I’m continuing my daily series from the Gospel of Matthew on what you and I can learn from Jesus’ life of simplicity. Today, I’m sharing a short passage. Yesterday, Jesus began his teaching ministry. In today’s passage, he’s going to call his disciples.
A disciple is a student or a learner. Another core belief of Jesus is that we’re made to live in community, we’re made to pass along the things we’ve learned to younger men and women. Matthew writes:
"While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, 'Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed him.
And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.” (4:18-22)
How does this relate to minimalism, or the ideals of simple living? Notice that the moment Jesus called out to Simon, Andrew, James, and John, they ‘immediately left.’ The brothers Simon and Andrew left their business—they were fishermen—along with their equipment, their nets.
Can you imagine the start-up costs of a first century fishing business? You’d need a boat of your own or a boat for hire, a large woven net made of flax linen material (flax was known for its buoyancy), special clothing and tools for days at sea, spears, hooks, barbs, and bait.
They left it all immediately to follow Jesus. They sensed something so special in Jesus that they rightly rejected all possessions to become students of a homeless man. The brothers James and John left all of that and more, they rejected possessions and left their own father to pursue a higher calling and to live simply with their new Rabbi.
In those days, there weren’t as many options for a career path as there are today. I studied Bible while working as a professional guitarist, then got a degree in nonprofit management, worked as a consultant to NPOs while repairing computers on the side, and then went into the private sector in software development and customer support.
In the first century, instead of chasing all of those unique opportunities, I would have had two choices: Take over my father’s trade or beg for food. Can you imagine leaving your father and your only career opportunity to follow someone you’d never met, who just whistled at you from the shore?
Stories like these reinforce a theme we’ll continue to see in Jesus’ teaching. There’s something far more important than food, money, or a steady job. Jesus wants you to know that those things are of lesser value than a life of mercy, sacrifice, love, and generosity.