Ten minutes away from my apartment sits a lovely two-bedroom, two bathroom townhouse on the canal waiting for renters. In it is a guest room so spacious it could pass as the master, enough storage space to make your friends jealous, and a master bedroom so gargantuan you’ll fall over at the sight of it only to find out that right outside is a balcony overlooking the canal. Fully equipped with a table and chairs, a perfect view of your potential neighbor’s boat, big enough for you and your friends awaits. Apparently he could use the company.
Sounds perfect, right?
Yet whenever my wife asks me if I want to move there, I’m overcome with reluctance. Not because it’s too expensive (though it would cost us a bit more) or because it’s further from everything (though it is), but because it’s too nice.
I struggle with having nice things. I look at magazines of huge houses in breathtaking locations and I inwardly hope I never own them. I’m afraid that comfort will cause me to forget the brokenness of the world and disengage from God’s mission. I’m terrified that I’ll forget Jesus in the midst of luxury, which is probably the hardest part about living in Cayman. While nice things have the potential to remind of us the Giver of said gifts, more often than not they cause us to lose sight of him.
As Christians we model ourselves after a man who identified himself with the poor, called people to sell all they have and give it to the poor, warned us we could not serve both God and money, specifically instructed us not to store up treasures on earth, and told us It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God all while having no place to lay his head. To pursue luxury almost feels like direct disobedience.
So instead I buy books either free or cheap on my gifted kindle, wear the same shoes every day, and resist using air conditioning at all costs. But in my pursuit of simplicity I’ve become a Pharisee, judging people based off the amount of money carelessly spent. But here’s the thing: I do it too. I buy five dollar smoothies at least once a month, get breakfast with a friend at least once a week, and even when I refuse to spend money on something because “it could go to the poor” more often I spend it on something else. There are plenty of people who put me to shame with their spending habits. But maybe that’s the issue right there: I’m looking at what everyone else is spending, which has allowed pride to rear its ugly head into my life.
I value simplicity and believe that combined with generosity, it frees us from the idol of materialism prevalent in our culture. But this week I’m recognizing that without Jesus at the center, we end up worshipping the same idol dressed differently. We, as Christians, are allowed to own nice things. Perhaps the solution comes in offering our niceties as well as everything else to God with open palms instead of clenched fists, recognizing it was never truly ours to own, while also understanding He is standard by which we base our lives, not society.