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Revisiting Simplicity

Revisiting Simplicity

Today, Rick Rhoads follows up on the idea of living simply. To read his initial post entitled “Living Simply”, click here. – Editor

Years after living in “Big Blue”, my wife and I still find ourselves rhythmically revisiting the idea of simplicity.  We’ll emerge out of a month of busyness and seeming chaos, pull aside, and ask, “What needs to change so we can recapture simplicity?” We’ll do our best to live it out well, and succeed for a while, before drifting back into increasing complexity.

I’ve come to the conclusion that no one simply drifts into simplicity.

In fact, it seems to be just the opposite.  Without the appropriate guidelines in life, most of us drift into complexity.  Before we know it, our time is consumed by our smartphones, social media sites, e-mails, work and ministry commitments, etc. Even the expectations of other people in our lives can prompt us to drift backward.  Before you know it, you feel enslaved to whatever excess you now have to manage.  For some of us it might be to our “physical stuff” – the material and financial upkeep of things, whereas for others, it might be the number of relationships they are trying to maintain.

Regardless of where your life seems to be complex, the one thing we can all agree on is that many of us simply feel overwhelmed by it all. For those of you working in the area of Student Ministry I know you understand this feeling well; for yourself as well as your students.

This past week while reading Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster, I was struck by the concept that simplicity starts as an interior exercise before becoming an external practice.  It’s birthed out of internal contemplation and conviction before it changes anything in our complex and chaotic outside worlds. The following are ten practical suggestions Richard Foster offers in the discipline of simplifying our lives.  Great practices for as leaders as well as our teens!

10 practical suggestions in the area of simplicity:

1. Buy things for their usefulness rather than their status.

Cars should be bought for their utility, not their prestige. Consider your clothes. Most people have no need for more clothes. They buy more not because they need clothes, but because they want to keep up with the fashions. Hang the fashions!

2. Reject anything that is producing an addiction in you.

Learn to distinguish between a real psychological need, like cheerful surroundings, and an addiction. Any of the media that you find you cannot do without, get rid of. If money has a grip on your heart, give some away and feel the inner release.

3. Develop a habit of giving things away.

If you find that you are becoming attached to some possession, consider giving it to someone who needs it. De-accumulate! Masses of things that are not needed complicate life. They must be sorted and stored and dusted and resorted and restored ad nauseum.

4. Refuse to be propagandized by the custodians of modern gadgetry.

Most gadgets are built to break down and wear out and so complicate our lives rather than enhance them. Usually gadgets are an unnecessary drain on the energy resources of the world. Environmental responsibility alone should keep us from buying the majority of the gadgets produced today.

5. Learn to enjoy things without owning them.

Owning things is an obsession in our culture. If we own it, we feel we can control it; and if we can control it, we feel it will give us more pleasure. The idea is an illusion. Enjoy the beach without feeling you have to buy a piece of it.

6. Develop a deeper appreciation for creation.

Get close to the earth. Walk whenever you can. Listen to the birds. Enjoy the texture of grass and leaves. Smell the flowers. Marvel in the rich colors everywhere.

7. Look with a healthy skepticism at all ‘buy now, pay later’ schemes.

They are a trap and only deepen your bondage. Certainly prudence, as well as simplicity, demands that we use extreme caution before incurring debt.

8. Obey Jesus’ instructions about plain, honest speech.

“Let what you say be simply Yes or No; anything more than this comes from evil.” (Matt. 5:37) If you consent to do a task, do it. Avoid flattery and half-truths. Make honesty and integrity the distinguishing characteristics of your speech. No more “I’ll be praying for you” uttered from an insincere heart.

9. Reject anything that breeds the oppression of others.

Do we sip our coffee and eat our bananas at the expense of exploiting Latin American peasants? In a world of limited resources, does our lust for wealth mean the poverty of others? Should we buy products that are made by forcing people into dull assembly-line jobs? Do we enjoy hierarchical relationships in the company or factory that keep others under us? Do we oppress our children or spouse because we feel certain tasks are beneath us?

10. Shun anything that distracts you from seeking first the kingdom of God.

It is so easy to lose focus in the pursuit of legitimate, even good things. Job, position, status, family, friends, and security – these and many more can all too quickly become the center of attention.

Simplicity is a discipline to be cultivated. First, internally as we examine our hearts, and then second, externally as we examine our lives and our schedules. As you enter into that examination, here are some questions to consider.

  • How simple is your current life?
  • What needs to go or be trimmed down?
  • How can you model these principles for your students? How can you begin to help cultivate them in their lives? Remember it starts with you the leader!

Rick Rhoads
Professor of Student Min at Lancaster Bible College
Rick is the Director of the Student Ministry Majors at Lancaster Bible College. He has served as an Assistant Professor in Student Ministry at LBC for the past 7 years. Over the past 18 years, he has served in various Student Ministry roles at Lebanon Valley YFC, LCBC, Calvary Bible Church, and Riverbend Community Church. Rick, his wife Naomi, and their two children Grace and Eli live East Petersburg, PA.
  1. Isaac Ketner01-30-13

    Thanks for the reminder! This is what my heart has been longing for.