We all know the saying: Less is more. We hear it often and mostly use it with no real thought to put it into practice.
It sounds good. And applied in the right context, it can be beneficial.
But have you ever heard it applied to Christianity, to your relationship with God? Have you ever heard a sermon that concluded with a call to action like let’s all try to pray less this week? Or let’s try to do less good this week?
The announcement of this topic has angered many people, and I received several emails and other responses. Luckily, none were from people who know me personally, for I was accused of all kinds of terrible things!
I think it is wonderful that I upset some people by saying let’s do less for God. But I hope you will stick around long enough to understand where I am coming from…
Less is more
The phrase less is more was first used in a Robert Browning poem in 1855 and later made popular in 1945 by an architect. This approach in architecture involves stripping a design down to its bare essentials and casting aside any elements that do not contribute to the pure beauty or function of an object or space.
As a proverb it evolved to mean that that which is less complicated is often better understood and more appreciated than what is more complicated; simplicity is preferable to complexity; brevity in communication is more effective than verbosity.
Less is more! But still, how does this apply to my relationship with Jesus?
A religious scholar asked Jesus a question recorded in Matt 22 and Mark 12
“Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”(Mat 22:36 NLT)
This was a more complicated question than it appears to be at first glance. Just the number of laws that there were in the Torah was a matter of fierce debate. The Pharisees were convinced that there were 613 laws in the law of Moses. Other groups either had a higher or lower number. Of the 613, 365 were negative commandments telling you to abstain from something or other. The remaining 248 were positive commandments telling you to do things.
If you counted all the secondary laws and various applications of the laws, the number was actually more than 2000 or around 4000 depending on who you listened to. It was a complicated thing following the law of Moses. I have never memorized a list of 613 of anything…
Jesus’ answer is even more profound when you understand this context:
Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’
This is the first and greatest commandment.(Mat 22:37-38 NLT)
God spoke this same thing through Hosea many years earlier:
I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings.(Hos 6:6 NLT)
I’m after love that lasts, not more religion. I want you to know GOD, not go to more prayer meetings.(Hos 6:6 MSG)
When Jesus answers this question, I think we should not just hear how He understands the law of Moses and how it all fits together. I think we should hear the cry of His heart. His yearning for our love. The Passion Translation phrases it like this:
Jesus answered him, “‘Love the Lord your God with every passion of your heart, with all the energy of your being, and with every thought that is within you.’(Mat 22:37 TPT)
This is a lot less to do, 611 fewer things to do but a lot more to be!
We are human beings, not human doings!
But you might say to me, I love God and serve Him with all my heart. But I have no idea what those 613 laws are. I’m not at risk here?
Here is the thing, we all discover more and more things we can do for God. Every Sunday in a sermon, every prayer meeting, every time we read our Bibles. This is great but this list can grow very quickly and become as complex and difficult as the 613 laws. We seem to miss that there is nothing we can do to cause Him to love us more. And there is nothing we can do to cause Him to love us less. He loves us because He loves us.
The moment we slip up on something we know to do, and we feel guilty, we feel out of contact with God, less free in His presence, we have stepped into the trap of condemnation, and we are vulnerable.
Jesus looks at people burdened by so many things, and He calls to them:
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.(Mat 11:28 NLT)
Sounds like less to me…
The Message Bible says it like this:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest.
Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.(Mat 11:28-29 MSG)
In all He wants us to do, He actually just wants to spend time with us.
Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”(Mat 11:30 MSG)
At another time Jesus called out:
On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’”(Joh 7:37-38 NLT)
Christianity is INSIDE OUT! You cannot put it on. It is an impossible burden to bear. It is not a coat to wear. It is a change of heart. And when those waters start flowing.
Jesus is the master of KISS. Keep It Simple & Succinct.
Keep company with Him and everything flows from that. It will feel like you are resting, but you will be accomplishing more than ever before.
Don’t make it complicated. Don’t make the list long. Keep it simple. Keep company with Him. And let the rest flow. Be with Him. Don’t do for Him.
Less is more!!