Simplicity: seems like a foreign concept today, huh?
Our lives are filled with this busyness; we rush from one “priority” to the next, continually active and yet never feeling like we are actually getting someplace with our life. We check items off our lists, but there is still a nagging feeling that our lives are meant to be lived differently, that there is a greater purpose in store for us.
We lack the superhuman strength to keep up with this pace and our humanity tells us that there is a cost to this chaotic activity, yet we are unable to find a way to clear our schedules of all that must be done. And so technology has become our new god, enabling us to accomplish our multitude of tasks. Its gospel is one filled with the hope of streamlining our chaotic lives by electronically packaging all of our priorities and plans into an iPhone. Accompanying our busy lives is our insatiable hunger for the material things which we do not have and cannot afford.
Human existence is currently in a frantic state.
Richard Foster describes this pace of life when he states, “We really must understand that the lust for affluence in contemporary society is psychotic. It is psychotic because it has completely lost touch with reality.” Elsewhere Foster describes our present culture as a “modern mania.”This language may seem initially strong, but I would suggest that it is exactly the type of language necessary to wake our souls from their slumber. Words like psychotic and mania suggest that our creative nature has been altered in a way that is a perversion to our natural identity. We have become hurried creatures, a generation reliant upon Starbucks and energy drinks to compensate for our fatigue, rushing to achieve our next goal and earn our next pay raise, and all the while squandering the image of God for the image of worldly success. And while our preachers call us to pray more, give more or serve more, the message we need are in desperate need of is a call to simplicity.
But the call of Jesus on each of our lives seems to be a call to simplification. The spiritual discipline of simplicity cannot be easily defined; a definition of simple living is, ironically, far from simple. Simplicity has many facets, including generosity, humility, courage and contentment. The discipline of simplicity does not mean a call to absolute poverty, living on a subsistence level of existence. It does, however, call for a reorientation of how we view wealth and possessions. As Foster notes, “Simplicity is the only thing that sufficiently reorients our lives so that possessions can be genuinely enjoyed without destroying us.”The discipline of simplicity is a discipline of freedom, which allows us to engage the world through the lens of God’s kingdom and make holy decisions as a result of this understanding. We choose to no longer entangle ourselves with the cares of the world and instead focus our hearts on the things that deeply matter to God.
The scriptures are clear that there is a need for the discipline of simplicity in the church, but the question remains: how should one go about integrating it into our lives? This journey must begin with the message of Jesus, who taught us to “Seek first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all of these things will be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33). Instead of letting our lust and passions drive our decision-making processes, we submit our desires to the will of God as we seek to react to the pressures of each day as we believe he would act. It is not easy and it certainly countercultural – but wouldn’t it be worth it?
So to close, where do you see Jesus the most in your life today? Where are those simple spaces in your life where you hear his voice most clearly? What would life be like if we chose to cut off on the noise that gets in the way of experience His Presence more and more? What could be gained if we chose to reframe our perspectives on living from one that is masked in chaos to one that is more entrenched in the rhythm of God’s life. We all have one life to live and give account for, let us embrace it in such a way that says that expresses Jesus way of life out to the world.