The running joke about living a simple lifestyle is that every time you find yourself in a situation where there is even a hint of extravagance, you open yourself up for criticism, or at the very least some snide comments.
I expected as much last summer when my rental car selection in Kansas took a turn for the better. I was at a car rental counter in the Wichita airport, and the lady ahead of me couldn’t figure out how to shorten the restraint straps on the infant seat that came with her car. The agent couldn’t figure it out either, so I took a couple of minutes and helped her adjust the seat.
As I approached the counter to pick up my reserved economy car (note the emphasis), the agent thanked me for helping the woman. He said, “Our company would like to give you an upgrade for your help.”
I responded suspiciously, as I usually do in these kinds of situations, and said, “How much will it cost me?”
“No extra charge,” he replied. “What do you have?” I asked.
“We have a new Camaro that’s pretty nice.”
I said, “Cool, I’ll take the Camaro. And, oh, by the way, so I’m not wandering all over the parking lot looking for it, what color is it?"
“Don't worry, you’ll see it right away,” he answered. “It’s the bright yellow one that looks just like Bumblebee in the movie Transformers.”
I replied, "I didn’t see the movie, but I’m looking forward to the car.”
I’m really not a fast-car kind of guy. My vehicle life has centered mostly around old Volkswagens, low-end Hondas, and mini-vans. So when I hopped in the Bumblebee and buzzed out of the parking lot, I felt strangely conspicuous—and more than a little bit extravagant. My friends at the conference I was attending had a good laugh when I pulled up. More than one asked if the car was in keeping with my commitment to simple living. The requisite photos were taken and promptly posted on Facebook.
The Camaro got me to thinking about what Paul said in Philippians 4:12 about being content “in any and every situation . . . whether living in plenty or in want.” I often find myself worrying about what people will think about this, that, or the other thing. Am I being frugal enough? Am I drawing too much attention to myself? Am I properly stewarding the Lord’s resources? Are my actions becoming those expected of a church leader?
As I tooled around Wichita in my hot rod, I decided that I could either live my life worried about what everybody thinks about me, or simply embrace the fact that God had blessed me with 48 hours in a brand-new Chevy. I determined that my commitment to a simple lifestyle has a lot more to do with the state of my heart than with the kind of car I’m driving.
At the end of the day, I’m no less a follower of Christ in a bumblebee yellow Camaro than I would be in the beat-up Honda that I drive every day. The main difference is, in the Camaro, I’m just a whole lot faster off the line.