Simplicity and Stuff

simplicityI gave a primer on the topic of Simplicity in both blog and podcast form. After that I shared two symptoms of a simple life: sincerity and spontaneity. Here I share in outlinish form about Simplicity and Stuff, you know, possessions, money, and just stuff. I put some meat on these bare bones in a podcast talk by the same name (Simplicity and Stuff) if you’re interested to know more.

It’s not particularly fashionable to talk this way these days, especially, and unfortunately in Christian circles. So many of us have overlooked this major theme in Scripture and have gone the opposite direction. In the name of God, many have pursued and accumulated more and more stuff.

There exists even in the Christian community a passion to possess, a lust for affluence. Many are driven by compulsive extravagance and justify it by Scripture. Someone said, “My only problem is my net income doesn’t support my gross lifestyle.” From where I sit, a lot of supposed disciples of the vagabond, homeless preacher named Jesus have confused their net worth with their self worth.

In the last few years I’ve become friends quite a number of people who choose, and some who don’t, to live a remarkably simple life. In the podcast I tell more about them. Many of them are intelligent, university educated people, who’ve chosen the life they live in order to be generous with the marginalized, not use up more than their God intended portion, and live with a freedom from excess. Not everyone is necessarily called to “radical simplicity,” but I’m personally inspired by them all.

Here’s an outline of my podcast talk. At the end you’ll find some further reading suggestions of mine.

Where did all this stuff come from?

Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. 1 Timothy 6:6-10

Whose stuff is it and what am I supposed to do with it?

“The inward reality of simplicity involves the life of joyful unconcern for his or her possessions. . . Simplicity sets us free to receive the provision of God as a gift that is not ours to keep and can be freely shared with others.” Richard Foster

Do not wear yourself out to get rich; do not trust your own cleverness. Proverbs 23:4

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

. . . not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money 1 Timothy 3:3

For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Ephesians 5:5

But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. 1 Corinthians 5:11

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. Matthew 6:19-20

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. Philippians 4:11-12

“Money never stays with me. It would burn me if it did. I throw it out of my hands as soon as possible, lest it should find its way within my heart.” John Wesley

Two things I ask of you, O Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God. Proverbs 30:7-9

“Choose not that in which you may be most rich or honorable in the world; but that in which you may do the most good, and best escape sinning.” Richard Baxter

“There are two ways to get enough: one is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.” G.K. Chesterton

“Simplicity is the only thing that can sufficiently reorient our lives so that possessions can be genuinely enjoyed without destroying us.” Richard Foster

Some suggested simplifiers (adapted from Richard Foster in Celebration of Discipline)

  • Give something important away…Find one possession that you value, and ask God, “Am I growing too attached to this object? Is it becoming a treasure to me?”
  • If you make more than you need, ask God to show you what to do with the surplus… giving…
  • Buy things for their usefulness rather than status; for their utility not their prestige…
  • Don’t buy something new before you need it. Use things till they’re worn out…
  • Reject anything that is producing an addiction in you.
  • Develop a habit of giving things away… De-acculmulate… Simplify!
  • Refuse to be manipulated by the media into believing that they know better than you do about what you actually need.
  • Don’t be duped by the salesmen of modern gadgetry…
  • Learn to enjoy things without owning them. Share stuff with others… Enjoy the beach without feeling you have to buy a piece of it.
  • Develop a deeper appreciation for the creation. It’s usually free of charge!
  • Avoid buying more than you can afford on credit… Be patient…You don’t have to have it now…
  • Try a week-long “Fast” of all unnecessary shopping/buying/spending…Don’t buy anything except what sustains your life (like food and supplies)…

Some suggested reading on simplicity:

  • Simple Spirituality: Learning to See God in a Broken World by Christopher Heuertz
  • Free: Spending Your Time And Money On What Matters Most by Mark Scandrette
  • Simpler Living Compassionate Life edited and compiled by Michael Schut
  • The Freedom of Simplicity by Richard Foster
  • The Shakertown Pledge 

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