The Freedom of Simplicity

Arizona River1“When did things get to be so crazy?” she asked balancing a baby on her hip while she was chasing a two-year old. I raised an eyebrow and she laughed. “No, it’s not the kids,” she objected. “I’m talking about life in general. Everything seems to be getting more and more complicated.”

The Jerusalem Bible says, “God made man simple; man’s complex problems are of his own devising,” (Ecclesiastes 7:39).

Ben Huey, one of my former elders, told me, “Our lives are made complex by trying to hold on to two competing values.” It’s like Lot’s wife who wanted to be saved, but she wanted to live in Sodom at the same time. Many of us can’t decide what we want to be or what we want to get out of life. I think that’s reflected in our desire to collect possessions. Arthur Gish said, “We buy things we do not want to impress people we do not like.” We buy things because everyone else is buying it. Richard Foster added, “It’s time we awaken to the fact that conformity to a sick society is to be sick.”

So what happens when we try to live with duplicity? Worry! One of my favorite authors, Tim Hansel, wrote: “It is interesting to note that the word worry comes from the Greek word merimnao, which is a combination of the two words merizo, meaning ‘to divide,’ and nous, meaning ‘mind.’ Hence, worry means to ‘divide the mind,’ or to be ‘double minded.”

Another result of trying to live in two worlds is confusion. We have more and more difficulty saying, “No!” E. Stanley Jones reminds us, “Your capacity to say ‘No’ determines your capacity to say ‘Yes’ to greater things,” and of course the Apostle Paul told young Timothy, “No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs – he wants to please his commanding officer,” (1 Timothy 2:4). So who is your commanding officer?

Do you feel helpless? Again that might be a sign you are trying to live in two (or more) worlds. Like unfocused light, lives without a clearly defined purpose are powerless.

So how can I find the simple life? First, be careful no to reduce simplicity to a set of outward actions. Again Richard Foster reminds us, “The Christian Discipline of simplicity is an inward reality that results in an outward lifestyle.” James, the brother of Jesus, coined the word dipsuche, “double-minded” in James 1:2-8, but he also gives us the cure for that condition later in 4:8, “purify your hearts you double-minded!”

Jesus said we find the virtue of simplicity by becoming single-minded (Matthew 6:25-33):

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Here are some simple suggestions for living a simple life:

  • Buy things for their usefulness rather than their status
  • Reject anything that is producing an addiction (including Smartphones)
  • Develop the habit of giving things away
  • Learn to enjoy things without owning them (visit a museum)
  • Develop a deeper appreciation of the creation (go for a walk)
  • Beware of “buy now, pay later” (credit enslaves)
  • Cultivate simplicity of dress and speech
  • Strive to live in the present

The simple life begins when we find our center, our focal point. Have you decided what your center is?

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