Simplicity, Part 1

I’m finding it hard to think too deeply about simplicity when I’ve been running from one thing to the next all day long. And yet this is such an important topic. So I’d like to share some initial thoughts and some quotes that I believe are worth pondering. Then maybe in the next day or two I’ll post something a bit more contemplative.

Foster, pointing to Matthew 6, says that simplicity is an outgrowth of having a singular mindset — seeking first his kingdom and righteousness. Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998) p. 86. Certainly this is true, and there is great wisdom in keeping first things first. But I’m wondering if there are some different ways of looking at simplicity too. (Disclaimer: This might be entirely self-serving. I do not live a life of simplicity. I may be prone to rationalize, and as Peter Kreeft says “Complexifying is a great cop-out. Excuses are always complex.”) First, wouldn’t knowing our true identity lead to greater simplicity? And secondly, wouldn’t a daily reminder (back to the old preach the gospel to yourself everyday) of where true fulfillment comes from also naturally lead to greater simplicity?

True Identity

A person who derives their identity from status and possessions is a person for whom simplicity is impossible, by definition. I am quite familiar with this status-and-possession-driven demographic. Fancy clothes and luxury cars surround me, but they don’t impress me. Neither do advanced degrees and big titles. None of these things are terribly bad in themselves. The issue is really whether these things define you. For a lot of people they seem to. There is a pervasive, unquenchable thirst for more. I love the quote from Arthur Gish that Foster used, “We buy things we do not want to impress people we do not like.” There really is a psychosis at work for people to labor so hard at something so futile. There is no satisfaction in a rat race. Ever. Because there is always a need for more, and Christians shouldn’t ever find themselves in such a race. Instead the identify of a Christian is based on Christ. That means we are to love Him, glorify Him, praise Him, and proclaim Him because that’s who we are. We are not stuff. We are not status. We are children of God and we have a high calling to fulfill. Oftentimes stuff gets in the way.

True Fulfillment

Blaise Pascal said this: “What is it then that this desire and this inability proclaim to us, but that there was once in man a true happiness of which there now remain to him only the mark and empty trace, which he in vain tries to fill from all his surroundings, seeking from things absent the help he does not obtain in things present? But these are all inadequate, because the infinite abyss can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object, that is to say, only by God Himself.” (Pensees 7.425) In short, the God-shaped hole in our heart aches. We try to fill it with so many things, when only God fits. Isn’t part of the struggle with simplicity trying to shove something, often with force, into that God-shaped void? I think greater simplicity would be automatic if we’d stop shoving. Letting God be all He wants to be in our lives is so simple. Not easy, mind you. But so, so simple.

So there’s a lot to work through here. And we know where we stand on this. It’s pretty easy to self-evaluate.

A couple quotes:

“All of us, deep down, know that the meaning of life is just one word, and all of us, deep down, know what word that is.” (Peter Kreeft)

“If you continue to love Jesus, nothing much can go wrong with you, and I hope you may always do so.” (C.S. Lewis)

This week I’m going to pray for eyes to see what God has for me here, and also for a willingness and resolve to put it into practice.

One thought on “Simplicity, Part 1

  1. I can see how easy it would be to fall into legalism in an attempt live a life of simplicity.

    I agree that the key to simplicity is “seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness”. But what does “seeking first His kingdom” look like? Putting Him first…in my thought life, in how I spend my time and money, the things I pray for, the people I surround myself with.

    Foster notes that “Because we lack a divine Center our need for security has led us into an insane attachment to things.” Celebration of Discipine by Richard J. Foster (San Francisco:HarperSanFrancisco, 1998)p. 80.

    I liked his three inner attitudes of simplicity. First, we cannot believe that ANYTHING we have is a result of our OWN efforts. Second, we can trust God to take care of what we have and third, everything we have should be shared. If we truly have these inner attitudes than we needn't despair of losing “things”, or worry that we won't be adequately cared for and we will share abundantly.

    I've been convicted for quite some time to de-accumulate. To try and buy only what's necessary, to get rid of stuff and get organized. I've come quite a ways but have soooo much further to go.

    He says something along the lines that regardless of how much we think we may have a handle on the “inner attitudes” if there aren't any outward manifestations of them than they're not really there. He lists ten outward manifestations that we should look for…convicting, yet encouraging too.

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