The passage I am preaching from today makes a powerful point, “…and abundant grace was upon them all. For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostle’s feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need” (Acts 4:33b-35).
What the Bible describes here is radical in today’s economic world. These believers were liquidating material assets in order to take care of one another. The Bible labels this kind of benevolent downsizing as a demonstration that “…great grace was upon them all” (Acts 4:33b).Grace then was an exercise in living with less in order to bless others. Grace was not measured in how much you owned, but in how much you gave up and gave away.
Imagine a church filled with people who are all working to simplify their lives in order to take care of each other. The focus of this congregation was not on things but on the needs of others. Success was not defined by ownership, but by fellowship. Wouldn’t you like to be a member of a church like that?
The most powerful verses in the Bible about living a simple life are those spoken by Jesus about the lilies of the field and the birds of the air. Jesus said, “…do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25).
Then Jesus points out how God amply feeds the birds and how God fashionably clothes the lilies. While on earth Jesus lived by these principles of complete simplicity, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Matthew 8:20).
I think these early believers were downsizing their possessions because they not only wanted to take care of each other, but also they wanted to show the unbelieving world what it meant to look like Jesus.
When Robbie and I went to study for the ministry in seminary, we sold almost everything we owned. We got down to the basics, moving to a new place and a new church with only the things we would absolutely need to make a new beginning. Everything we had left fit into a mid-sized U-Haul. Many years later, when we moved from our house on Ben Hill Drive to where we live today, it took 4 full loads crammed into the largest U-Haul truck available. Now instead of a small, two bedroom apartment in seminary, we have a four-bedroom house on Cypress Place and a 5,500 square foot Vacation home in Tennessee. Robbie and I, over the years have certainly acquired a lot of stuff, and I even find it difficult to write this article about how the church in Acts committed itself to a simple—non-cluttered lifestyle.
GOOD NEWS! Robbie and I have made a beginning toward simplicity. We are cleaning out closets, garages, cabinets, shelves, cedar chests and work areas. I have made countless trips to Goodwill and the Salvation Army. The Good Samaritan has come to our place to pick up our donations of furniture and furnishings. We’re giving stuff away. We’ve got a long way to go, but at least we’re on our way toward simplicity. You know what SIMPLICITY feels like so far? It feels like FORGIVENESS. It is an amazing feeling. It’s like saying good bye to old transgressions and sins. I highly recommend it.