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Simplicity is freedom. Duplicity is bondage. Simplicity brings joy and balance. Duplicity brings anxiety and fear.Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster; Chapter 6, pg 79.
I previously wrote about 8 reasons why I chose to live minimally, but my journey is about so much more than just having fewer belongings and keeping an organized home. There is an inward focused aspect to living simply. Simplicity is about finding freedom from the need to impress others, accumulate things, and acquire status. It’s about finding an inner peace and contentment regardless of your outward situation.
As Paul said, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”
– Philippians 4:12b
Simplicity is about what’s inside
To live simply is not equivalent to living with few belongings. Although, the two can and often do go hand in hand, they are not necessarily synonymous.
Consider that many people living in poverty are far from being content or having inner peace. Some of the most greedy people can be found among the poor. On the other hand, there are those of great wealth who give freely and are not concerned with their wealth but are able to enjoy and share from their bounty.
Simplicity is, at its core, learning to put aside thinking about things at all. Those who spend their time concerned with always being more frugal and having fewer belongings, and flaunting their ability to “live simply” are not truly living simply. They are no better than those who make their wealth their security. Both individuals are setting their love of material possessions (or lack there-of) as the priority of their lives. Neither can fully enjoy the blessings they’ve been given because their focus is in the wrong place.
Scripture speaks quite frequently to economic issues. We read of caring for the poor, and not storing up treasures on earth. We are reminded that all we’ve been given is ultimately God’s possession and is not ours to cling onto.
But God also doesn’t call us to live a life of poverty either. God pours out his blessings on his children regularly and tells us to enjoy the riches he bestows upon us.
The point here is not to live to an extreme one way or the other. Rather, we should hold with open hands all the blessings we’ve been given. They are not ours to hoard, but are meant to be shared and enjoyed.
If you have plenty, give out of your plenty joyfully. But don’t assume that the act of giving in and of itself somehow makes you righteous. It is the attitude of the heart that determines your righteousness. Clinging too tightly to anything besides God pulls you away from Him.
Simplicity is expressed outwardly
Richard Foster, in his book Celebration of Discipline, outlines ten ways an inner reality of simplicity is expressed outwardly.
Buy things for their usefulness rather than their status.
Reject anything that is producing an addiction in you.
Develop a habit of giving things away.
Refuse to be propagandized by the custodians of modern gadgetry.
Learn to enjoy things without owning them.
Develop a deeper appreciation for the creation.
Look with healthy skepticism at all “buy now, pay later” schemes.
Obey Jesus’ instructions about plain, honest speech.
Reject anything that breeds the oppression of others.
Shun anything that distracts you from seeking first the kingdom of God.
Celebration of Discipline, ch. 6, pgs 90-95
Read Foster’s full explanations in Celebration of Discipline.
Simplicity Does Not Equal Minimalism
Minimalism can be an expression of simplicity. But simplicity and minimalism are not the same thing. Simplicity is about the posture of your heart while minimalism is about having less stuff. Simplicity is about putting your possessions in right perspective before God while minimalism is about making your possessions the focus of your attention instead of God.
Scripture says you cannot serve two masters. If your priority is to live with less for the sake of living with less, then you are missing the point. Turn your eyes and your heart towards God first, and your posture of humble gratitude will lead you to a life of simplicity whether you live in plenty or in want.
As Paul says in Philippians 3:12,
I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.
I’m still on the journey. I can’t say that I always have the right attitude or that my priorities are always in the right place. I have a lot of room for growth still. But it’s my desire to continue on that path of growth towards the things of God.
Though I don’t always get it right, I will continue striving for simplicity in my life. Living minimally is just one part of how I intend to do that.
How have you practiced simplicity in your own life? What do you still need to improve upon?
Here’s to living lives of simplicity and finding joy in the journey!