February 3rd, 2023 - Simplicity


As we begin a new day, like we have done on previous days, we slow down. We pause.

Today as we consider the spiritual practice of simplicity let us ask the Lord to clear our minds and resist the complexities of life. For so many, today your schedule is consumed with dozens of meetings and to-dos, don't allow these things to control your mind in this moment.

Deep breaths giving your concerns and anxieties to the Lord.

Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit we dedicate these moments to you now. Help me to have ears to ear and a heart to obey your truth. 

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told the crowds:
“Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

In the anxiety ridden grind of our modern world, perhaps no teaching of Jesus is more highlighted, referenced, and emphasized than Matthew 6:25-34. You can go on Youtube, type in “Jesus -Do not worry or be anxious” and scroll down through videos seemingly forever. The appeal to our fatigued spirits is obvious. Look at the birds, look at the pretty lilies in the field. God is good, don’t worry! Jesus invites us into a reality of childlike trust in our Father. But that invitation into serenity comes with a challenge: Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.  

The cares of this world will choke our awareness of all that God puts in. We are never free from the continual encroachment of tomorrow’s unknown. It may not necessarily be clothes and food, but we concern ourselves to mental and spiritual exhaustion with the anxiety of providing for tomorrow. Without knowledge of the future, we can never be certain we are prepared. So, we continue to grasp for more, more money, more information, more material goods, more structure, more control, more, more, more. GK Chesterton wrote, “There are two ways to get enough. One is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.”

Money, information, material goods, and stability are not bad things. The material world is meant to be lived in happily; adequate provision is a necessary part of the content life. The problem arises when we make these things the main concern of our life. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also (Matt 6:21). Conversely, when we seek first the kingdom of God, we lay aside the burden of constantly getting ahead, of having control over the unknown variables of life. Focusing on Christ and his kingdom allows us to develop what Richard Foster calls the “divine center.” Our many roles with their differing motivations become united and oriented to a single center of reference: the person of Jesus.
Do everything through that lens, make every decision through that filter, and watch your life arrange itself into joyful simplicity. It really is that simple. Simple, but not easy. Our minds struggle to put handles on how to actually live like this. If you’d like to dive deeper into the spiritual discipline of simplicity, Richard Foster’s Freedom of Simplicity is an incredible place to start, full of straightforward application and spiritual wisdom. Here are a few broad stroke suggestions:

  1. Slow down. Retreat like Jesus did to seek the Father, to be in His presence. If this is not already part of your routine, be intentional. Foster writes that “We must have a set time, especially in the beginning, to still the churning, to quiet the restlessness, to meditate on the almighty God who dwells in our hearts.” Just like prayer or any other spiritual discipline, God wants to meet you where you are. If five minutes is all your schedule or attention span allows, outstanding. Show up, draw near to God, and do it again tomorrow.
  2. Speaking of your schedule, clear it. Sure, we can’t quit our jobs or pull out of every responsibility, but chances are a lot of your “obligations” are by choice. We are too busy by choice. We overextend and overwhelm ourselves by choice. Take a serious look at your calendar and consider reducing it, even the good things. Don’t feel guilty. If you want more of God in your life, give Him some elbow room. 
  3. Get uncomfortable with the rampant consumerism of our culture. Stop buying so much stuff. Stop believing that any material good or experience will make you better. Appreciate what you already have. Practically, maybe give yourself a 24 hours pause before placing an Amazon Prime order.
The specifics of simplicity look different for everyone and for every culture. Don’t get hung up on details. You really only need one thing: an earnest desire to know God and to walk with Him.
Pray: Heavenly Father, left to my own devices I am wicked and fickle. Have mercy on me and guide me in your way of life. Help me slow down and trust you. May I value spiritual things more than material things. May I be poor, afflicted and despised with Jesus rather than rich, successful, and admired without Jesus. May I seek your kingdom first, on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.