I was with a friend a few weeks ago, and as she was opening gifts for her graduation another friend jokingly called her simple. It was intended as an insult but sarcastically as if not to offend. It made me think, is it bad to be simple? Should it be an insult to be considered simple?
It is only insulting to be considered simple if our lives are oriented around an attachment to things. If we are finding our security in the stuff our sick society says is good we will become sick. According to the society “covetousness we call ambition. Hoarding we call prudence. Greed we call industry.” The Bible calls all these things sin.
Biblical simplicity is an outward lifestyle that reflects an inward motivation of the heart. Jesus thinks simplicity is a beautiful thing. Simplicity sets our possessions in a proper perspective. Possessions are not evil, but when our possessions possess us they become evil. Simplicity reorients our lives so that possessions can be enjoyed without destroying us.
Jesus talks about this motivation of the heart in Matthew 6:25-34. Jesus teaches us not to worry about what we eat, drink, or wear because that is how the pagans act and it leads to anxiety. As followers of Jesus, our focus is on one thing, “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Foster says, “the central point for the Discipline of simplicity is to seek the kingdom of God and the righteousness of his kingdom first and then everything necessary will come in its proper order.”
Are you motivated by his kingdom? Any moment that anything becomes the focus of our effort that thing becomes an idol.
A result of idolatry and placing possessions over the kingdom is anxiety. As Foster says, “Jesus made clear in our central passage (Matt. 6:25-34), freedom from anxiety is one of the inward evidences of seeking first the kingdom of God. The inward reality of simplicity involves a life of joyful unconcern for possessions. Neither the greedy nor the miserly know this liberty. It has nothing to do with an abundance of possessions or their lack. It is an inward spirit of trust.”
The inward reality of simplicity is reflected through three inner attitudes.
What we receive is a gift.
What we have is to be cared for by God.
What we have is available to others.
What we receive is a gift, is sometimes difficult to keep straight because we are working and earning. But we must keep in the forefront of our mind that we are dependent on God. What we have is not because we have earned it but because God has graciously given it to us. It is still his, he has just entrusted it to us.
What we have is to be cared for by God is the trust that God is able to protect what he has given us. We can trust him. “Does that mean that we should never lock the door? Of course not. But we know that the lock on the door is not what protects that house… There simply is no such thing as a burglar-proof precaution.” We trust God to protect the gifts he has given. This is not only in reference to our physical possessions but our jobs and health too.
What we have is available to others is so difficult for us because we fear the future. “We cling to our possessions rather than sharing them because we are anxious about tomorrow. But if we truly believe that God is who Jesus says he is, then we do not need to be afraid. We can share because we know that he will care for us. If someone is in need, we are free to help them.”
This discipline has been the most difficult one for me to talk about. These practices run the complete opposite of what our culture says to do. But if we want freedom and more of Jesus we must begin to live simple lives. Simple lives seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness above all. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal your motivations to you.
You can trust him. He is a good Father and He loves you.
Pastor Michael Covey
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matthew 6:19-21
Foster, Richard J. Celebration of Discipline: the Path to Spiritual Growth. HarperOne, 2018.
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