Tuesday: Time to Simplify?
What should Seventh-day Adventist Christians do in response to difficult times? Do we hunker down in a survival mode? No, in fact, just the opposite is true. Because we know that the end of the world and the second coming of Christ is near, we want to use our assets to tell others the good news of the gospel and what God has prepared for those who love Him. We understand that someday soon everything on this earth will be burned up.
Read 2 Peter 3:3-12. What is Peter telling us with these words?
We understand from the Word of God that He is not sending moving vans to take our stuff to heaven. It will all get burned up in the final conflagration when all traces of sin and evil, except the scars on Christ’s hands, will be forever destroyed.
So, what should we do with our possessions? “It is now that our brethren should be cutting down their possessions instead of increasing them. We are about to move to a better country, even a heavenly. Then let us not be dwellers upon the earth, but be getting things into as compact a compass as possible.” — Ellen G. White, Counsels on Stewardship, p. 59.
Of course, she wrote those words more than a century ago! But still the principle remains: time is always short, because our lives are always short. What are 60 years, or 80 years, or 100 years (if you have good genes and good health practices) in contrast to eternity? Your life can end before you finish reading this week’s lesson, and the next thing you will know is the second coming of Jesus. (Wow, that was fast after all, wasn’t it?)
As Seventh-day Adventist Christians we must always live in the light of eternity. Yes, of course, we need to work hard to provide for ourselves and our families; and if we have been blessed with wealth, nothing is wrong with enjoying it now, provided we don’t become greedy and are generous with it in regard to the needy. Yet we must always remember that whatever we accumulate here is transitory, fleeting, and, if we are not careful, has the potential to be spiritually corrupting.
|If you knew Jesus were coming within ten years, how would you change your life? Or five years? Or three?|
Having to deal with the death of a family member in the last year has reminded me of the true value of possessions. When my father-in-law died, we had to clear out the home that they had lived in for the last dozen years. I remember sitting with him in his study several months before he died, and he asked me what was going to happen to all the stuff he had accumulated. I told him that we would distribute it among family and friends. I did not tell him that a fair bit of it was going to go to the garbage tip. When he died and we had given as much as we could to friends and family we still sent 12 cubic metres of accumulated stuff that nobody wanted to the garbage tip.
The thing is that we all accumulate stuff that in the end has to be given or thrown away. I think that most of us understand that. However, it serves as a reminder that the things that last are not material things. The people I remember most fondly are not people who have given me things or money, but those who have imparted wisdom and love, and understanding. People who have taught me the “big picture” things of life; who have spent time with me; who have loved me unselfishly.
The lesson asks the question:
My sincere hope is that I will spend more time with people, building relationships with them, sharing and listening, loving and caring, teaching and learning. I look at it this way. Whether Jesus comes or not in the time frame mentioned in the question, my own time is limited. I want to share that time and not hoard it to myself.
Through the practice of simplifying our lives in terms of material possessions, we can help cultivate and train our hearts to desire what is enduring—God’s word of truth.
There’s a real psychological connection between too much stuff and the ability to think clearly about anything, including God’s voice.
Based on my own experience, clutter doesn’t just occupy physical space, but also mental space.
Since these recent lessons quote quite frequently from Ellen White about the disposal of one's estate etc., it would probably be useful if we found out how she handled hers.
According to various scholars who have studied her personal letters and diaries, Ellen White was renowned for promoting a simple and selfless way of living, whereby she refrained from amassing significant personal wealth. Instead, she embraced a modest lifestyle and used her resources to aid the expansion and progress of the Church. She also advised individuals to plan for their future and provide for their families, while avoiding excessive attachment to material possessions or accumulation of wealth solely for personal gain.
Ellen White's estate was eventually given to the Seventh-day Adventist Church, as per her wishes. She had made provisions in her will for the distribution of her estate to various Adventist institutions and causes, including the publishing work, medical missions, and educational programs. "The Last Will and Testament of Ellen G. White" - This article, published on the official website of the Ellen G. White Estate, provides a copy of Ellen White's will, as well as a detailed explanation of how her estate was distributed after her death. The article also discusses some of the controversies and legal challenges that arose in the years following her passing.
I'm not sure that should make a difference. If we allow the Holy Spirit to speak to us, it really doesn't matter what someone else does or has done. (As I understand it, her will was quite complex - leaving some things to family and friends and setting up a trust account for the management of her writings. Most of us don't have a large body of writings whose sale will continue to bring in income.) The Bible makes clear that we should "seek first the Kingdom of God," and He will take care of the necessities. She seems to echo that message, while suggesting that in our wills we are not to leave our family destitute if they can be benefited by what we leave them. She also suggests that an inheritance can as often be a curse as a blessing, and, if you think about it a bit, you can probably think of examples where inheriting goods or money was not a blessing to people.
It is worth noting that around Cooranbong, where she lived for a number of years, she was remembered as the person who helped folk in need. When I was a young student back in the 1960s, there were families that still spoke of her generosity towards their parents. They also remembered that she did not like cricket, but we can forgive her for that!
Living in difficulty (in a world of sin) is another chance God gave us to seek for a better world that we lost in Eden! There is no any other reason for this life, but to find a lost treasure (I mean the kingdom of God). He could have allowed us to die from the moment we fell.
So, while we are living in this world, striving to live, we should not forget the reason God gave us this life, this chance! And that is nothing but salvation of our soul.
So, what did Ellen G. White do with her possessions and estate during her life before she died? Yes, her estate was sold after she died and used to bless God's work. But then a very wealthy Seventh-day Adventist doctor bought it back and made a museum out of it!!!!!?????
If you knew Jesus were coming with in ten years, how would you change your life? or five years? or three? or one? or today?
My hope is that I will spend more time with people, building relationships with them, sharing and listening, loving and caring, teaching and learning. and I will put all things to Jesus because I knew the time.
As I recall from reading about her, Ellen White was very generous with her possessions throughout her life. Not only did she give to the church and to specific projects, but she helped out individuals whenever she saw the need.
I personally dislike questions like the final one. There is no way to know that Jesus will return in 10 or 5 or 3 years, so speculating about what we'd do if we knew is kind of pointless. Some things we should do now, regardless of when Jesus returns. Beyond that, I'm not sure what the "right" answer to a question like that is supposed to be.
My answer to the question was that I would be more conscious of nurturing relationships with hopefully the opportunity to share Jesus with those people. That's something I should do anyway and I will hopefully make it more of a priority.
But beyond that....if I really knew Jesus was coming in x years, I would cash in my RRSPs, stop saving for retirement etc., and that is not something that would be wise. I really don't expect to retire; I think Jesus will come first. But 20 years ago, when I was in university, I never imagined to be still here in 20 years. And if I'd been asked that question then, maybe I would have answered it by saying I wouldn't bother getting an education. Time has shown that would also not have been wise. And so I prepare for retirement even though I don't really expect it to happen.
Ultimately, Jesus says be ready, not get ready. I think we should live our lives in that framework.
If you knew Jesus were coming within ten years, how would you change your life? Or five years? Or three? Or one? Or today?
If I'm balanced I probably think of living longer! But I can never be so sure, because death is a reality in this world. So all I have is now, today, to be prepared for Jesus return!
"But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve... But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15