Lately I’ve been enjoying watching House Hunters International on Netflix. I enjoy watching people going to countries where I’ve never been so I can see what houses are like and what the standard of living is, as well as what you get for your money. On the flip side, I’m a bit embarrassed almost every time I watch it, and specifically when it’s an American moving overseas. Most of these people are moving to Europe, which for the most part has an extremely high standard of living. I’m embarrassed at how inflexible and entitled the people are who are searching for a home. Do you really need three bathrooms for a family of four? How much time do you spend in there anyway? I really hope the people on the show are not representative of Americans in general, but I suspect that to some extent they are.
A couple months ago, a friend of mine put up a picture of some homes in South Sudan similar to the ones above. The caption said something along the lines of, “75% of people in South Sudan live in huts such as the one above.” It was simply an informational statement, but the first respondent said, “That’s so sad.” Why on earth is that sad? Is it because it doesn’t have a heated toilet seat and a copy of Cosmo on the tank? Now there’s something to be said for running water, but think of all the advantages. First of all, just look at the scene above. It doesn’t come much more beautiful than that. The homes keep the heat of the day out with their thick thatching. There’s no mortgage over your head, and no bank to be a slave to. When the roof leaks, repairs are easy. What do we need in life? A roof over our heads, clean water, enough food, good health, safety for us and our children, a means to make a living. These are the essentials. Everything else can either be considered a blessing or excess. Many of these things are severely lacking in South Sudan, but the fact that they are living in mud and grass huts is not something to look down on or pity someone for. What they have and what we lack is simplicity.
Hebrews 13:5 says,
“5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,
“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.”
Philippians 4:12 says, 12 I have known both to be abased, and I have known to abound; in everything and in all things I have been initiated, both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to be in want.
Unfortunately it seems that we only know how to abound and to be full. What we don’t see is the slavery we inevitably must live under in that condition. I say this because most of us don’t actually abound. We live in debt to the bank or the mortgage company that holds the note on our “abounding”. Proverbs 22:7 says, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.” How much better would it be if we lived simply, without the slavery that comes with maintaining an impossibly high standard of living? How much more time could we spend with our children? How much weight would be off our shoulders if we didn’t have a thirty year mortgage and a second mortgage, and two car payments? How much more could we give? How much more could we do? It is a documented fact that over half of Americans right now would be unable to pay the bills if they missed one paycheck. Is that what it means to be rich? I think not. Simplicity allows us to focus on the things that are important. Simplicity allows us to take the focus off of ourselves. Simplicity is what allows us to survive in both abasement and in abounding. It makes us more flexible, and it allows us to connect with people better. It allows us to be free of our voracious appetite for more and more stuff. We should not pity people for living in huts, but they should pity many of us. I think it’s time to change our standards and to reassess what is important. Stuff, when it comes in excess is not a blessing, but a curse.