Homesteading to the Glory of God

Homesteading to the Glory of God

The other day I attended a Sunday school class at our church which is currently working through a study on Church History.  We’re something like a year and a half into it at this point, and we’ve just made it to the period of the Middle Ages.

One of the topics that came up in the class was on the practice of “monastic life.”   Monasticism, as you know, is a way of life chosen by a group monks or nuns who will detach themselves from society to set up a more independent, faith-based community.  It is in this private commune that they are free to live their lives according to their values.

In discussing the monastic tradition, our class talked a lot about the pros and the cons of adopting such a lifestyle.  Specifically, we talked about the advantages and appeal of living in a context that was self-sustaining.  Many of these monasteries kept their own gardens and vineyards.  They grew everything they needed to survive.  They weren’t dependent on commuting into town and working paycheck-to-paycheck for the local cobbler down the road.  They were self-sustaining.  That is, they could meet all their own needs.

As a result of their independence they could evidently be more spiritually disciplined.  Since they were all their own bosses, they were free to build the kind of routines and schedules for themselves in which they could give more time to things like prayer, Bible reading, and worship to the Lord.  There weren’t all the distractions that come with dependency on the city.  Just imagine not being rushed out the door every morning to get to work, but to be able to pace yourself and your day to devote more time to spiritual interests.

But, of course, monastic life was more than just sitting around and reading one’s Bible all day.  Those who lived in the monastery could delve into other projects as well.  Scholasticism and artistry took off in many of these places.  They had the opportunity to read libraries of books.  They could write volumes and volumes of their own books to add to those libraries.  They could develop certain crafts, whether that was weaving or woodworking, candle making or whatever it was.  And then they could pass all of that knowledge down by apprenticeship and mentorship to the younger monks or nuns in their company.

As I listened to all of that explained, I caught myself relating very much to the overall appeal of that kind of lifestyle–I suppose minus some of the vows that went with it.  I don’t think I could ever buy into those celibacy requirements!  But as “homesteaders,” it struck me how my wife and I have chosen to pursue a somewhat similar quiet, self-reliant life in the country.  And as I stopped to think about our reasons for leaving the city to homestead, I admit we’ve shared many of the same reasons that resonated in those early monasteries.  I imagine there are a lot of fellow homesteaders out there who probably think the same way, whether  or not they’ve ever thought about the historical parallel.

But then, in addition to thinking through the advantages and the benefits that come with such a way of life, we also thought about the negative impact of detaching yourself from society to live a self-sustaining, independent lifestyle.  Perhaps the biggest negative effect or, at least, the biggest potential negative effect, specifically for the Christian, is their not having the kind of impact and influence on society that the Christian is expected to have as a follower of Christ.

In Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus tells his disciples,

“You are the light of the world.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket but on a stand and it gives light to all who are in the house in the same way let your light shine before others so that they may see your good works and give glory to your father who is in heaven.”

In other words, Jesus expects Christian to play an active, positive role in their communities mainly in bearing witness to the gospel in the person and work of Jesus Christ, to the glory of God.  But, obviously, they are never going to accomplish that purpose unless they are first visible and accessible to the world and not isolated and cloistered away in their own private compound out in the country.

That’s not to say there’s no room for the simple quiet life.   In fact, Paul would seem to commend it in I Thessalonians 4:11-12, when he says:

Aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.”

The point is there’s got to be a balance.  On the one hand, it is a good and a biblical thing to aspire (that is, to dream and to work) toward living a life that is relatively quiet and independent and self-sustaining, while, at the same time, still making that fit within the greater purpose and mission that the Christian has to set an example and to be a witness to all those around them as Matthew 5 says.

A biblical view of homesteading for the Christian must include an objective to bring glory to God in all that the homesteader does by doing it in such a way that displays the goodness and grace of God to a lost world.  That can only be done by making sure that our light, or more accurately the light of the gospel in us, is placed visibly on a stand and not hidden under a basket.

So with all of that said, that’s what we want to do at The Kinnard Homestead.   That’s what we’re aiming to do.  In addition to living quietly, minding our own affairs, working with our hands, and being dependent on no one as 1st Thessalonians 4 says, we want to do all of that in a way that points others to the Lord.

This post is going to be the first of many we’d like to try and use to reach more people so we aren’t so hidden under a basket out here on our homestead.  So, if you’re interested in following our journey and content, we invite you to subscribe to our blog and YouTube Channel.  Share with any family or friends who you think may benefit.

I’ll end with a good reminder for us all from I Corinthians 10:31-33,

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.  Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the Church of God, just as I tried to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but but that of many that they may be saved.”

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Comments (2)

  • Brian Reply

    Tim, I just wanted to give you some food for thought. Two of your statements jumped out at me: a) “I don’t think I could buy into those celibacy requirements”, and b) “Monastic life is more than just sitting around reading your Bible all day.”
    It’s very easy to fall into the false pride & security of a “quiet self-sufficient” lifestyle that is NOT monastic. But you cannot separate the fruits of monastic living from monasticism itself. People try to do it by intellectual overrationalization and loophole-searching like the Pharisees, but it is not possible. All the scholasticism and artistry – it is only wholehearted dedication to the Lord allows all of these fruits in the first place.
    The monks were not secluding themselves, they were actively witnessing through their lifestyle and shining brighter than any other community has ever done. By being celibate, they showed others that they were saving themselves for and serving something much greater than any worldly pleasure. I believe the only reason God has not smited the rest of our double-minded selves is because of the devotion of monks & nuns.
    It is very easy to become like the Pharisees and indulge in intellectual loophole-searching and backsliding. Our faiths become very compromised living in the modern world and it is hard to realize it.

    Thank you for the article and teaching me. I hope you reflect on my words as well!

    November 25, 2020 at 4:11 pm
    • Tim Kinnard Reply

      Brian,

      Thanks for the message! I didn’t mean to come across proud or judgmental. I personally have a lot of admiration for the monks. My understanding is not all (or most) even lived in complete isolation as hermits, which was really the stereotype I was speaking toward. Many monks and nuns very faithfully and actively ministered to their communities as “shining lights on a hill” (Matthew 5:16), as you mentioned. Their pious and ascetic lives, when visible to the public, also serve as a great witness against the largely hedonistic living of most of the world.

      The temptation I know I would face in monastic life, and, honestly, a temptation I believe many monks have faced over the centuries (again, not all, but some), is the tendency to keep to oneself for the sake of piety at the expense of being missional, which is arguably the reason God’s servants are on the earth in the first place (Matthew 28:16-20). I know as a Christian homesteader, this is my struggle.

      To be fair to the realities of human nature, though, there is just as equally a temptation to live piously in the public eye for proud and selfish reasons as Matthew 6:1-2, 5-6 warns about. With this in mind, the pattern of practicing one’s spiritual disciplines in the secrecy of a monastery is a commendable thing.

      Perhaps the point to settle on is that a “balance” is warranted. We should neither be complete isolationists, nor should we be so acclimated in the world that we are indistinguishable from the world. We should both place ourselves “on a stand” (Matt. 5) and “beware of practicing our righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them” as “the hypocrites” (Matt. 6).

      Thank you again for your comments! You make great points.

      Tim

      November 27, 2020 at 11:20 am

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