Seven Ways to Decrease Excess and Increase God's Kingdom in Your Life
- Whitney Hopler Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2012 15 Mar
Editor's note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Jen Hatmaker's new book, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess (B&H Publishing Group, 2012).
Is your consumer lifestyle crowding out the purposes God wants to fulfill in your life? An excess amount of things may seem to enrich your life, but actually impoverishes it. Excess consumes time, money, and energy for what’s not important, when God wants you to invest your resources into what matters most.
When you intentionally reduce the excess in your lifestyle, you create space for God’s kingdom to break through. Then you can see life more from God’s perspective and join Him more in His work.
Here’s how you can take seven months to decrease excess in seven key areas of your life, and increase your participation in God’s kingdom work as a result:
Reduce your food consumption. For month one, choose just seven different types of food to eat, rather than consuming an endless variety of foods. Some healthy foods that can meet your nutritional needs for the month are: chicken, eggs, whole-wheat bread, sweet potatoes, spinach, avocados, and apples. Limit your drinks to water to make this month’s meals and snacks even simpler. If you’re medically able to do so, fast from all food for a short while, skipping some meals to train yourself to focus on something greater than your physical desires. Ask God to help you redirect your physical hunger to an appetite for what will satisfy you spiritually. Turn to God alone for true fulfillment.
Reduce your clothes consumption. For month two, choose only seven different types of clothing to wear (not including underwear, and a pair of shoes counts as one item) night and day for the whole month. Go through your closets and identify all the excess clothes that you don’t really need or have outgrown. Then donate as many as possible to organizations that help people in need. At the end of the month when you can wear more clothes and find yourself wanting some in a different style, consider swapping clothes with your friends instead of buying new ones at stores. Consider how much you’ve learned about humility and giving God glory during this time that you’ve been free from trying to clothe yourself for attention from others. Recognize that it doesn’t matter very much how you look to people on the outside; what’s in your soul is far more important. Remember that Jesus Himself had a very simple appearance (the Bible says in Isaiah 53:2 that Jesus “had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him”) but was magnificently handsome on the inside. Decide to value substance and integrity more than charisma and style.
Reduce your possessions. For month three, choose seven different things you own to give away – every single day (so in a month with 30 days, you’d give 210 items away). Ask God to direct you to specific people in need who could use the items you’re giving away, such as a single mother’s family that’s moving into a new apartment and needs furniture and household items, or refugees who had to leave most of their belongings behind when leaving their countries. Notice how giving away your excess possessions to help others who need them helps you let go of certain qualities (selfishness, greed, power, accumulation, prestige, and self-preservation) and embrace better qualities (community, generosity, compassion, mercy, brotherhood, kindness, and love). Follow Jesus’ advice to store up your treasures in heaven rather than on Earth by focusing on what has eternal value.
Reduce your media consumption. For month four, choose seven different types of media to abstain from, such as TV, video games, social media such as Facebook and Twitter, iPhone apps, radio, texting, and movies or some level of Internet usage. Then use the time that you would normally spend on those media activities for prayer. As you invest the extra time into communicating with God, notice how much more you become aware of His constant presence with you, and how powerfully His love flows into your life. When you resume using the seven kinds of media you’d given up during this month, use them more wisely, keeping them in proper perspective so they don’t turn into idols.
Reduce your waste. For month five, choose seven different habits you can begin to take better care of the environment. Some habits to consider are: gardening, composting, conserving energy or water, recycling, driving only one car, shopping at thrift and second-hand stores, and buying local products. Ask God to use this time to change you from a consumer who just uses God’s creation as a commodity to a steward who takes good care of creation as a sacred gift. Keep in mind that everything in creation is connected, and when people don’t follow God’s call to take care of it, everyone ultimately suffers. So help make our common ground holy ground by doing the right thing for the environment whenever you have an opportunity to do so.
Reduce your spending. For month six, reduce the amount of money you spend by choosing only seven different places to distribute your money. These may be places such as a grocery store, a gas station, a store that sells general household items you may need during the month, school expenses, a medical fund, a travel fund, and paying your bills online. Giving to your church and charities is a separate endeavor that you should continue uninterrupted during this month. In fact, you should increase your giving this month by redirecting some of the money you’ve saved from reducing your spending to helping other people (such as by welcoming others through hospitality and giving to organizations that fight poverty). Ask God to increase your compassion for people in need while you decrease your spending on yourself.
Reduce your stress. For month seven, reduce the amount of stress in your life by observing a weekly Sabbath day for rest and worship and by pausing at seven different times throughout each day to pray. At midnight, pray for those who are going through dark times of suffering. At dawn, give God thanks and praise for the gift of a new day. At midmorning, ask the Holy Spirit to bless your work for that day. At noon, commit to doing your best to help change the world for the better and point other people to the hope they can only find in Jesus. At midafternoon, pray for the right perspective on your life so you can invest your limited time into what matters most. At early evening, thank God for what you’ve experienced during the day and ask Him to give you peace to transition into night. At bedtime, pray for God to deliver you and others you know from evil and thank Him that His love is greater than any sin. Notice how less stress in your life has given you more clarity, so you can better discern what does and doesn’t truly matter.
Jen Hatmaker and her family live in Austin, Texas, where the city motto is “Keep Austin Weird,” and they work hard to do their part. Jen’s eight previous books include Interrupted and A Modern Girl’s Guide to Bible Study. She and her husband planted Austin New Church in an economically and ethnically diverse, socially unique, urban area of the city in 2008. They are in the greatest adventure of their lives. They’ve seen their world turned upside down as they’ve considered what it means to ask God how to live and not just what to do. But it’s a good upside down, as part of that discovery will be the addition of two children from Ethiopia set to join the three they already have. Visit her website at: http://www.jenhatmaker.com/home.htm.
Whitney Hopler is a freelance writer and editor who serves as both a Crosswalk.com contributing writer and the editor of About.com’s site on angels and miracles (http://angels.about.com/). Contact Whitney at: firstname.lastname@example.org to send in a true story of an angelic encounter or a miraculous experience like an answered prayer.
Publication date: March 15, 2012