Bible Answer

Are Christians called to live within their means or to live simply?

Are Christians called to live within their means or to live simply?

Believers are instructed to live within their means, though the degree of our wealth can vary widely. Some Christians will live on modest means, while others may become very wealthy as the Lord appoints. 

Regardless of the level of our wealth, all believers are commanded to live with contentment in what they possess, as Paul says:

1Tim. 6:6 But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment.
1Tim. 6:7 For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either.
1Tim. 6:8 If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.
1Tim. 6:9 But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction.
1Tim. 6:10 For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Contentment means being satisfied with whatever the Lord provides, whether little or much, so that we do not become distracted with the pursuit of more. Solomon put it this way:

Prov. 30:7 Two things I asked of You, 
    Do not refuse me before I die:
Prov. 30:8  Keep deception and lies far from me, 
    Give me neither poverty nor riches; 
    Feed me with the food that is my portion,
Prov. 30:9  That I not be full and deny You and say, “Who is the LORD?” 
    Or that I not be in want and steal, 
    And profane the name of my God.

Contentment is our defense against greedy hearts that covet for more than the Lord provides as ungrateful hearts cannot appreciate His provision. The Bible says we must focus on maintaining a character that does not love money:

Heb. 13:5 Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,”
Heb. 13:6 so that we confidently say, 

Instead of pursuing riches, we should seek contentment in our relationship with Christ, for we can only love one Master at a time:

Matt. 6:19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.
Matt. 6:20 “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;
Matt. 6:21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

A Christian who sets his or her mind on the pursuit of wealth has (by definition) shifted his or her pursuit away from Christ, for we can only pursue one love at a time, Jesus says. This is the core issue: do we pursue wealth at the expense of pursuing Christ? If so, then we sin. 

On the other hand, remaining free from the love of money does not necessarily mean living without money. The Bible never condemns the possession of riches, just the love of riches. Wealth is a tool, and like any tool in the hands of the wise and discerning, it can be a great blessing. Furthermore, we do not make ourselves more holy, pious and pleasing to Christ merely by divesting ourselves of our wealth. Poor Christians can be equally distracted by the pursuit of wealth as can their wealthier brothers and sisters, and even more so because of their poverty. 

Once again, the issue is our heart attitude toward our wealth, not the degree of our wealth. If we work as the Lord commands and He chooses to bless our work with great financial reward, then we must assume that responsibility with great care. We cannot allow that blessing to become a curse in our life by becoming devoted to those riches. Instead, we must steward it carefully with an attitude that recognizes the Lord gave us our wealth, and one day it will cease to be ours, as Solomon wrote:

Prov. 27:23 Know well the condition of your flocks, 
    And pay attention to your herds;
Prov. 27:24  For riches are not forever, 
    Nor does a crown endure to all generations.
Prov. 27:25 When the grass disappears, the new growth is seen, 
    And the herbs of the mountains are gathered in,
Prov. 27:26 The lambs will be for your clothing, 
    And the goats will bring the price of a field,
Prov. 27:27 And there will be goats’ milk enough for your food, 
    For the food of your household, 
    And sustenance for your maidens.