My dad gave me one dollar bill
‘Cause I’m his smartest son,
And I swapped it for two shiny quarters
‘Cause two is more than one!
And then I took the quarters
And traded them to Lou
For three dimes – I guess he don’t know
That three is more than two!
Just then, along came old blind Bates
And just ’cause he can’t see
He gave me four nickels for my three dimes,
And four is more than three!
And I took the nickels to Hiram Coombs
Down at the seed-feed store,
And the fool gave me five pennies for them,
And five is more than four!
And then I went and showed my dad,
And he got red in the cheeks
And closed his eyes and shook his head –
Too proud of me to speak!
– “Smart” by Shel Silverstein
This comical narrative about a featherbrained son and his flabbergasted father leaves us with a timeless truth: sometimes less is more! (I guess Charmin Ultra was on to something?!)
Featherbrained as the boy may have been, you have to admit that he did express some logic in his line of thinking. For one who obviously knew little about the value of currency, it would appear that the higher number of coins obtained = the more riches secured. Yet the opposite was true. What he viewed as his gain, was ironically his loss. All of his efforts turned out to be wasted, for he did not educate himself in monetary value.
The same can be true of us, spiritually speaking. Just as our government has set their standard for monetary value, God has set His standard for spiritual value. Like the featherbrained son, we fallaciously believe that having more denotes wealth. Yet God’s word has a very different message…
• The world says more: live it up. God’s word says less is more: die to the flesh. (Romans 8:12-13)
• The world says more: buy, buy, buy. God’s word says less is more: give, give, give. (Proverbs 11:25)
• The world says more: show off your deeds. God’s word says less is more: keep it to yourself. (Matthew 6:5-6)
• The world says more: compete to win. God’s word says less is more: let others succeed. (Mark 9:33-35)
• The world says more: seek monetary wealth. God’s word says less is more: seek spiritual wealth. (1 Timothy 6:17)
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher that the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. – Isaiah 55:8-9
There is this overwhelming belief in our world that being considered “less than” is a tragedy. To those who are of the world, God’s blueprint seems entirely enigmatic…
I must die to live?
I must give to get?
I must humble myself to be exalted?
I must go last to go first?
I must be poor to be rich?
Nonsensical, they say. The world would have us believe that “nice guys finish last”; that the only way to get ahead is by looking out for Yours Truly. The world laughs at christians, for they perceive us to be missing out. Like the featherbrained son, they believe that our loss is their gain. Well I just laugh right back – because I know something they don’t know:
Less me will bless me.
The scriptures are rife with this truth, yet what does the “Less Me Life” look like in action? Today we are going to identify three ways to implement this attitude into our daily life…
The “Less Me Life” With My Ministry…
Less Distressing & More Professing
When it comes to leading others to Christ, we tend to lean towards one of two methods: distressing, or professing. The first is a “beat ’em over the head” approach. Many people mistakenly believe that the best way to win people over to Christ is by putting worldly ignorance to shame by entering into arguments with non-christians. They think they are doing the work of God, but they act more like a soldier headed into mortal combat. The problem with the approach of distressing is that someone always comes out dead; not with newfound life.
The latter approach (professing) has every bit as much zeal, but with the crucial addition of shrewd gentility. A person who professes rather than distresses knows that “the best defense is a good offense”. Instead of arguing and trying to defend our moral position, we ought to be in the business of showing why Jesus is the way, and glorifying his attributes. When we lead others, we must focus first on leading them to the person, not the principles; the savior, not the system. When hearts are true, both will come with a little time.
We read in Job 34:3 that “…the ear trieth words, as the mouth tasteth meat.” Considering words in comparison to food, the words by which we speak to those outside the fold should be such as to make them want to take another bite of our teaching, NOT spit it out. Our words should be true, yes – but not only that – also well-seasoned and palatable.
Like it says in Proverbs 16:23-24, “The heart of the wise teacheth his mouth, and addeth learning to his lips. Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.” Are we teaching our mouths to speak pleasantly towards those are without? Are our lips learning the art of honeycomb evangelism…speaking in a way that is both sweet and healthy (filled with a palatable balance of spirit and truth)?
Proverbs 11:30b states: “he that winneth souls is wise.” The pursuit of evangelism is all well and good, but there must be “a method to our madness”. Not just any Joe Blow can win souls – it takes a wise individual that focuses more on professing than distressing. In other words, a wise christian is more interested in winning souls than arguments.
Ask yourself: Am I striving to be the light of the world, or the leader of the debate team?
If I make myself the center of attention by making other people look foolish and myself look wise, I will win no one. However, if I make Christ the center of attention by making Him look glorious and the world look unappealing, then I am on to something.
He must increase, but I must decrease. – John 3:30
Less me will bless me with my ministry.
The “Less Me Life” With My Moments…
Less Digressing & More Progressing
If we are not careful, many of us will at one point or another fall into a rut of apathy and laziness. At the core of our fleshly sin nature is a selfishness that runs deep. Our selfishness causes us to be spiritually lazy. When given the choice between the spiritual and the carnal, we often lean toward the carnal. Sure, we may not go so far as to choose going to night-clubs over night-church! Yet selfishness is often much more subtle than extreme. In reality, selfishness comes down to the little choices we make from day to day, such as binge-watching television when we really should be studying, or falling asleep instead of taking time to talk to the Lord. Sometimes it seems harder to choose the right thing than the easy thing, but remember – less me will bless me! If we stop digressing and start progressing, there are rich rewards to be had.
We all know these famous words of our Lord: “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21). What we need is a perspective change in regard to spiritual things. If we learn to treasure spiritual things, then our hearts will be in it. If we wait until we feel like choosing the spiritual over the carnal, we may be waiting a long time! We must train and guide our feelings, rather than letting them have the reins. First we change our minds; then our hearts (and furthermore, our feelings) will follow suit.
2 Timothy 3:5 warns us of those who “have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof“. What if that person he warns against is you, or me? Do we at times deny God’s power by putting low priority on spiritual pursuits? I think all of us undervalue the spiritual at times because we simply do not see the results of our efforts right away. Our flesh causes us to quickly think “this is boring” when we don’t see any real pleasure or worth in what we’re doing. Then we run to our televisions, video games, books, or any other vice we might use in order to distract us from the eternal. Things that bring instant gratification. Yet it’s like my father always used to say: anything worth doing takes time. If we deny our flesh in the present, we will reap great spiritual benefits before we know it!
When it comes to choosing between the hard choice and the easy choice, always choose the hard thing first. Perhaps you think to yourself: “Hmmm, should I spend some time reading my bible, or browsing social media?” Read your bible first, and I guarantee you will be able to muster the energy for browsing later! If you browse first, you are more likely to get sucked in for longer than is prudent. We seem to always be able to make time for things we love doing. Therefore we must be intentional about loving the things of God – every time we deny our flesh it will get easier and easier to choose well.
We choose to go to the moon! We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too. – President John F. Kennedy, Rice Stadium Speech (September 12, 1962)
As our nation had such fervor for reaching spatial heights, ought we not to have even greater fervor for reaching spiritual heights?
I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 3:14
Less me will bless me with my moments!
The “Less Me Life” With My Money…
Less Depressing & More Possessing
If you asked most anyone if they would rather have less cash flow or more, it’s fairly easy to guess what their answer might be. Who doesn’t want a little more bread in the billfold? Truly, everyone’s life is affected by money in some fashion, and we all need some to get by in this world. Yet how do we know when enough is enough? What if money has become an idol in our life?
Each of us should self-evaluate from time to time and make sure our priorities are in the right place concerning monetary advancement. Some good questions to ask ourselves are:
Is money coming between me and my faith? (i.e. Taking a job that pays well but keeps me from the assembly?)
Is money coming between me and my family? (i.e. Working so much I have little time to love on my spouse or train my children?)
Is money coming between me and my fidelity? (i.e. Being a “little” dishonest when it benefits my pocketbook?)
Psalm 73:12 gives us this sober wake-up call: Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches.
Now does this mean that only the beggars and the homeless will enter into Heaven? Of course not. Yet consider the heart of the matter: those who have prospering in the world and increasing in riches as their main focus are not God-minded individuals. Now, should we seek to provide our family’s needs, and even bring small joys to our household in the form of innocent wants (in moderation)? Absolutely. However, if money comes between our faith, family, or fidelity, it has taken a wrongful place in our lives.
Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God who giveth us richly all things to enjoy. – 1 Timothy 6:17
Like the passage states, riches are “uncertain”…they can come and go. How foolish to trust in uncertainty, when we can trust in a certain and living God! Better to be poor in this world and rich in the next than vice versa!
He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity. – Ecclesiastes 5:10
The funny thing about money is it seems that no matter how much a person gets, they could always use a little more, and a little more. That is because money can never fully satisfy us. Only God has the power to fill us all in all. Like Solomon so aptly penned concerning wealth in Ecclesiastes 5:16b…what profit hath he that hath laboured for the wind? Money will always leave us wanting.
They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches; None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him: (For the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth for ever:) – Psalm 49:6-8
In other words, can money save our loved ones? Will our success in this world have value that stretches on into eternity? Won’t we someday regret neglecting others for the sake of money, when we ought to have rather been ministering to them and furthering the cause of Christ?
We need to be more interested in getting to heaven than getting ahead.
There is that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing: there is that maketh himself poor, yet hath great riches. – Proverbs 13:7
Less me will bless me with my money.
Remember the flabbergasted father and his featherbrained son? Our Father, Jehovah God, is just as stunned by our feather-headedness when we know so little of true worth. We would be wise to follow His standard on value, because – just like in the story – sometimes less truly is more. Let us never be so featherbrained to think we are gaining when we truly are losing. Rather, in the spirit of Philippians 3:7, let us rewire our brains to count those things we used to regard as gain, to be loss for the cause of Christ.
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. – Philippians 2:5-10 (emphasis added)
In his 2009 book, “Gospel-Powered Parenting: How The Gospel Shapes And Transforms Parenting”, William P. Farley notes of the aforementioned passage:
Jesus did not cling to his rights. Instead, he “made himself nothing,” became a slave, humbled himself, and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Jesus submitted. He obeyed his Father’s authority. Submission to authority expresses humility, and God always exalts the humble. So the Father raised Jesus to his right hand and gave him all power and authority.
The “Less Me Life” even blessed Jesus – the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! Will we not mirror His ways as we are called to do in John 13:15-17? “Happy are we if we do these things“.
Instead of distressing, digressing, and depressing; I want to spend my days professing, progressing, and possessing! Are you with me, friends?
And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better. – Hebrews 7:7 (emphasis added)
There you have it, folks. Without a doubt, less me will bless me!
For God’s glory,
Chelsea Bolks is a church of Christ minister’s wife, and the home educating mother of two children. She and her family currently reside in Northwest Iowa.