Jesus’ life gives an ideal version of what joyous ease and dependence on God could deliver.
Scripture tells us that the invisible, infinite God parted the curtain between heaven and ground and stepped to our neighborhood as the flesh-and-blood human being we know as Jesus Christ. Jesus was the only person in history that got to pick his life circumstances before he was born.
If you might have decided your financial net worth prior to coming to the world, where would you have pegged it? Or, if a genie suddenly appeared before you and offered to improve your yearly income to anything you wanted, just how many zeroes would you add? If you are like me, then your knee-jerk reaction might be, “No matter Bill Gates is creating sounds great. Or Oprah Winfrey. Adjusted for inflation, of course, every year.”
Curiously, Jesus–who could have chosen a net worth more than any person in the history of the planet –chose to live very humbly. He had been born in a borrowed barn and immediately became a refugee. When Mary and Joseph committed him in the temple, they provided two pigeons as a sacrifice, indicating that Jesus was born into a family in the lowest economic bracket in Israel. Based on Joseph’s vocation, we also know that Jesus may well have been a carpenter until he became a rabbi.
When I ride my bicycle down Ontario Street within our town, I regularly see a group of guys standing in a specific corner that look like they have fallen on financial hard times. They’re expecting to be picked up by a few building crews as a day laborer. As I ride beyond them, I sometimes imagine Jesus among them. When Jesus made the transition from being a blue-collar laborer into a white-collar instructor, he might have leveraged his popularity for financial benefit. But he chose to remain financially weak, and he chose to be homeless for part of his life (Luke 9:58).
So why could the infinite God, who could have procured his earnings at any level, choose to live in the world without the net worth of the founder of IKEA, or perhaps at a solid middle-class degree? In part, because Jesus wanted to show us that God chooses to stand in solidarity with the bad. As stated by the World Bank, 71 percent of the planet lives on ten bucks or less a day. By getting one of them in the person of Jesus Christ, God is saying,”I stand with the bad.” Jesus also decided to be financially bad because he knew that money and material possessions could mess and even suffocate our relationship with God (Matthew 6:24), making it impossible for all of us to breathe emotionally and get the gift of God’s love and concern for us.
Moreover, Jesus decided to live with a very small quantity of money because he wanted to learn to depend on God. Just like you and me, he had to learn to eat, walk, speak, read, and write and to grow in adulthood. In addition, he learned more than depend on God for his everyday needs. When Jesus taught us to pray,”Give us this day our everyday bread,” he had been instructing us his own prayer, since he also prayed to God, his Father, for his daily bread.
Selecting Simple Abundance
However, what exactly does it mean for us to walk in the footsteps of Jesus toward simplicity and deeper reliance on God? As we see in the Gospels, Jesus did not have a higher income, a home of his own, or many of our planet’s comforts, conveniences, and comforts (Matthew 8:20). Rather, he experienced much distress and adversity in his lifetime. And Scripture informs us that he had a joy that surpassed his peers.
This joy stems out of his ever-deepening relationship with God, whose love he valued. Because he believed nourished, uplifted by God, and genuinely content, he did not pine after material things that he didn’t need. As soon as we develop in deeper dependence on God and treasure his love and care, we’ll discover an abiding joy and pride the world around us doesn’t understand (John 14:27). We will also find ourselves urge fewer things we do not really need and instead of longing to open our hands and share from the fullness that we’ve already been given.