A Case for Convenience

by Dave

I used to feel guilty for not making my own butter.

It usually happened when I was on Facebook and I saw all sorts of activities that my friends are involved in that I am not. They make their own butter/toothpaste/clothes/furniture, grow their own vegetables, hunt, fish, and build barns. Some of them make homemade soap, wash their clothes by hand, and dry them on lines. And I would look at their photos and how happy they are in them and think, “Man, am I even a good dad? My kids do not know how to raise chickens!”

Ironically, as we move closer to living in Africa I am realizing that many of these activities are taking over my life. Here in France we do not have a car so we walk everywhere. We have a small washing machine and no dryer, so we have to either try to get all of our laundry hung up on our porch or walk down the stairs (we live on the 4th floor) and hang it up outside. Further, when we move to Cameroon our solar-powered life will just be less convenient. We will be living in a small village and have to buy our food at a local market and then carry it home. Cleaning is more frequent and takes longer when you live in a house with screens for windows. And (as I just learned from the status update of a fellow missionary family) we will probably use our oven to dry clothes during the rainy season.  Sometimes we get overwhelmed with how much time it takes to “just live” and I ask myself how we are going to have time to translate the Bible!

As I am considering all of this I have been growing in my thankfulness for convenience. I did not really think about it when I had it, but driving a car is a whole lot faster than prodding 4 young children every morning to go to school. Tossing a load of laundry in the dryer is quite a bit quicker than hanging it up. And in America we have a LOT of conveniences. Which means we are able to do in 10 minutes something that some people spend hours doing in other places. There are many people all around the world that spend every part of their day just doing what is necessary to live.

And my guilt has been vanishing. I have realized that while I can and should glorify God in the day-to-day-living aspect of my life (washing dishes and walking to school), conveniences offer me a type of freedom. Conveniences minimize the “have-tos” and maximize the “can-dos.” And it frees us from the tyranny of spending life serving only self and family. It is a freedom to serve others. Paul reminds us, Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4). I believe that the convenience available to the modern American gives us unprecedented ability to obey this verse. Jesus said,

“Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal” John 6:27.

I saw a statistic on Twitter that said that there are only 17 people in the world that were born before 1900. There have been thousands of years of human history and every single person that has ever been born has died, or will die. Our bodies and the food that we put in them are temporary, like vapors. If I can draw three applications from what I have been learning they are:

1. Necessity or Hobby?

I believe that the accessibility of conveniences has now moved many activities out of the category of “necessity” and into the category of “hobby.” Hunting, fishing, butter-making, etc. are completely permissible activities for the Christian. However, when not necessary for survival I am persuaded that they are in the same category as rock climbing. Just like all of life, God can be glorified in these actions, but they are not in-and-of-themselves kingdom work.
2. Who Am I Benefiting?
Further, we ought to be cautious about the amount of time we spend participating in hobbies. As more an observation of human nature than anything else, I think that hobbies are helpful. They can aid us in calming down after a hard week, or help us to compose our thoughts, work out our bodies, and can certainly be God-glorifying. But often hobbies benefit only self. And we are called to much, much more than just benefiting self.
3. Goodbye Guilt and Thank God for Conveniences.
Finally, we should not feel guilty about utilizing conveniences. In fact, please do. Take advantage of the conveniences that we are leaving behind. Seek to minimize the have-tos so that you can serve others. 
Let us thank God for the conveniences in our lives and use our extra time to serve. Let us preach the Gospel to those around us, let us visit the orphan and the widow in their affliction, let us stand on the sidewalks outside of abortion clinics, let us feed the hungry, let us start up backyard Bible clubs, and store up our treasures not here on earth, but in Heaven.  And let us not feel bad for using dryers and microwaves so we have the time to do these things.

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” 
Romans 14:17 

Author: David M. Hare

Dave is a husband, father of four Africans, and is currently helping the Kwakum people do Oral Bible Storying and Bible translation in Cameroon, Africa.