’s done for them is to invite them fight a losing battle.

  3. I would venture to say a bohemian lifestyle is actually freeing us from the bondage of the sinful and inadequate socieites that humans have created for themselves. We are slaves to corporations, we are nearly entirely non-self-sufficient, and though I struggle with giving to ceasar what is ceasars,
    I know that we started out walking naked, without shame, in a garden, completely at peace with God and nature, and we were free.
    I believe that while we remain in this consumptive society, we all have “blood on our hands” as Derrick Jensen put it at his talk this past Friday. I know we may not be able to be entirely separated from the corporations and institutions that surround us, but I’m going to do my darndest to try :P

  4. Yes, but neither are we slaves to all the shortcomings and oddities produced by the bohemian lifestyle. That sword has got to cut both ways.

  5. I feel your tension. Natalie, my wife and I, just walked through a house. The desire to buy a home (and all that goes with it) is strong. What is crazy is how such a desire makes demands on our lives. Work, money, stress, etc. Now, more than ever, I see the need to press in and submit myself to God. With the ever growing number of things that seek to narrate my life, a spiritually vibrant life has become essential. I fear that unless I am alive to Jesus and the truths of the gospel/discipleship, I too will be lost to allure of the world.

  6. So Nathan, where is the pressure coming from to buy a house. No one has to buy a house. No one can make us buy a house. It’s a choice that you make. Is the issue about buying a house or is the isue about letting the house enslave you with all the other things that come with owning a house. Do we buy a house that consumes every penny that we make or do we buy one that we can afford the mortgage on that won’t enslave us. Sue and I were married for almost 17 years before we were able to buy a home. Who says it has to be done now, not that it is wrong. Ask yourself who is putting the pressure on.

  7. I don’t feel pressure to by a house really….but i see the pressures underlying this decision

    location vs resell value
    am i buying to make a financial investment or a life one? this is the biggest one….no one has said buy in a crappy area because you feel called…everyone says first thing you should do is by in an area with good neighbours so you can resell it later and make money.

    those pressures…pressures that i never felt until talking to people.

  8. buy other used stuff if you’d like, but not a mattress – 1. it’s gross, 2. someone else’s body wore it out in all the wrong places, and 3. a bad mattress could run you terrible medical bills!!

    On the other hand, by the TV you can afford now, you don’t have to stretch it to buy a crazy one – I’m still watching a 27in tube TV… when it breaks I will look for another one – and of course one for the wall, b/c that’s what’s available at the time – not b/c I prematurely bought it to keep with the times…
    most good furniture – I say, by for life: bed, couch, table… and watch it last longer – which is less headache and $ down the road. Ten years later I’m sitting at the same table and couch, and I’ll use my bedroom set until past my 25th anniversary.

  9. I think things would be a lot simpler if community was something we really practiced.
    Its our selfishness that has gotten us here.

    Your neighbor owns an amazing TV set. Instead of thinking, wow, we could have some awesome times together watching the game, movies; having tv nights. No, the first thing you ask is where did you get it, how much did it cost? Then your next thought is hmmmmm, does my credit card have any more space?

    I dont think buying the best quality is wrong, I agree with David. Buy quality always. I think our problem is we need/want EVERYTHING. So, buying quality of everything is tricky and troublesome.

    Now, since we dont live in community where sharing with our neighbor is practiced (or appreciated). I think we are all screwed and this is just another example of end times so I dont need to worry about this.
    Where is my cloud funnel?

  10. Amen to Ron. That’s why I plan to run a community house and live like Plato’s first society…although it’s unclear whether even HE believed that it could actually exist. I had a run-in with Ron’s ideas of “sharing” this past week at church as I was telling my new friend about how I need to go buy some winter boots for my trip to Winnipeg this coming week, and she said “well, wait a sec, what size are your feet?” “7” said I. “Well then you can just borrow mine, I can live without them for a week.” And in that moment i realize that even I, who advocate community living, thought first to purchase my own before asking my community to provide for me. Duh!

    But I agree that we are all screwed. Our system sets us up for dependance and failure from the start. Right out of highschool, before we even know what the hell is going on, we’re forced into University, where we get to wrack up an enormous debt, and then hey, we need to buy a house so we can wrack up an enormous mortgage, and then they have us. The we will work the shitty job and not complain about it because we’ve got thousands of dollars pressing down on us and we’ve got no choice but to just keep working working working off that debt until we die. Sigh. I could go on. you get the picture. Screwed…But there is another way…and I want to find it.

  11. Natalie,

    Who says we are forced to go to university and rack up the bills. Who says we have to buy that big house and spend the rest of our life paying it off. Where does the freedom of choice come in. Maybe our problem is we have our priorities out of wack. When it comes to our finances, isn’t our first responsibility to return to God a portion of what is already His. Read Exodus 13 about giving to God the first fruits of what we have and then God will provide for what we need. You asked for a better way, try God’s way, it works.

  12. well yes, i guess that is my point exactly, NO ONE is forcing us, but yet everything suggests it. If you want to follow the path of North American society, it equals school, more school, good job (with healthy insurance and vacation pay…and to get this job you “need’ an “education”), marriage, nice house, nice stuff in house, investment banking, babies, retirement plan, and once you’ve got enough money for all that, THEN you are rich enough to start giving to charity, right?

    I’m trying very hard to get my legs free of these bear traps and find a new way…well, i guess it’s not really new, since Jesus has been telling us about it for 2000 years now…thanks for your input guys :)

  13. Great conversation here.

    My two cents: buy used and freecycle things as much as possible. I’m not against buying ‘quality’ stuff, but it’s usually a good justification to spend a lot on what you want, rather then simply what you need.
    My wife and I have never bought a new mattress, and we’ve done fine (I’m I gross for saying that?).

    The Consumerism of our culture is hugely tempting. stay strong.

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