Tuesday, September 29, 2009

When Wisdom says "Simplify"

For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight (1 Cor. 3:19).

The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many men for me to deliver Midian into their hands” (Judges 7:2).

Schooled in the wisdom of this world we work hard to accumulate things. Our aspirations and ambitions are generally shaped by more, bigger, better. We not only work hard to gather and grow, we work hard to work hard. To be busy is to be important. To be constantly sought after is proof of competence and worth.

But in the rare still moment we sense that the busier we get and the more we accumulate, the emptier we feel. Exhausted and glutted we wonder what’s missing.

Sometimes wisdom says “simplify.”

Gideon wasn’t stupid. Israel was being oppressed by the Midianites, a ravenous enemy whose terrorist-type tactics involved attacking the food supply. Like a swarm of locusts, they would strike during planting season, destroying crops.

Gideon, exercising good common sense, had taken to threshing his wheat in the confines of a winepress. He was hiding his stuff from the enemy, protecting his assets, guarding what was his. He was living his life defensively because times were hard. That’s when an angel came and appeared to Gideon and commissioned him to raise an army and deliver Israel from Midian.

Gideon obeyed, but cautiously. He asked for signs of God’s presence and favor and God patiently complied. Eventually Gideon amassed an army of 32,000 men.

Having gathered Israel’s strength at full capacity, Gideon was given the battle plan. “You have too many men.” For Gideon to fight at full strength meant that Israel might boast; the people might begin to think that their own strength had won the day.

So God told Gideon to divest, downsize, get small – and then go to battle. With a small army, Israel would come to know the size and might of their God


We much prefer to live life at the full capacity of our strength: our full earning potential, our complete health, our maximum influence. For most of us the aim of life is to maximize and the key to living well is to maximize even more.

But sometimes wisdom says, “You have too much.”

We have too much stuff, and we worry about protecting it, insuring it, keeping it safe. We have too much to do, and we run ourselves into the ground keeping up with it all, meeting demands and expectations, pleasing superiors and managing those not-so-superior. We have too many options and we feel bored with all of them.

But the world in its wisdom applauds us. God’s wisdom says to slow down and strip down. Simplify. With less of us and our stuff and our agenda, there’s more of God. God removes our sense of pride, takes away our reason for boasting, and invites us to live by grace. But living by grace is foolishness to the world. Living by and for anything else is foolishness to God.

What would it mean today for you to simplify?

You must increase, O God. We must decrease. Make us bold like Gideon and help us to obey you, trusting you rather than what we have. Looking you o you for our identity rather than our tasks or careers. Be large in our living today as we seek to simplify and become small in simple acts of service and obedience. Amen.

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