Simply Challenging

By Mark A. Taylor

Seldom does a gift-shop display demand a photo, but the irony in this one begged to be recorded.

There, in the center of decorations, dinnerware, and every conceivable starred-and-striped Fourth of July doodad was a framed poster. Available for only $25.49, in hues of red, white, and blue, it sported only two words:

“Live Simply.”

It seems the American marketing machine can capitalize on any sentiment. This includes offering us ways to spend money promoting a philosophy that advocates spending less money.

“What does it really mean to ‘live simply’?” I asked my traveling companion, when we had returned to the car.

We were finishing a five-day road trip during which four of us had spent hundreds of dollars sightseeing, eating, buying gas, and staying in a hotel. But the trip was not extravagant: meals at Cracker Barrel and Subway; overnights in a room whose rate was less than half of others nearby; travel by fuel-efficient car instead of plane.

Had we taken a simple vacation? Perhaps. But beset by headlines reporting African AIDS victims, American communities decimated by floods and forest fires, and worldwide suffering due to high gas prices, I’m not so sure. Millions would call what we enjoyed pure luxury.

The Bible doesn’t advocate simplicity as such, but stewardship. Doubtlessly, heeding biblical money principles has led some to settle for inexpensive pleasures. But more than one Bible hero was wealthy, and the apostle Paul felt no guilt about living with plenty (Philippians 4:11-13).

Of course, he also said he could be just as happy with little or nothing. His focus was on Christ and his work, not this world and its wonders or even its simplest pleasures.

And so far, his approach to life hasn’t stimulated many gift-shop slogans:

“Content with Whatever” (Philippians 4:12).

“Free from the Love of Money” (Hebrews 13:5).

“Food and Clothes—What More Could I Want?” (1 Timothy 6:8).

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