SUMMER IN GOD’S GYM: The Discipline of Frugality<br />August 9, 2009<br />Intro.:<br />Name that brand. Give a selection of ad slogans and ask the audience to name the brand…<br />Do these ad campaigns contribute to our contentment? Clearly not! How do they square with the memory verse that I would like to offer for today’s spiritual discipline? Not very well! Here’s the verse:<br />Hebr. 13:5: Keep your life free from the love of money and be content with what you have; for He has said, “I will never fail you or forsake you.”<br />Today our focus is on the spiritual discipline of Frugality. But that’s un-American!, you say. And I’d have to agree. Sometimes our American culture, as much as we love it, just doesn’t harmonize very well with the teachings of Jesus and the values of the Scriptures. Every day, if you listen to the radio or TV, read newspapers or magazines, surf the net, or engage in any of a number of other ways of interacting with the popular culture, you are inundated with appeals to spend, acquire, indulge, consume, accumulate, collect, or in some way add to your life and lifestyle things that are supposed to make your life better. So how’s that working out for you?<br />Today I’d like to offer the spiritual discipline of Frugality as an antidote to the free-spending, “more-is-better”, materialistic spirit of our age. I’d like to also offer the related discipline of Simplicity as a similar remedy to the increasing complexity and accompanying stress of what has become the “normal” way of life for most of us. <br />- Show “Confessions of a Shopaholic” DVD<br />Definition:<br />First, let me define the spiritual discipline of Frugality. Here’s how Dallas Willard describes the discipline:<br />In frugality we abstain from using money or goods at our disposal in ways that merely gratify our desires or our hunger for status, glamour, or luxury. Practicing frugality means we stay within the bounds of what general good judgment would designate as necessary for the kind of life to which God has led us…. <br />The spiritually wise person has always known that frivolous consumption corrupts the soul away from trust in, worship of, and service to God and injures our neighbors as well. O Hardman forcefully puts the point:<br />It is an injury to society as well as an offence against God when men pamper their bodies with rich and dainty foods and seriously diminish their physical and mental powers by excessive use of intoxicants…. Luxury in every form is economically bad, it is provocative to the poor who see it flaunted before them, and it is morally degrading to those who indulge fin it. The Christian who has the ability to live luxuriously, but fasts from all extravagance, and practices simplicity in his dress, his home, and his whole manner of life, is therefore, rendering good service to society.<br />While frugality IS a service to God and humankind, our concern here is with it as a discipline. As such, it frees us from concern and involvement with a multitude of desires that would make it impossible for us “to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God” (Mic.6:8). It makes it possible for us to concentrate upon that “one thing needful”, the “good part” Mary chose (luke 10:42). <br />(Willard p168-169)<br />We can hardly think about the discipline of Frugality without first of all acknowledging a problem that is rampant in American culture--namely, the problem of debt. If I were to ask for a show of hands as to how many of us carry more debt than we want to, I suspect most of us would raise our hands. I appreciate the growing influence of Dave Ramsey, who is helping many Americans get free from the debt trap by applying principles that are mostly straight out of Scripture. <br />Here’s a video clip from a TV news report profiling a family in the Midwest who took a Dave Ramsey challenge and used radical frugality to get free of debt. <br />(show YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M2dFKEJjRPg)<br />The Calkins family in the video used some extreme measures to get free of dept. Initially, their motivation was a trip to the Bahamas. But once they got into a frugal habit, they apparently discovered Frugality had it’s own rewards. <br />Motivation:<br />Since most of us don’t have the incentive of a trip to the Bahamas to work for, what are some other reasons to practice Frugality? <br />Getting out of debt is a worthy motivation for many. Choosing to live with less in order to give away more is also an excellent motivation. Giving up lesser things in order to pursue better things is a very biblical idea. Choosing to forsake conspicuous consumerism and instead find ways to identify with and give to the poor sounds to me like a Jesus thing to do.<br />Scripture:<br />Let’s look at what Jesus has to say on this subject. Did you know that Jesus talked about money more than just about any other subject? Why do you suppose that is? Could it be because he knew—then as now—that money typically dominates entirely too much of our time and attention in life? Let’s turn to the Sermon on the Mount as recorded in Matthew 6. Here is the heart of Jesus’ teaching—teaching that most people admire but too few of us really practice! While you’re looking up Matt. 6, let me give you a couple of quotes about the Sermon on the Mount:<br />John Stott puts it this way: The Sermon on the Mount is probably the best-known part of the teaching of Jesus, though arguably it is the least understood, and certainly it is the least obeyed (The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, InterVarsity Press, 1978, p. 15).<br />Harry S Truman said, I do not believe there is a problem in this country or the world today which could not be settled if approached through the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount.<br />Let’s read Matt. 6: 19-34 (note: v22 “good”=single, generous; v23 “bad”=stingy, jealous)<br />Read it again in The Message<br /><ul><li>Where is your treasure? – mostly in heaven or mostly on earth?
Where is your focus? – more outward & generous, or more inward and stingy?
What is your anxiety level? – preoccupied with what to eat and what you’ll wear? Are you a worrier or worry-free?
What’s your priority? – God’s kingdom and righteousness, or your own needs?</li></ul>I promised you that along with our discussion of the Discipline of Frugality we would also consider the related Discipline of Simplicity. Richard Foster’s chapter in Celebration of Discipline has some excellent insights and applications that I would like to share with you. I think you’ll see that his thoughts about Simplicity apply equally well to the Discipline of Frugality.<br />Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, chapter 6 – The Celebration of Simplicity:<br />Without simplicity we will either capitulate to the “mammon” spirit of this present evil age, or we will fall into an un-Christian legalistic asceticism. Both lead to idolatry. Both are spiritually lethal. (p 85)<br />The central point for the Discipline of simplicity is to seek the kingdom of God and the righteousness of his kingdom first and then everything necessary will come in its proper order. (p 86)<br /><ul><li>To receive what we have as a gift from God is the first inner attitude of simplicity.
To know that it is God’s business, and not ours, to care for what we have is the second inner attitude of simplicity.
To have our goods available to others marks the third inner attitude of simplicity. (p 88-89)</li></ul>The Outward Expression of Simplicity: (pp 89-95)<br /><ul><li>Buy things for their usefulness rather than their status.
Reject anything that is producing an addiction in you. (newspaper illus. p91)
Develop a deeper appreciation for the creation.
Look with a healthy skepticism at all “buy now, pay later” schemes.
Obey Jesus’ instructions about plain, honest speech.
Reject anything that breeds the oppression of others.
Shun anything that distracts you from seeking first the kingdom of God. (Job, position, status, family, friends, security—these things and many more can all too quickly become the center of attention. </li></ul>Read Crazy Love stories:<br /><ul><li>Marva Dawn
Shane Claiborne</li></ul>PRAY: Jesus, what would you have me do as an exercise to practice frugality or simplicity?<br />