October 13 - 19, 2008



Involuntary simplicity

A kindly senior citizen in my congregation recently gave me a big Mason jar of peaches that she had put up in late summer, when peaches in Adams County, Pa., are ripe, juicy and plentiful. It reminded me how much our economic lifestyle has changed.

Only a generation or two ago, nearly every family in rural America would be spending the summer and fall putting up fruits and vegetables for the winter. Hundreds of jars of tomatoes, corn, beans, berries and other fresh produce would fill the cellar shelves to provide food for winter. For these families it wasn't a hobby but an economic necessity. Who could afford store-bought food? And even when families might be able to afford it, why would they spend money on something they could supply cheaply and easily?

Nowadays, most rural folk and city dwellers alike buy food in the supermarket. And not just the raw materials for recipes, but processed food and ready-to-eat dinners. Take-out meals are a rising business in supermarkets, as busy parents rush in for rotisserie chickens, ready made lasagna, packaged salads and cooked veggies. (So now the art of cooking is dying, too!). All of these items cost much more than their unprepared counterparts,

It's not just the art of home-canning that we have lost as a culture, but a whole mindset towards money and possessions. Those who, like the kindly senior citizen who gave me the peaches, lived through the Great Depression know the fleetingness of wealth, the value of hard work and the emptiness of extravagance. Even now, when her husband and she are sufficiently well off to buy whatever they want from the supermarket, she still puts up vegetables and fruits.

Putting up your own food has been promoted by the voluntary simplicity movement for years. Voluntary simplicity is nothing more than the idea that people may choose to live below their means.by choosing "simple" housing, clothes, transportation and diet. Advocates point out that voluntary simplicity not only saves money, but it can also improve wellbeing by consciously repudiating the lie that more wealth, possessions and power can make us happy. Living simply, we can more easily understand the true source of happiness -- God, family, neighbor and love.

Now we are in the midst of a global economic crisis. For families living with loss of income and uncertainty in their jobs and finances, simple living may provide a survival strategy. For families blessed with a secure income, simple living is still a great idea to reduce spending, which would enable them to save and give more generously to the needy.  It may be involuntary for some, but simplicity is good for everyone.
-Rob Blezard, editor and webmaster
Reprint rights gladly given to congregations for local, nonprofit use. Just include this notice: "Copyright (c) 2008, The Rev. Robert Blezard, archive.stewardshipoflife.org. Used by permission."

New This Week:

Managing The Church’s Financial Resources
Enrichment JournalThis is a  “mother lode” of resources dealing with church finance – a set of articles dealing with a wide variety of financial issues and problems that every church encounters. The main piece and sidebars deal with such basic issues as financial controls, budgeting and documentation. Click here for “Managing the Church’s Financial Resources,” from Enrichment Journal, the magazine of the Assemblies of God.

Six Ways to Calculate Your Church Budget
Your ChurchIf budget time is an annual occasion for your finance committee to tear its hair out, here is a resource that might help. It lists a number of alternatives for putting a church budget together. It may help your church to get out of a rut. Click here for “Six Ways to Calculate Your Church Budget,” from Your Church magazine.

SharronThe Things That Are God’s
Jesus’ interchange with the Pharisees over taxes in this week’s Gospel text can teach us much about our own approach toward money. “One of the critical steps in moving from the illusion of control to a life of biblical stewardship is in letting go of the notion of possession.” Click here for this latest essay by SOLI columnist Sharron Reissinger Lucas. Click here to read her archived columns.

Pastoral Letter: On the Current Financial Crisis
ELCAThe ELCA Conference of Bishops, consisting of all 65 synodical bishops, has issued a special letter to guide pastors, church leaders and every Christian in how to think and react to the current economic downturn. Good resource to help your sermons, your budgeting and your ministries. Click here for “On the Current Financial Crisis,” from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Tuck AakerA Winning Approach
Time and again, congregations facing budget problems give more – and their finances improve! “It has happened time after time and still the majority of our congregations can’t summon the faith to overcome their fears of taking a new direction and trust the Lord to provide for their needs. What part of faith don’t they understand?” Click here for “A Winning Approach” from stewardship columnist Tuck Aaker in ELCA Stewardship Resources.