Understanding Simplicity as a Christian Discipline

By Alex Haney

Freedom of Simplicity by Richard J. Foster.

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Read it. It cleared up a lot of the duality I had about simple living.I’ve been committed to simple living for a long time but couldn’t really explain why.I always saw it more as an environmentalist or hippie thing to do than a spiritual thing to do.It’s partly out of cheapness, partly out of my admiration for my hording grandparents and great Aunt Nancy who kept everything they ever got that made me re-use and re-purpose things.

In college I became a science major with an energy concentration, so I’ve been passionately seeking simple living via energy conservation from the academic sense.A passion for the planet and those who live on it was always in the back of my head, but conserving kilojoules and megawatthours was the focus.Simple living can save energy resources and money by keeping the lights turned off as much as possible, the heat low in the winter, the A/C on a high temperature in the summer, biking instead of driving, etc.This saves resources for further generations and lowers our impact on the environment.That’s enough, right?

This book presents simple living as a Christian discipline, not a call to environmentalism, not a call for energy and resource conservation, but a way to become more fully Christian.It does happen that caring for God’s creation and taking care of the other people on it—sentiments shared by environmentalists, Christians or not—are key elements of simplicity.

Foster gives biblical quotes from the Old Testament, the New Testament and theologians throughout the ages on why we should live simply. Basically I can summarize it as the Old Testament prophets have been shouting God’s command for us to take care of the poor, the orphans, the widows, and those who can’t take care of themselves since they first heard God’s voice. Commandment #10 says do not covet.Jesus asked the rich man to sell his possessions give the money to the poor and follow him.

As Christians, we are to seek ways to help those in need.How simply we can do this by Loving thy neighbor, sharing resources, and not taking more than our share are just a few.In today’s world most of the economic activity we support can exploit the poor, the oppressed, the widows and orphans.That’s where local food, and fair trade comes in the picture.Collectively Foster calls all these practices “simplicity.”Freeing ourselves from our own wants and complexities inside and out, brings us closer to God and allows us to be aware of and love our neighbor.

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Image taken from http://theartofsimple.net/what-is-simple-living/

(Probably an Indian proverb and said by many more people than just Mother Theresa and Ghandi)

Simplicity is not easy. It’s complicated.It’s all about being self aware of your motivations, your actions and your thoughts and then being intentional about what you do, and how you treat one another. That’s the spirituality of it. It is an inward simplicity and an outward simplicity, and a corporate simplicity as a body of Christians.The simple life isn’t the easy one, but the self-aware and intentional one.

This book showed me Yes God does want us to conserve our energy resources, to use less stuff, to throw away less, because that builds up the widows, the oppressed, the poor, and the hungry.

I now live simply not only to be cheap, not only to experience the life of my great Aunt Nancy, not only to use less fossil fuels, but because these are ways I can love my neighbors more.These are ways I can focus on God more than my stuff. Simplicity allows me to ignore distractions so I hear and feel God, and the love of those around me, and I can show this love more freely.

I don’t know why I didn’t see it before.I see it now.God wants us to take care of this world, to live simply, to live freely.

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