Less is More
Earn. Save. Give. — October 25
Last week we started our look at Stewardship. Stewardship is a fancy church word that really means to manage all of the things of God. You talked about this a little bit in your small groups last week, but God has given humanity authority to manage all of God’s creation with an understanding that all of God’s creation belongs to him. That includes our money, our things, and our very lives. God wants us to manage all things to bring him glory.
About this time every year we talk about stewardship in the church as a way to fund all of the ministries that go on during the year. All of the things in God’s creation are his, so when we talk about stewardship we talk about giving some of our money back to fund God’s ministries.
As a church, we’re talking about John Wesley’s three rules for managing our resources — of practicing good stewardship. John Wesley founded the methodist movement which led to the United Methodist church. His three rules are simple: Earn all you can. Save all you can. Give all you can. These rules are pretty straight forward.
Go out and earn all the money you can. Money isn’t bad and having it isn’t a bad thing. Earn all that you’re able to. Then go and save everything you can too.
Make sure that you are in a good position for the expensive parts of life — college, buying a home, retirement. I know it sounds crazy to some of you, but if you start to save all you can now, you’ll be in a great position when you are an adult.
The final rule John Wesley gives us for being good stewards of God’s resources is to give all that you can. This one is often times the hardest for us to do. Giving all we can seems crazy because we’ve earned our money and our things, why should we give them away? We’ll talk a little bit more about giving all you can next week, but tonight, we’re going to focus on our stuff.
We accumulate a lot of stuff in our lives. Think about what you have with you right now. In my pockets I have my personal keys, my church keys, my wallet which has a bunch of stuff in it, I’ve got my phone which has a ridiculous amount of stuff on it as well… and that’s just in my pockets right now. Think about your bedroom, your closets, your garage… how much stuff do you have?
Did you know that as Americans we have three times the amount of space in our houses then Americans did just 50 years ago? Three times the space. That’s a lot of stuff. But at the same time, it’s not enough space. The personal storage business is HUGE. By some accounts, it’s a $22 BILLION a year industry. We’ve got more space which leads to more stuff…
John Wesley tells us to earn all we can and, as Americans, we’re really good at it. We earn and spend and collect things. Yet, we tend to forget about the next two rules: save all you can and give all you can. We earn all we can and turn our hard earned dollars into things: phones and books and movies and more stuff.
The problem is that the more stuff we have, the unhappier we tend to be. This is true. The more we have, the unhappier we become. We think buying all these things and filling our lives with stuff will make us happy, but in the end it creates stress trying to find places for it and we become unhappy with the money we’re spending… it’s a vicious cycle.
I like to watch TED Talks. They’re a great way to open my mind to different ideas. I was listening to one this week given by Graham Hill. Graham founded a website in the early days of the internet and sold it for millions and millions of dollars in the late 90’s. He did what any of us would do right after that: he started spending. He bought cars and a giant house and then realized he needed furniture to fill up the giant house. All of a sudden Graham had accumulated a lot of stuff, but he wasn’t happy.
So Graham did something radical: he calls it life editing. Instead of the 3,500 sq. foot house, Graham downsized to a 400 sq. foot apartment. He realized that he didn’t need a bunch of things in his life. He didn’t need stuff. He edited his life to find ways to, as he puts it, think small. For Graham, less is truly more.
He realized that the less things he accumulated, the more he could focus on living life and the experiences that life brings. In his talk, Graham explains that the less stuff he had, the happier he became. And you know, Graham is correct.
Carla and I tend to go through our stuff a few times a year. You’d be surprised how easy it is to accumulate things. They just sort of appear and all of a sudden you’re house is cluttered with stuff and you don’t know what to do. Yesterday we had a garage sale to get rid of some of that stuff that we don’t need. It feels pretty good to go through the stuff you’ve accumulated and to get rid of it. It brings happiness.
But as Christians, we need to take this a step further. When we focus on our stuff and we just keep accumulating more, then our time turns into worrying about our stuff and not of glorifying God. Remember, God calls us to be good stewards of all the things of his creation. If we’re just accumulating stuff to store it away in a closet or a garage or an off-site storage unit then we’re not using it to glorify God. We’re not being very good stewards of the resources.
Proverbs 3:13–14 (CEB) says:
Happy are those who find wisdom and those who gain understanding. Her profit is better than silver, and her gain is better than gold.
The wisdom we’re talking about tonight is that, as Graham says: less is more. John Wesley tells us to earn all we can, but he doesn’t tell us to keep it all. He tells us to save what we can and then give away all that we can. If you’re anything like Carla and I, then you have stuff in your life that you just don’t need and that stuff could benefit someone else. That’s what stewardship is all about. Living your life in a way that allows you to give what you can, so that your life might glorify God.
Stewardship is about funding our ministries here at the church and for us, that means opening the third floor for usage. But in order to do these things, we need to be able to give all we can. In order to do that, we have to live our lives understanding the less is more concept that Graham Hill talks about.
Less stuff in our lives means more stuff to give back to God.
Less stuff means more time to devote to God’s needs.
Less means more.
And, just like the proverb says, this is the wisdom that brings happiness.