Instruct those who are rich in the present age not to be arrogant or to set their hope on the uncertainty of wealth, but on God, who richly provides us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the age to come, so that they may take hold of life that is real.
—1 Timothy 6.17-19 (HCSB)
(In case you missed it, see ‘traveling light, a theology of simplicity’)
We are all striving toward something.
We are all heading in some direction.
We are are all living for some purpose.
Many, at least in the United States, have some concept of the ‘good life’ or the ‘American dream’…usually involving:
- a house of a certain size in a desireable neighborhood
- a certain number of children (or none at all)
- a certain level of income (usually more than we currently make)
- a certain amount of ‘toys’
- a certain car our social circle would admire
- clothing by a certain designer
- and so on and so forth
The bottom line is that, for many of us, the ‘good life’ typically revolves around stuff.
I’d like to propose that, as Christians, we should be focused not on living the ‘good life’ but living the ‘real life.’ More than this, it is the simple living of the Christian life that helps make the this ‘real life’ a reality.
The real life focuses on others
Paul’s instruction to the wealthy…and, yes, if you’re an American, you’re rich beyond measure compared to most of the world…is to use their wealth to help others. ”Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the age to come” (v.18). His focus is not to condemn the rich, condemn riches, or insist we live lives of voluntary poverty. Instead, we are encouraged to use the resources God has freely given us to benefit others. We should not be obsessed with monetary riches but be rich in good works. We should not be ones to hoard our wealth but always be generous and willing to share that which God has richly provided us to enjoy (v. 17). While the Christian life should always place others above ourselves, getting caught up in the trappings of the ‘good life’ can distract us. The focus of the ‘real life’ is not on ourselves but on others.
The real life focuses on faith
If our security comes from what we’ve put into our savings accounts, our 401k, or our mattress, we will never live the real life. We will never achieve peace, especially in times like those today, and we will certainly not be prone to cheerfully share what we have. But if, as Paul exhorts, we find our security in God, the true source of our provision and security, our lives cannot help but be characterized by both security and charity. The Christian life reminds us of this truth and grounds us in Christ as our true provider and security. Simple living only enhances our security when we are living at the point where our lifestyle isn’t completely tied to our paychecks and our lives reflect our confession. Just as traveling light requires faith, so too does living the real life.
The real life is truly the good life
Here’s a dirty little secret: the ‘good life’ as we usually define it is a facade, a farce, and a sham. It’s a product of advertising firms and credit card companies. And, for many, the ‘American dream’ is dead. You know what? The ‘good life’ as we usually define it isn’t that great after all. Despite what our culture, our television commercials, and our fallen human nature tells us, life isn’t about accumulating things. It is about enjoying what God has given us and sharing it with others.
The ‘real life’ is the ‘good life’ we’ve been so desperately chasing after.
We need to realize it has been right before our eyes all along.