2 Corinthians 1:12 (ESV)
“For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you.”
Living simply is simply not simple.
That’s the conclusion I have come to as I have sought to apprehend simplicity. My church has been studying the book, “Celebration of Discipline” by Richard Foster. And this past week I have been applying last week’s sermon on Simplicity. Every day, asking God to help me, little by little, to get rid of what I don’t need. “A bag a day” in about 10-15 minutes is about all the time I have, but little by little I am making a dent.
And why pursue simplicity? Because at the heart of our faith in God is the understanding that we are on a mission down here. Jesus paid our sin debt not so we would seek to be comfortable in a fallen world, but so we could live lives focused on knowing Him and making Him known. But this world can distract us so easily.
That’s where simplicity becomes complex. We make simplicity complicated because of our wants. We convince ourselves that our wants are needs and in our own deception, we are convinced that we need even more. That is the nature of the flesh—never fully satisfied.
Paul is encouraging us to boast in our simplicity while the world is encouraging us to boast in what we own and achieve. How can we be simple in a complex world? it is complicated.
If we are just setting out to be a minimalist, this can have a good effect on us, but the inward motivation of sacrifice is missing. A minimalist can still be a minimalist but still have his or her “wants” unchecked. Oh, to be satisfied with Jesus and not just things. Or statuses. Or positions. Or comfort.
In the world
Another stumbling block that makes it difficult to live a life of simplicity is the fact that we are in the world and influenced by its messages of materialism. But Jesus encourages us to be in the world and not of it. This is so very hard for us but Paul encourages us toward God’s grace, not toward earthly wisdom. Unless we are constantly looking to the compass of God’s word, we will be led down a confusing, complicated path. What does the Bible say is needful? Time with Jesus. Time in prayer. Time in God’s word. Time with others. Clothing. And our daily bread.
Wanting acceptance or approval from others can also affect our ability to live simply. My precious husband has been such an example in this area. While others would mock our vehicles that were approaching 300,000 miles and showing plenty of wear, he was just grateful for faithful transportation. While some of us in “said vehicle” would slide down to avoid being seen, he would honk and greet passersby—those who told him that I “deserved” a better car.
While we don’t drive “the green beast” anymore, our trusted Chevy Astro van of 12 years or so, it was not before that thing had been used up that we moved on to another used vehicle. The shame for driving a busted up vehicle is not remembered. And the contentedness for what we have now is enduring.
There is a degree of pain that can deter us from living simply. We have to let go. It might mean sacrifice, which feels so very hard at times, but the feeling that comes after is our reward. A weight lifted. An inner joy bubbling up because we could let go. Things have less of a hold on us.
Disappointment and life’s struggles can also inflict pain in our lives that make us want to hold onto what seems certain in this life. But things cannot comfort us like the One who is truly certain and needed—Jesus.
Ah. I have so very far to go, friends. How about you? There are so many other things that make simplicity complex. What makes it difficult for you to live a life of simplicity? When we lack the strength to choose simplicity, our God is well able to help us.
It might be a small step at first. It might mean getting rid of material things that cloud our vision. One bag at a time. Or removing things from our calendar that keep us too busy. Asking God what needs to be pruned. But one thing that matters most is simply getting into God’s presence. Let Him do the work on us. Time in His word. His word changes us when we study it and ask God to help us apply it in our lives. Bible Reading plans can go a long way in helping us to put “the big Rock” first in our lives.
When we feel condemned for our lack of simplicity or whatever area we struggle in, we have a Savior who died to set us free. It does not matter how many times in our walk with God that we think we have covered an area. Oh my, we have blind spots. Big ones. And God is so very patient with us to bring these topics up, again and again, to help to set us free. Free to live the abundant life of Christ. One step at a time.