A week ago I had no idea who Robert Arthington was.
If you already know who he is, then I officially congratulate you for being smarter than me.
Anyways, while doing some research for a sermon, I came across the one paragraph description of his life:
Robert Arthington of Leeds, a Cambridge graduate, lived in a single room, cooking his own meals; and he gave foreign missions 500,000 pounds on the condition that it was all to be spent on pioneer work within twenty-five years. He wrote these words: “Gladly would I make the floor my bed, a box my chair, and another box my table, rather than that men should perish for want of the knowledge of Christ.”
—The Wesleyan Methodist
As quoted in: Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times. Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.
Intrigued, I decided to do some heavy research. It’s Google time (I would provide you with the links, but I figured you could get to Google just as easily as I can).
What Arthington is best known for is how he coexisted with both extreme wealth (at his death his estate was worth around 5 million dollars) and his ‘extreme’ simplicity. He was rumored to wear the same coat for 17 years even though he could obviously afford so much more.
Why? Why live so simply?
So he could give more money to missions so that the heathens could be reached.
I suspect people like Robert Arthington cause some of us to say, “amen” and some of us to say, “Oh no.” The reason for the different impressions of what he did in his life is because he exemplifies certain ascetic tendencies. Ascetics are people who assume that owning things in the physical world is immoral. Part of the righteous identity comes from their willingness to stay away from the stuff of this world.
But, yet, he is also an encouragement because he clearly could have indulged in so much more, but he was passionate about freeing up so many of his resources for God.
So, what say you? Should we challenge ourselves to become more like Arthington, or would that do more damage than harm?