Simplicity

What comes to mind when you think of practicing the discipline of simplicity? Most often the discipline of simplicity gets associated with taking a voluntary vow of poverty or selling possessions. Perhaps one reason we associate simplicity with giving away possessions is because it’s measurable and easily defined. But the discipline of simplicity should not be reduced to a set of external decisions concerning our possessions. This is certainly part of practicing the discipline, but it is not the whole. The Christian Discipline of simplicity is different from a minimalist’s approach to life. The Christian Discipline of simplicity is an inward reality that results in a change in the way we live our daily lives.[1] This is why Richard Foster says, “Simplicity is an inward reality that can be seen in an outward lifestyle. We must have both; to neglect either end of this tension is disastrous.”[2]

For this reason, the practical advice will deal with both the inner and outer elements of simplicity. To ignore one or the other would leave out an essential component of the discipline. It should also be noted that the inner should be the primary focus when practicing the discipline. It’s only after our hearts learn to find contentment that we will be content with our external circumstances no matter what comes our way. You’ll also notice the practical advice incorporates a number of other disciplines. This is because simplicity cannot function independently from the rest of the disciplines.[3] So, here is some practical advice on how to build the discipline of simplicity into your everyday life:

  • Pray when you experience anxiety or compulsions
    • Prayer and simplicity are intimately intertwined[4]
    • Pray for yourself and loved ones that they might be protected from the subtle and not so subtle messages from culture to always acquire more
  • Find freedom from anxiety when it comes to your possessions by…
    • Acknowledging every good thing is a gift from God
    • Trusting that it is God’s business to care for what we possess
    • Offering what we possess to others
  • Create space in your schedule for solitude
    • Sabbath reminds you there’s more to life than the physical
    • Build in times of “planned neglect” when it comes to email, work, etc., as our desire to constantly produce something is built upon impulsiveness
  • Fast regularly
    • Seek detachment from other appetites (outside of physical hunger) when you fast
    • When you fast, provide a meal for someone in need
  • Focus on quality over quantity
    • Fight the “more is better” mentality by choosing quality over quantity
    • Buy one good car that will last 10 years as opposed to three cars that will last four years
  • Seek first the Kingdom of God
    • Prioritize your budget and spending habits around what God wants to accomplish for His Kingdom through you as opposed to your own desires
  • Budget and track your spending
    • You cannot deal seriously with exterior simplicity until you know where all of your money is going
    • Figure out how much goes to essentials and how much goes to non-essentials like entertainment
  • Buy things for their usefulness and not their status
    • When you buy small things like clothes or big things like a car, buy them for their durability and how long they will last
    • Ask yourself before buying, “Am I buying this just to impress others?”
  • Wait a week before buying
    • After determining that God wants you to buy something, wait a week and see if He provides it for you through other means like someone gifting it to you
    • This also helps cut down on impulsive purchases
  • Develop a habit of giving things away
    • The mass of extra stuff in our lives brings about complexity that is not required
    • De-accumulate wherever you can
    • Ask yourself the question, “If I haven’t used something in over a year, do I really need to hang on to it?”
    • Share items with others that you aren’t currently using
  • Become more discerning when it comes to advertising
    • Advertisers want to produce a felt “need” in you in association with their products
    • Point out commercials and advertisements to family members that are teaching false truths about reality for the sake of accountability
    • Don’t believe every “timesaving” device will actually save you time
  • Learn to enjoy things without owning them
    • Enjoy publically owned recreational venues like a park, road (for cycling or running), lake, ocean, etc.
    • Pull resources together with friends for purchases that can be shared
  • Look at the product chain and make sure your purchase isn’t an act of injustice
    • Often times oppression happens with products made overseas

Resources for Practicing Simplicity
These are the resources the practical advice was drawn from and are helpful resources for anyone looking to go deeper in practicing the discipline of simplicity:


[1] Foster, Richard. Celebration of Discipline. (HarperCollins Publishers: New York, NY, 1998). Pg. 79.
[2]
Foster, Richard. The Freedom of Simplicity. (HarperCollins e-books: New York, NY, 2005). Kindle Edition.
[3]
Ibid.
[4]
See Philippians 4:6-7

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