Live a Balanced, Simple Life
“Keep strict watch that how you walk is not as unwise but as wise persons . . . because the days are wicked.”—EPHESIANS 5:15, 16.
1, 2. What is a real challenge today, and with what may it be compared?
IT IS a challenge to sort out priorities, juggle responsibilities, and devote time and energy to the important aspects of life in a reasonable way. It is also a challenge to avoid extremes and maintain mental and emotional steadiness.—Ephesians 5:17; 1 Timothy 4:8; 1 Peter 1:13.
2 This challenge might be compared to that faced by a performer who attempts to walk on a thin high wire. Loss of balance would be a disaster for him. Similarly, the loss of spiritual balance would be disastrous for us. A person walking a high wire surely does not burden himself with many things. He carries only the essentials. In order to maintain our spiritual balance, therefore, we need to live a simple, unburdened life.—Hebrews 12:1, 2.
3. What must we do to live a simple life?
3 If we are to live a simple life, we must involve ourselves only with the things needed to maintain a reasonable livelihood. In contrast with what his disciples should seek—God’s Kingdom and His righteousness—Jesus Christ spoke of “the things the nations are eagerly pursuing.” (Matthew 6:32, 33) So Jesus admonished us to avoid accumulating a lot of these things. Why? Because they can complicate our life and lead us astray. (Luke 12:16-21; 18:25) This is good counsel, regardless of whether we are wealthy or poor, well-educated or not.
Why So Important Now
4. Why is living a balanced, simple life so vital now?
4 Living a balanced, simple life is especially important now because Satan and his demons have been confined to the earth and are intent on weighing us down and diverting our attention from God’s service. (Revelation 12:7-12, 17) Therefore, never before has the Bible command been more applicable: “Keep strict watch that how you walk is not as unwise but as wise persons, buying out the opportune time for yourselves, because the days are wicked.” (Ephesians 5:15, 16) Yes, we are living in Satan’s wicked world, not God’s new world. Hence, we cannot afford to become complacent.—2 Corinthians 4:4; 2 Peter 3:7, 13.
5. How did servants of God in ancient times set us a fine example?
5 Servants of God who lived in this Devil-ruled world in ancient times set us a fine example. They “publicly declared that they were strangers and temporary residents in the land.” Therefore, they sought “a better place, that is, one belonging to heaven.” (Hebrews 11:13-16) Their allegiance was to God’s heavenly Kingdom, even as ours should be. For this reason, the apostle Peter called Christians “aliens and temporary residents.” (1 Peter 2:11; Philippians 3:20) In fact, Jesus said that his true followers “are no part of the world.” This means, as the apostle Paul said, that Christians should not ‘be using the world to the full.’—John 17:16; 1 Corinthians 7:31.
6. (a) What do we need to remember, and to what can our situation be compared? (b) What warning example should all of us heed?
6 So we always need to remember that this world belonging to Satan is dangerous territory in which to live. A misstep can mean disaster. (1 John 5:19; 1 Peter 5:8) Our situation might be compared to that of a person walking through a field mined with explosives. Citing a warning example for Christians, the apostle Paul told of the Israelites who were ready to enter the Promised Land. Many lost their spiritual balance, became involved in immorality, and were put to death by God. “Consequently,” Paul wrote, “let him that thinks he is standing beware that he does not [lose his spiritual balance and] fall.”—1 Corinthians 10:12.
Why It Is a Protection
7. What self-examination should we wisely make?
7 Living a balanced, simple life will protect you because it will allow you more time and energy for spiritual things. So wisely ask yourself: Am I simplifying my life, or am I complicating it? What things really come first in my life? Some say they have little time to study the Bible or to share in the field ministry. But what is the reason? Likely, it is their failure to live a balanced, simple life. Why not compare the amount of time you spend on recreation, such as watching television, with the time you spend serving Jehovah in one sphere of Christian activity or another? Is your use of time balanced? Simplifying your life will allow you time for the more important things, which include sharing to a greater extent in the all-important spiritual harvest.—Philippians 1:9, 10; Matthew 9:37.
8. How does one heed Jesus’ admonition to seek first the Kingdom, and what illustrates the importance of forward momentum?
8 Actually, your spiritual activity is a measure of whether you are living a balanced, simple life. Christians who are heeding Jesus’ admonition to seek first God’s Kingdom are moving ahead at a good pace in regular Bible study, meeting attendance, and the field ministry. Such forward movement is a real protection against falling. It might be compared to riding a bicycle. Those who have tried to balance a bicycle that has slowed down practically to a standstill appreciate the importance of forward momentum. Similarly, as long as you are moving ahead at a good pace in a routine of spiritual activity, you are protected from losing your balance and falling.—Philippians 3:16.
9. (a) What is a good reminder for all of us? (b) When contemplating a project, what questions might we ask ourselves?
9 Yet, there is a need to be vigilant, to remember that unburdening ourselves of things can allow more time for study, for meeting preparation, and for helping others. “Whenever I’m tempted to buy something I don’t need, or take on work I don’t need,” said one Christian businessman, “I stop myself with the reminder to keep it simple. Sometimes I have to be blunt with myself.” Is that not a good reminder for all of us? When you contemplate some project, perhaps building an addition to your house or something else, why not ask yourself: Is this going to contribute to my spirituality and that of my family or is it going to hinder it? Do I really need all the things that people of the world eagerly pursue, or can I do without them?
10. How do the views of a “physical man” contrast with those of a “spiritual man”?
10 However, someone might object: ‘Is such self-sacrifice really necessary? Are we required to live a balanced, simple life?’ Well, Paul spoke of “the things of a man” and “the things of God” and said: “A physical man does not receive the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot get to know them, because they are examined spiritually. However, the spiritual man examines indeed all things.” (1 Corinthians 2:11, 14, 15) You could easily become a “physical man” by seeking out and acquiring unnecessary things of a material nature. In such a case, self-sacrifice looks excessive, even ridiculous. But that is the view of a “physical man,” not the view of a “spiritual man.”
11. What would have been an unbalanced course for Noah, and how do we live a balanced life today?
11 A spiritual man is one who views matters through the eyes of faith. He sees things from God’s viewpoint. Consider Noah. Would he have been balanced if, after learning of God’s purpose to destroy the world by a flood, he had spent his time building a bigger and better home and obtaining more material possessions? Of course not! The ark was his true security. For Noah, living a balanced, simple life involved devoting full attention to building the ark and being “a preacher of righteousness,” despite the ridicule of faithless ‘physical men.’ (2 Peter 2:5; Matthew 24:37-39) Similarly, since we have been enlightened about the imminence of the world’s end, the only balanced way of life for us is to focus our attention on doing God’s will and proclaiming the good news, even though that may involve what many view as sacrificing a so-called normal way of life.—1 John 2:17.
Jesus Taught Us How
12. (a) What did Jesus say we should stop doing, and what should we do instead? (b) Why is this change of purpose needed?
12 In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gave fine counsel on living a balanced, simple life. He said: “Stop storing up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break in and steal.” Jesus used the word “stop” because people usually just keep on “storing up” material things for themselves. But a person who becomes Jesus’ disciple cannot be doing this anymore. His life must have a different purpose, as shown by Jesus’ follow-up command: “Rather, store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Giving the reason why this change of purpose is needed, Jesus said: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”—Matthew 6:19-21.
13. If you are to store up treasures in heaven, of what must you be convinced?
13 Your treasure is what you consider truly important. Are material possessions your treasure? Or is it the sanctification of Jehovah God’s name and his promised reward? To spend your life storing up treasures in heaven rather than on earth, you must be thoroughly convinced of the Kingdom’s reality. The new world must be so real to you that you can see it in your mind’s eye and see yourself there working toward the accomplishment of Jehovah’s purposes for the earth. Like Moses, you must ‘see the One who is invisible’ and be firmly convinced that ‘he will reward those earnestly seeking him.’—Hebrews 11:6, 27.
14. What will be the consequences if our hearts are set on material things?
14 But what if your heart, which includes your desires and affections, is set on material treasures? The Bible says: “The love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things, and by reaching out for this love some have been led astray from the faith and have stabbed themselves all over with many pains.” Pursuing material things that money can buy simply does not provide true and lasting satisfaction. (1 Timothy 6:10; Ecclesiastes 5:10) But most tragic of all, love of money and material things will damage your relationship with God, who expects us to serve him with “a complete heart.”—1 Chronicles 28:9.
15. (a) What illustration did Jesus give concerning the eye? (b) In both a physical and a spiritual sense, how does a person maintain a simple eye? (c) If our eye is simple, how will our spiritual vision be like that of three of Jesus’ apostles?
15 To help us avoid the snare of materialism, Jesus gave two illustrations. First, he said: “The lamp of the body is the eye. If, then, your eye is simple, your whole body will be bright; but if your eye is wicked, your whole body will be dark.” (Matthew 6:22, 23) In a physical sense, a “simple” eye is one that is in focus, conveying clear images to the mind. An unfocused eye conveys confused and blurred images. Similarly, a spiritual eye that is “simple,” or in focus, conveys a clear image of God’s Kingdom, not a blurry, out-of-focus picture that makes the new world seem like some fairy tale or myth. If your spiritual eye is in focus, God’s promised new world will be as real to you as the Kingdom was to the three apostles who were privileged to see a preview of it in the miraculous vision of Jesus’ transfiguration.—Matthew 16:28–17:9; John 1:14; 2 Peter 1:16-19.
16. In a second illustration, how did Jesus show the need for singleness of purpose?
16 Jesus gave a second illustration. “No one can slave for two masters,” he said, “for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stick to the one and despise the other.” Driving home the point, he again emphasized the need to show singleness of purpose, saying: “You cannot slave for God and for Riches.” (Matthew 6:24) That simply will not work. So Jesus continued: “On this account I say to you: Stop being anxious about your souls as to what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your bodies as to what you will wear. . . . For all these are the things the nations are eagerly pursuing. For your heavenly Father knows you need all these things.”—Matthew 6:25-32.
17. (a) What point was Jesus making by his instructions regarding material things? (b) What was Jesus here emphasizing, and what does living a balanced, simple life involve?
17 Jesus did not mean that his followers should leave the providing of material necessities to chance or that they should be lazy and refuse to work in order to provide for themselves and their families. (1 Timothy 5:8) No, but the point is that these material things eagerly pursued by the nations should not take priority. Rather, as Jesus admonished: “Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33) So Jesus was here talking about goals in life and was emphasizing the futility of pursuing material things. Living a balanced, simple life involves focusing our eyes singly on Kingdom interests, making everything else secondary.
Example of Jesus and Others
18. How did Jesus set the right example for us?
18 When urging Christians to “put off every weight and the sin [of lack or loss of faith] that easily entangles us,” Paul urged: “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, as we look intently at the Chief Agent and Perfecter of our faith, Jesus.” (Hebrews 12:1, 2) Jesus was so exclusively devoted to Kingdom interests that his situation was as he described: “Foxes have dens and birds of heaven have roosts, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay down his head.” (Matthew 8:20) At the same time, Jesus was not an ascetic. The Scriptures show that he enjoyed fine food and clothing, yet his principal goal in life was to accomplish his ministry. Thus Jesus lived a balanced, simple life.—Luke 5:29; John 19:23, 24.
19, 20. (a) What example did Paul set regarding material things? (b) What lesson have many learned today, and how do they feel about their life course?
19 The apostle Paul too had his priorities in proper order. He explained: “I do not make my soul of any account as dear to me, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received of the Lord Jesus, to bear thorough witness to the good news.” (Acts 20:24) Yes, to fulfill the all-important ministry, Paul was content with the bare necessities but was pleased to enjoy an abundance occasionally. He wrote: “In everything and in all circumstances I have learned the secret of both how to be full and how to hunger, both how to have an abundance and how to suffer want.”—Philippians 4:12.
20 Literally tens of thousands of persons have learned the same lesson today. Many of them are full-time ministers of Jehovah’s Witnesses, including missionaries, pioneers, traveling overseers, and those serving at the organization’s international headquarters and branch offices. After years of full-time service, most say: “If I had it to do over, I would not do anything differently.”
Blessings You Can Enjoy
21, 22. (a) What rewards are enjoyed even now when we live a balanced, simple life? (b) What future blessings can you enjoy?
21 While leading a balanced, simple life involves sacrifice, the blessings and joys are incomparable. You will thus have more time to advance Kingdom interests and greater opportunity to find interested ones and teach them about God’s purposes. True satisfaction and contentment will be yours, including peace of mind and the assurance that you are pleasing Jehovah God. That is a reward you may enjoy even now.—Philippians 4:6, 7.
22 But the future blessings will be far greater, causing any present sacrifices you may make to pale in comparison. Jehovah’s blessings include “life to time indefinite.” Yes, that can be your blessing—eternal life in happiness in Jehovah’s righteous new world. Live a balanced, simple life, never letting things of this world unbalance you. Remember that God will grant you the requests of your heart.—Psalm 21:3, 4; 37:4; 133:3.
Questions for Review
□ What examples and illustrations did you note that can help you to live a balanced, simple life?
□ How will living a balanced, simple life protect us?
□ If our spiritual eye is simple, what will this mean to us?
□ How did Jesus teach us to live a simple life?
□ What are the blessings of living a balanced, simple life?