Some of my students have recently gotten into the book The Celebration of discipline by Richard Foster, a true classic. It brought me back to some posts I did a few years ago on the chapter that had the biggest impact on me, the chapter on simplicity. I’ll share those thoughts in the next couple posts.
[As I was recently praying and reading on living a simplified life], I opened Richard Foster’s classic work The Celebration of Discipline, as I remembered some of his thoughts on simplicity. He has some great thoughts on what he separates out as Inner Simplicity and Outward Simplicity. Today, we will deal with Inner, and part two will look at the Outward.
Foster starts by critiquing our culture on its lack of simplicity (which is not hard, not even 25 years ago when Foster first wrote this). He states, “Covetousness we call ambition. Hoarding we call prudence. Greed we call industry.” He then gives an overview of the scriptural examples of simplicity and the statements against greed. He then summarizes Inner Simplicity with three attitudes that we should all have. Here they are with my commentary.
1. “To receive what we have as a gift from God is the first inner attitude of simplicity.”
Everything we have is from God, and we must always remember that. The simplest things that we depend on are typically the things we don’t control anyway: air, water, sun(warmth). Realizing that we trust God for what we have and receive is very important to living a life of simplicity. It is when we see ourselves as the source that we can both succumb to greed and be gripped with the fear of falling with no security. When a person starts playing these games, it is hard to come back.
It is certainly wise to take precautions like locking the doors to your house. But, in the end, it is God who protects the house, and not the lock. For that matter it is God who ultimately protects everything we have; our employment, our reputations, our families. If we were to see ourselves as the protectors of these things, we could easily go crazy taking every precaution. We would be gripped with anxiety. It boils down to a trust issue, once again.
3. “To have our goods available to others marks the third inner attitude of simplicity.”
Foster attributes our incessant need to hold onto our possessions and never share with others to one thing: fear of the future. We do not trust God to provide for us for tomorrow, so we hoard and collect so we will have enough for tomorrow. This is the exact thing that the Israelites tried to do with Manna, and they were corrected for not having proper faith in God to provide for them each day. Foster says, “If our goods are not available to the community when it is clearly right and good, then they are stolen goods.” What a statement. I still think this goes back to the idea that we think we own what we have, and the truth is that that is not stewardship, because stewards don’t own anything.