Written by Julian Panga
Julian grew up in India and then lived in Australia for 12 years. While working in the Banking and Finance Industry in Melbourne, he also served as a church elder, missions trainer and bible teacher. In 2014, he returned to India in response to God’s calling and is currently involved in training Christian workers for effective ministry within the Indian context. He loves reading, listening to music and long country drives.
What is a comfortable life? Is it having just enough to live, a little bit more than enough, or much more than you need?
Over the years, the definition of a comfortable life has changed. To the older generation, putting food on the table, making both ends meet, and having a little bit of savings for a rainy day made for a comfortable life. To the current generation however, these are the bare necessities.
I remember the time my parents could only afford a motorbike—which most small families in India use for their daily commute. Some years back, I decided to buy them a small second-hand car with my savings. But they felt that the car was unnecessary, and saw it as a luxury they didn’t need. In their minds, savings were to be tucked away for something important. In my mind, however, the car was an absolute necessity.
This probably reflects the prevailing sentiment today. Nowadays, it is common or even necessary to get a bigger and better home or car, upgrade to the latest smartphone, or go on expensive holidays. If you walk down the streets of any metropolitan city in India (which has the world’s largest number of 10 to 24-year-olds), it’s common to hear people say, “I am a working adult, so I can afford a better lifestyle”, or “What is wrong with enjoying a comfortable life? It’s a personal choice and doesn’t hurt anybody”. Indian youth, along with young people all over the world, are adopting a lifestyle of more—more money, more comfort, and more luxury.
In my observation however, the ones who do have more than they need have never appeared genuinely happy. On the other hand, those who seemingly have less—such as the family of six with meagre belongings squeezed into a rundown shack in a Johannesburg slum, or the family of five struggling to get their next meal, in a 10-by-10-foot hut in an urban slum in Bangalore, India—have bigger smiles and hearts than those who have plenty. That, to me, reinforces the fact that riches and comforts can never buy true happiness.
That said, this observation hardly deter us—even Christians—from seeking more in life. So, it begs the question: Is there anything wrong with desiring a comfortable life?
To answer this question, I’d like to reflect on these five aspects of life:
1. Our Dependency
Let’s start by looking at two popular understandings of a comfortable life: one with just the bare essentials and one with excessive luxuries. While the Bible does not have anything against us seeking the basic essentials of life like food, clothing and shelter, it is worthwhile to note that Jesus tells us not to worry even about these things, since the Father knows that we need them and will give them to us if we only ask (Matthew 6:25-34, 7:7-11). The Lord’s Prayer puts it aptly: Give us today our daily bread. The lesson here is to depend on God and Him alone for our daily needs.
What the Bible does condemn, however, is the love of money and the pursuit of riches. An inordinate desire for luxurious living can drive a person to pursue riches at any cost. This obsession can have dire implications, as Jesus spoke about the ease with which a camel can go through the eye of a needle compared to a rich man entering God’s kingdom (Luke 18:24-25).
If getting comfortable means we rely on ourselves more than God and causes pride, ego and self-sufficiency to grow, then we ought to steer clear of it. Having a comfortable life, however, is not sinful per se. What matters is whether we channel our riches for the benefit of others rather than ourselves. For when we do that intentionally, we truly show our dependence upon God.
2. Our Mission
In Luke 9:58, Jesus said that the foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests but the Son of Man does not have any place to lay down His head. Here, Jesus was talking about how He Himself lacked even the basic necessities of life. Yet, that didn’t deter Him from preaching and teaching, healing the sick, providing for the poor and uplifting the destitute, marginalized and helpless. He went about His Father’s mission and didn’t get too comfortable along the way.
Are we not involved in God’s mission ourselves? Yes, we are and it is a lifelong mission that requires our wholehearted attention and commitment. So, if our earthly comforts distract or deter us from aligning ourselves with God’s mission in the world, then we need to pause, reflect and realign our lives with God’s heart. Keeping God’s mission at the center of our lives helps us be more focused on eternal rewards than temporary gains.
3. Our Devotion
In the account of the rich young ruler (Mark 10:17-27), Christ’s response to his question about how to inherit eternal life was to follow the commandments—to which he responded that he had kept all of them very diligently from his youth. Jesus then pointed out that while he may have had kept those commands that dealt with his relationship with his neighbours, he had grossly neglected the ones that talked about his relationship with God. Simply put, he loved his riches more than he loved God and that drastically impacted his relationship with God. The heart of the issue was an issue of his heart, and as the story goes, he went away sad, unwilling to rectify it.
In Matthew 6:24, Jesus also said that one cannot serve both God and money. That person would love one and hate the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. So, if a comfortable life is one that is focused on money and hinders us from knowing and experiencing God more intimately, then we run the risk of losing our first love and becoming alienated from Him. God deserves nothing less than our wholehearted devotion.
4. Our Service
Jesus didn’t think twice when He took off His outer clothes, took a basin of water and a cloth and stooped down to wash His disciples’ feet (John 13:1-17). He practically demonstrated what true humility is and how we ought to consider others better than ourselves. Like Jesus, our attitude should be one of honoring God wholeheartedly, living selflessly and giving generously.
So rather than amassing wealth or comfort for ourselves, why don’t we make use of readily available opportunities around us to show love and serve those who are less privileged among us? It is, after all, our God-given responsibility to take care of the poor, downtrodden, marginalized, orphaned and widows among us. Faith demonstrated through sacrificial service keeps our lives uncluttered and our hearts willing and pliable for the Master’s use.
5. Our Contentment
Nowadays, it’s nearly impossible to remain content in a world that promotes self-gratification. King Solomon, in Ecclesiastes 5:10, said that he who loves money never has enough money, and whoever loves wealth is never satisfied. But just as the Apostle Paul learned to be content in whatever circumstances (Phil 4:11), we can also learn to be content if we begin by being grateful for God’s blessings. Rather than worry about what we don’t have, let’s be satisfied with what God has given us.
After spending 12 years in Australia, where I had a lucrative job and lived a comfortable life, I gave up all that in response to God’s call and returned to India to serve in Christian ministry. I am often asked: Why did I make such a decision and take this huge step “backward”—as some have called it?
It is because I’ve realized that the things of this world will never satisfy. They only keep us craving for more, eventually leading us on a downward spiral of disappointment, disillusionment and destruction. I’ve found that I can only find true purpose and satisfaction when I fix my eyes on the Lord—the source of all that I have.
So at the end of the day, the question is not whether we can live comfortably, but whether we are living a life that truly pleases and honors God in every way.