Being an intern with Heartwork has really encouraged me to live a life of simplicity. As I learned that God calls us to live with less to find true abundance, I began to cut my spending exponentially. I tried to stop buying anything at all – including food, drinks, or even a $5 shirt from the thrift store.
My intentions started off right, but as I refrained from spending, I began to think I was better than my peers when they went out to eat or purchased new things. That intention for simplicity became mere appearance-another opportunity to look good. Instead of being motivated by compassion and love, I was trying to look better than ‘those’ people that were not choosing my new way of life.
It was in this place that God began to reveal just how ugly my thoughts and heart were becoming. At first, I was ashamed to realize that I’d acted like some do-gooder, but just as quickly as I felt his correction; I was also filled with His grace and love. He showed me the state of my heart not to shame me, but to transform my heart and bring my actions and thoughts into unity with Him.
It’s easy as a Christian to feel pressure to live up to the expectation of perfectionâ€¦ as if somehow committing to live like Christ makes us superhuman. Often, we spend a lot of time making sure that our lives look holy. We get rid of all our extra stuff, stop spending frivolously, and carefully attend to early morning devotions each day. We sit in the front row
at church, raise our hands really high in worship, and sing at the top of our lungs.
All of these practices are really beautiful when they are a reflection of our hearts, however, we can easily slip into getting our “do’s” checked off the list while our hearts become more cluttered and messy than ever. We get lost in making sure our holy exterior is ultra visible and forget to attend to our inward life-our spirit.
Where do these lists come from, though? Our drive to please peopleâ€”to find our identity in the affirmations of others instead of in a trusting relationship with God. This pleasing only drives us deeper into “do’s” and “don’t’s” and away from grace and humble submission. We end up in an endless cycle of guilt-driven works rather than focusing on the state of our hearts.
The thing is, God finds pleasure in us when we surrender not just our actions, but also our hearts.He desires the relationship of good father and childâ€”not master and slave. He came as Jesus to show us how to live-by the Spirit instead of law, to be transformed inwardly in a way that will naturally reflect outwardly.
In Luke chapter 11, a Pharisee invited Jesus to dinner but was shocked when he noticed that Jesus did not wash himself before the meal. Jesus responded by saying, “You Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people! 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.” He continued to warn them saying, “You give God a tenth of what you have but you neglect justice and the love of God. You love having a seat of honor and respect but you are nothing. You load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.”
It turns out that the choice between spending or not spending money is not good or evil in and of itself. Spending less money to bless others more is an amazing thing to choose, but we must be careful that our desire to change our spending habits matches the motives of a humble heart.Being a Christian grants us the amazing realization that God forgives our every blunder and graces us with love to try again.
It gives us the opportunity to admit to our shortcomings and surrender our weakness. Instead of hiding our face, we get to lift our eyes to the One that gives us help. He meets our broken hearts with transformative love instead of condemnation and shows us how to spend ourselves with both our hearts and our actions.