Sunday, January 11, 2009

January 12- Simply Calvin

January 12

Last week we mainly looked at economics from Calvin’s perspective. This week we will look at something that plays on economics- the idea of modesty and simplicity.
“Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness in front of others, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets as the hypocrites do in the synagogue and on the streets, to be honored by others. ..And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received your reward in full. (Matthew 6:1,5, TNIV)

Calvin (speaking of the need to simplify the baptism rite) says: “As though to be baptized with water according to Christ’s precept were a contemptible thing, a benediction, or rather an incantation, was devised to defile the true consecration of water. Afterward a candle was added, with the chrism…I still have the right, together with all pious men, to reject whatever men have dared to add to Christ’s institution. How much better it would be to omit from baptism all theatrical pomp, which dazzles th eyes of the simple and deadens their minds” (IV. Xv.19);
I should quote John Leith (The Reformed Tradition p. 83,84): “Simplicity is a recurring theme in all of Calvin’s writings, and it was a characteristic of his practice. He opposed all redundancy. He was the enemy of the ostentatious, the pompous, the contrived, the needlessly complicated. His style was plain and direct. He opposed needless spending and consumption, but he also opposed other forms of waste. Simplicity is closely related to Calvin’s emphasis on authenticity and sincerity. Every activity or device that covers up reality must be rejected. Simplicity was a general principle with Calvin. He applied it to liturgy, polity, and style of life…and literary style. “
We live in a world that worships celebrities, encourages extra houses, extra cars, extra clothes for every occasion. Consumerism and materialism are driven by the idea of wanting more than we need for ourselves. Credit cards help us get more than we want without waiting until we have the funds to purchase them. The desire for more drives the desire for credit. Is it any wonder we have run out of credit at the beginning of 2009? For about six years I was getting credit card offers every day, wanting me to get a new credit card or write a credit card check. Now these are few and far between. I am glad that we’re not having to shred so much unwanted mail any more. Calvinists have always been mocked for their emphasis on simplicity and modesty compared to others. The picture in the blog today is a scene of Calvin and his wife, Idelette, walking down the street in black while the men in fine clothes ridicule them. A wise person is one who lives simpler than he has to in order to honor God.

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