Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Simply Simplicity, Part 1

As the New Year is underway, it is time for New Year's resolutions. There are many good ones, such as those made 2 centuries ago by Jonathan Edwards, and there are the most common ones. I have made two. The first is to lose a few of these marriage pounds I have put on. The second is to take a step closer to living a life of simplicity. Here's why.

Right before Christmas I finished an amazing book called The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne. I honestly think that this is a must read for anyone who is serious about changing the world (You can purchase it on the left). It rocked me. Shane has a ministry to homeless people that you can read about here. Shane did an internship with Mother Theresa in Calcutta before she died and now has dedicated his life to working with the poor and homeless. It is an amazing story, and he is quite a theologian as well. After reading Claiborne's book, and wrestling with the fact that he makes his own clothes and shoes when one of my struggles is buying too many clothes, I made a decision. In the year of 2007, I am not going to buy any clothes (there are 2 small exceptions to that, 2 specific things that I will get, and then that is it). It is my small act simplicity to get my life moving that way.

As I continued to pray and study this, I opened Richard Foster's classic work The Celebration of Discipline, as I remembered some of his thoughts on simplicity. He has some great thoughts on what he separates out as Inner Simplicity and Outward Simplicity. Today, we will deal with Inner, and part two will look at the Outward.

Foster starts by critiquing our culture on its lack of simplicity (which is not hard, not even 25 years ago when Foster first wrote this). He states, "Covetousness we call ambition. Hoarding we call prudence. Greed we call industry." He then gives an overview of the scriptural examples of simplicity and the statements against greed. He then summarizes Inner Simplicity with three attitudes that we should all have. Here they are with my commentary.

1. "To receive what we have as a gift from God is the first inner attitude of simplicity."

Everything we have is from God, and we must always remember that. The simplest things that we depend on are typically the things we don't control anyway: air, water, sun(warmth). Realizing that we trust God for what we have and receive is very important to living a life of simplicity. It is when we see ourselves as the source that we can both succumb to greed and be gripped with the fear of falling with no security. When a person starts playing these games, it is hard to come back.

2. "To know that it is God's business, and not ours, to care for what we have is the second inner attitude of simplicity."

It is certainly wise to take precautions like locking the doors to your house. But, in the end, it is God who protects the house, and not the lock. For that matter it is God who ultimately protects everything we have; our employment, our reputations, our families. If we were to see ourselves as the protectors of these things, we could easily go crazy taking every precaution. We would be gripped with anxiety. It boils down to a trust issue, once again.

3. "To have our goods available to others marks the third inner attitude of simplicity."

Foster attributes our incessant need to hold onto our possessions and never share with others to one thing: fear of the future. We do not trust God to provide for us for tomorrow, so we hoard and collect so we will have enough for tomorrow. This is the exact thing that the Israelites tried to do with Manna, and they were corrected for not having proper faith in God to provide for them each day. Foster says, "If our goods are not available to the community when it is clearly right and good, then they are stolen goods." What a statement. I still think this goes back to the idea that we think we own what we have, and the truth is that that is not stewardship, because stewards don't own anything.

I am devoting 2007 as a year where I vow to live a life that can be more identified with simplicity than in the past. Maybe some of you would choose to make the same commitment. May God help us in this tough battle, and may we honor him by seeking his kingdom by living a simple life.

1 comment:

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