The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Do you really need them?

I was 10 years old. I ran into my father's office with a pair of spankin' new shiny brown shoes, purchased during our weekly trip to town. My father looked at me — not my shoes — and said, "Janey, darlin', do you really need them?"

That hurt. I wanted him to share my joy in the beauty of those new shoes. "But," I explained, "my feet have grown, my toes are 'butt up against' the front of my shoes, and Mother said it was time to get a new pair."

He then looked at the shoes, affirmed the purchase, took them in his big hands and felt the soft leather. Whew! A difficult lesson for me. It might have been difficult for him to ask the question.

Our Church of the Brethren heritage is to strive to live a simple life with few belongings. From our beginnings we were steeped in serving others. We took seriously the mandate to "live simply so that others may simply live."

Growing up, I often heard my father speak his values. He said, "If a person has more than three pairs of shoes in their closet, someone is doing without." These days we have running shoes, golf shoes, cross-training shoes, winter shoes, sandals, comfort sandals, dress sandals, ergonomically proportioned support shoes for high arches. Whoa! What's happened? What's gone wrong? What do I want? What do I need?

Our culture has us choking on too many things with too little time to enjoy our life, our families, children and grandchildren. From infancy we learn that gaining and gathering are marks of success. We are often convinced that our well-being is tied to attaining things, yet our well-being is compromised because we have become slaves to things. We need to ask the difficult question: "What do we really need?"

Often we discover we don't miss what we can let go. If we ask the hard questions we might find joy in a focused lifestyle. It's a good time to examine our instinct for consuming. It's time to give our closets and shelves a critical look. It's time to lead the conversations around our tables asking, "Darlin', do we really need this?" 


Keith Gatling

Keith Gatling

Posted at 1:06 pm (U.S. Eastern) 1/10/2012

I'm not sure that it's the zero-sum game that it's so often painted as. The person who has four pairs of shoes in their closet doesn't necessarily mean that someone else is doing without. Indeed, what it does mean is that the person who sold them the fourth pair went home with a little more money.

Even those "frivolous things" we spend money help to support the people who are selling them. It's not like we're just pouring money that could've been used to help someone less fortunate down a hole.

And think of the people in Asia who wouldn't have jobs if it weren't for all of those running shoes!

Gerald Iversen

Gerald Iversen

Posted at 8:40 pm (U.S. Eastern) 1/10/2012

Thanks for the refreshing reminders, Jan. All readers are welcome to a free subscription to the new monthly eNews "Simple Living Works!" Simply send SUBSCRIBE to SimpleLivingWorks@Yahoo.com.

K. Fred Rist

K. Fred Rist

Posted at 9:19 am (U.S. Eastern) 1/19/2012

We can justify all we want, but Jan is right. Yesterday I put on a sweatshirt that my wife bought for me when she was in seminary 16-17 years ago. I suggest to my children that at Christmas and birthday, they give a gift to one of my favorite charities in my name. They need the support for their work, and I don't need another shirt or tie!

Print subscribers and supporting Web members may comment.

Log in or Subscribe to comment.

text size:

this page: email | print

March issue

MARCH issue:

All are welcome