Simplicity is a concept that I find throughout the Bible. Though I've read a few books on
the subject (mostly by Quakers), I've never heard anyone ever give a message or lecture
on the concept of living simply (except for me of course). Jesus lived a simple life and
promoted it as a priority, "Unless you change and become like little children you will never
enter the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 18:3 Solomon, a man who didn't learn the value of
simplicity until later in life wrote, "God made man simple; man’s complex problems are of
his own devising…" (Ecclesiastes 7:29 Jerusalem Bible) Emerson wrote, “To be simple is
to be great.”
Why do I need simplicity?
In our culture we are overdosed on options. We live with way too much stimulus in our
world. And we wonder why every other person we meet is ADD! Our society is anything
but simple with all the noise, the rush, the change, the busyness… We've got Cable (with
100's of channel choices), the Internet with trillions of bits of information at our fingertips.
We feel a constant need to stay connected to our cell phones, our ipods, our blue tooths
(or would that be blue teeth?), our palm pilots, our laptops. We're on information and
communication overload. We're always communicating, and seldom connecting. There's a
continuous exchange of information between us, but very little (if any) connectedness
The complexity, complication and clutter of our society each take a stab at my relationship
with God and with people.
What’s complicating, cluttering your life? If you're normal and you're honest at least a
dozen things are coming to mind in answer to that question.
What is simplicity?
Here are a few bullet point thoughts of mine on defining what I consider to be biblical
- It’s knowing that the goal is to know and love God and people. Don't you just love the
way that Jesus boils it all down to love God and people! Simple. (I didn't say "easy," I
- It’s taking the most direct route to the goal. It's insisting on the least circuitous way.
It's not wasting a bunch of energy on what doesn’t matter. It's simply heading toward
the goal without a lot of detours and distractions. To be simple is to be
- It’s the ruthless rejection of compulsive extravagance. Our world is obsessed with
stuff and status (based on our stuff). Jesus came simply - as a baby in a barn. He
first came to poor shepherds, with simple parents. Isn't it weird how we take that
story of a simple family and make it into a holiday excuse to be opulent and
- It’s the opposite of duplicity. It's being single-minded instead of double-minded. It's not
saying one thing and doing another - two-faced. It's being and acting like who you
really are. To be simple is to be real.
- It’s having a center, and revolving everything in your life around that center. It
simplifies your life to have a center, a reference point. If we try to have two hubs on
one wheel, the wheel won’t roll right! Paul said, “to me to live is Christ." To be simple
is be centered.
- It’s being less mesmerized by media. I have "news" for you (pun intended), the media
doesn’t always tell the truth! Because we're chasing the current event through the
internet and tv channels in order to know the latest about the greatest, we have no
time for family or friends (those real flesh and blood people next to us).
- It’s being less consumerish and addicted to the latest and greatest products. One of
the things we learn from the media (see above) is that we have to have more stuff to
make us happy. And in our country, we already have more than our share of stuff. We
have more stuff than realize we have. And now our own government has joined the
chorus encouraging us to buy more, and in this case to "stimulate the economy." And
while our economy might be temporarily benefited by our lust for more, our lives will
- It’s paying more attention to the poor. The natural consequence of being un-addicted
to media and less consumerish is to be more concerned with people who have less
than us. To be simple is to be generous.
What simplicity isn't
- It isn’t the same as simplisitic. We're not talking here about the oversimplification of
complex issues. We're not trying to boil things down beyond what they’re boilable. We
don't reject the use of solid deductive reasoning, or trying to dumb down the world.
Simple is not simplistic.
- It isn’t the same as easy. We're not saying, "Let’s try to have an easier life." In fact,
it's not easy to be simple in a complicated world. I think because our world is what it
is (complex, convoluted, confusing), it's actually harder to be simple. It takes more
effort to be simple than to go with the current of complexity.
- It isn’t just an outward thing. There are no rules or agreed-upon-boundaries for the
simple. It's an inside out thing. If you're going to get simplicity, you'll get it from a
great, majestic, awesome, yet simple live-in Savior. He inspires simplicity from the
How do I get simplicity?
Be more selective and prioritize. Boil things down to what’s important to God. Find out
what matters to Him. Shouldn't what matters to God, matter to us? Someone said, “Simple
is arranging your life around a few consistent purposes and explicitly excluding what is not
necessary.” What if we wrote down everything we did for a month and ranked every
How would you fare? What would your score be?
- #1 absolutely essential,
- #2 helpful but not necessary,
- #3 important but not essential,
- #4 trivial but not evil,
- #5 wrong.
Choose to have a simple and intimate relationship with Jesus. We're obviously not talking
about religion here. Think about it, is religion simple? I don't think that those two words
(religion and simple) are at all synonymous. Rules (upon which religion is based) tend to
complicate rather than simplify. In religion, it's hard to keep track of what you're supposed
to do. Relationship, on the other hand is rather simple. It's person to person. We become
His friends. Friendship is pretty simple, don't you think?
For other stuff on simplicity see the Simple Pleasure paper and/or several messages on
the topic of Simplicity in Recorded Messages...
In addition to my thoughts, while there are many books on the subject of Simplicity, my
favorite is, The Freedom of Simplicity by, Richard Foster.