Summary: Each individual Christian needs to keep asking themselves, how can I simplify my life, not for the sake of simplicity, but for the sake of the kingdom of God.
I've always loved the Cinderella story, and have read it to my granddaughter, and
listened to it on record many times. It is a story that fits so well in our culture. From
rags to riches is the American dream come true. The poor little servant girl escapes
from the wash water to live in elaborate elegance with the prince, and because of all that
wealth, presumably, lives happily ever after.
Denise George in her book, The Christian As A Consumer, points out that the story
would, no doubt, be a flop if it was reversed. If Cinderella started as the wife of a prince,
and ended up as a poor servant girl, few would get interested in a second reading. Yet
the greatest story ever told, the story of Jesus, involves a reversal of the Cinderella
theme. Paul tells it in one verse in II Cor. 8:9, "You know the grace of our Lord Jesus
Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that by His
poverty you might become rich."
Jesus, the prince of the heavenly palace, became a servant, and by His voluntary
poverty and service He gave us the greatest life ever lived, and the greatest sacrifice ever
offered. He did so that all people might have the potential of being a prince or princess in
that heavenly palace forever. So what you have in the Gospel story is Cinderella
reversed, but also retold and revived so that it becomes a two way street, and both ways
can be good, for after Jesus became poor for us, He was again exalted to the right hand
of God, and eternal riches. It can be good to go from riches to rags, and it can also be
good to go from rags to riches. Neither of them are always good, but both of them are
potentially beautiful roads to travel.
Modern Christians in a materialistic culture tend to see successful living as only a one
way street, and it is the road from rags to riches. Many Christians, however, have
rebelled against this kind of Christian life-style that is culturally enslaved to the
materialistic mind. They have sought to promote and practice what is commonly called
the simple life-style. In some cases it is radical, and there is a going from riches to rags as
people give up good jobs, big houses, expensive cars, and other possessions to live in
communes where they share everything with one another. This does not appeal to the
masses, however, and so the major effort is to get Christians to rethink their whole
relationship with things, and develop a more simple, and less possession dominated,
If everybody was happy with the concept of success that dominates our culture, even
the Christians would probably be content to conform, and go along with it, because the
fact is, everybody enjoys prosperity better than poverty. Unfortunately, not everybody
gets a fair share of the pie. Not only is our country full of people who live in poverty, but
we live in a world where the haves have more, and the have nots have less than ever
before. The world view has forced many Christians to question the economic policies
that promote world poverty for the sake of prosperity for the few. The materialistic
drive for success has put an enormous burden on the self-image of millions of Americans.
Teen-age suicide has been growing, and much of this tragedy is tied to the pressure to
succeed, according to the value system of our culture.
To follow Jesus literally in His life-style is so radical that few Christians could handle
it, or have any desire to attempt. We read in Matt. 8:20, "Foxes have holes, birds of the
air have nests; but the Son of man has no where to lay His head." We can rough it
camping for awhile, but to have no place to call our own to come back to is not our idea
of the good life. Nor do I think Jesus would expect us to try and imitate what was so
appropriate for Him, and His disciples, at that point in history. Imagine a traveling
evangelist today trying to live by Christ's command to His disciples in Luke 9:3: "Take
nothing for your journey, no staff, no bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two
tunics." Nobody ever traveled lighter than this, for this was the simplest life-style. To
urge this on anyone in our culture would be unrealistic.
Ronald Sider, is one of those who wrote the book, Rich Christians In An Age Of
Hunger. He came out of the Brethren In Christ, who are very close to Mennonites, and
he became professor of theology at Eastern Baptist Seminary in Philadelphia. He, and