Jan Johnson
Jan Johnson

WisBits Archive

October 2012

Raising our Standard of Loving

Once a month I have an appointment not far from a large, college-oriented book store. I used to drop by there on my way home every month, coming away with at least one purchase.  I have to confess I felt good as I drove home - as if I had friends (books) in the seat next to me. As I prepared to write Abundant Simplicity, I asked God, Is there anything unhealthy in this? While some of it was my healthy desire to learn and grow, it was also about having “smart” books because I hang out with some smart people. It was also about my desire to cocoon away my life reading rather than reaching out and loving people. In God’s gracious presence, I even began to consider all the books I had at home that were unread. So I decided to see how many months I could go without visiting the bookstore. It’s been a good experiment in frugality.

What is frugality?  Refraining from owning things we don’t need, or from using money or possessions to satisfy a hunger for status, glamour, or luxury. While some people don’t own certain luxuries because they can’t afford them, persons learning frugality limit their possessions as a matter of principle. Frugality is not so much about spending less or finding bargains but about limiting or carefully choosing what we acquire so that it benefits others and teaches us to rely on God, not things.

“We have to choose between our stuff and our serenity,” a wise person told me. She was right. All the stuff we own creates not only physical clutter but also mental clutter.  It takes a toll on our life because all the things we have stashed away in our apartment, garage, file cabinet, and even computer documents is also stashed in our mind. The stuff we can see steals not only our mental energy but also physical energy as we clean it and try to find replacement parts for it.  Our “stuff” robs us physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Being frugal helps us live with discernment and clarity of mind, analyzing expenditures by asking, Do I really need this? With Wisdom it says, “Give me neither riches nor poverty, let me be fed with the food that is needful for me” (Prov 30:8, italics mine).  Instead of simply asking ourselves, Can I afford this?, we cultivate generosity of heart so that we begin wondering, How might I benefit others?

Decluttering our living space makes it easier to declutter our lives because our thought processes are no longer clogged. Practicing frugality reinforces intentionality, prodding us to continually ask ourselves, What do I want? and What do I really need? Our heart also gets cleaned out, a process that creates the opportunity for many inward conversations with God.

As we shed excess possessions, we have more time and energy, fewer headaches and items on our “To Do” list.  Because life is less complicated we can spend time on things we deem important: hanging out with God, paying attention to people we love (and a few we don’t), and serving in adventurous ways that previously took a back seat. It becomes easier to share money and possessions with joy. As followers of Christ, we commit ourselves to continually raising our standard of loving rather than our standard of living.

If you’re feeling courageous, ask God what possessions you’re being invited to let go of.  Or how you’re being invited to limit shopping moments. 

Excerpted and adapted from chapters 5 & 6 in Abundant Simplicity.

Grace and peace,
Jan Johnson

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