I have a task for you, are you willing to take it up? For the next ten days I will be posting recommendations on how to live simply. However, before I can provide any insight on how to live simply we must define what simple living is, and why it is necessary.
Pertaining to our first question; we live in a much too complex society. Eccles. 7:30 (JB) says: “God made man simple; man’s complex problems are of his own devising.” Our lives reek of silly problems, ‘drama’ and an unprecedented shallowness. Perhaps the most worrying issue related to our self-imposed complexity is our uncontrollable attachment to ‘things.’
“We buy things we do not want, to impress people we do not like.” – Arthur G. Gish
Relating to this point, Richard Foster said: “Where planned obsolescence leaves off, psychological obsolescence takes over. We are made to feel ashamed to wear clothes or drive cars until they are worn out. The mass media have convinced us that to be out of step with fashion is to be out of step with reality. It is time we awaken to the fact that conformity to a sick society is to be sick.“
I’m sure you can agree with me when I say that our society is, in the truest nature of the word, sick.
Now, I am not about to ask you to become an ascetic, it is important to remember that God intends that we should have adequate material provision, however when our value of material possessions extends beyond our value of a relationship with God, our sick conformity becomes all the more apparent.
Now on to our second question, why is simple living necessary? Simple living is necessary because without a system of checks and balances in place we will inevitably fall into a routine pattern of abject materialism.
Matthew 6:25-33 provides some insight into material possessions. Verse 33 concludes by saying: “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” Concluding from the statements in this passage we must understand that our primary concern should not be “what am I going to wear?”, “what am I going to eat?” and so on but rather our primary concern in life should be that ‘His kingdom and His righteousness’ are manifested in our lives.
Our excessive amount of ‘stuff’ has become our greatest distraction from truly seeking God. In order to dig ourselves out of this pit of lavish depravity, Richard Foster has outlined 10 steps to simplistic living. Foster is quick to point out that these 10 steps are not laws but rather suggestions so that we, those caught up in a fast paced materialistic culture, can reevaluate our priorities and put God first in our lives.
Now, if you have no interest in Christ I still would like to encourage you to undertake this simple living challenge. You will find that simple living will benefit you financially, physically, emotionally and inevitably spiritually.
Over the next 10 days I will give a paraphrase of Foster’s suggestions and my interpretation of them. I hope you will join me for the ride.
Now, lastly, and most importantly. I will let you know that I am writing as a hypocrite. I echo the words of Paul found in Romans 7:15: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Materialism is a problem for me just as much as the next person in our society. However, the first step in combatting our sickness is learning that there is alternative ways of doing life.
Once again, this is not, by any means, a call to asceticism. It’s just an invitation to doing things differently, to get our priorities straight and to seek God through one of the most tangible ways, our possessions.
* This post you have just read is simply a paraphrase of the aforementioned Foster. I strongly encourage you to read Foster’s The Celebration of Discipline which can be ordered here, you can also find a copy at your local used bookstore. This book will provide a full version of Foster’s 10 suggestions to simple living.