Simplicity Made Simple | How We Get Simplicity
Written By Andrew Jones
Read: Philippians 4:10-20.
How do you think simplicity relates to Paul’s contentment in the passage?
Focus: This fall, we are focusing on the discipline of simplicity. Each week we will dig deeper into this discipline. Take the next 5 minutes to hear from Andrew Jones about how to get simplicity in the Christian life.
How We Get Simplicity
I kid you not, when I was in college (it was a Christian school), some random girl I did not know walked up to me, looked at what I was wearing, and with a dead serious look on her face, said, “I think you have the spiritual gift of voluntary poverty.” I’m not going to lie, that stung a little.
As I walked away, my ego took over. Well of course I have the gift of voluntary poverty! Sure, I don’t have nice stuff, and my clothes are out of style, but at least I’m not like those shallow people who DO care about how they look! Thank God I’m not like them!
You probably have never had this specific inner monologue, but you have probably had a similar one. I bring it up in this context because it summarizes well the inherent danger of practicing the discipline of simplicity, which is a focus in this season of study. Simplicity is inherently an outward and visible discipline, evident in the things we do or do not buy, have or do not have, say or do not say. Because of this, it can very easily become a kind of end in itself, a legalism meant to justify rather than a practice meant to liberate.
That is why, before we practice simplicity on the outside, we need to seek it on the inside. Jesus puts His finger on the problem when He teaches this in the Sermon on the Mount recorded in Matthew chapter 6 beginning in verse 25. “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?…For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
Notice that Jesus gives a name to our problem with simplicity: anxiety, the pervading sense that we will not be okay, no matter how much food we have, or how much stuff we buy. Jesus’ remedy is not, first and foremost, to seek less of those things, but to seek something else first: the kingdom of God.
Richard Foster, in Celebration of Discipline, points out that seeking the kingdom first is not actually to do anything, but rather to place our attention, our desire, and our confidence in who God is and what He is doing, trusting that as we participate alongside Him in His kingdom, our needs will be met.
If we seek anything else first, even simplicity, we will find another legalism and another attempt of anxious control. It’s as dead an end as my inner monologue that day in college. But if we seek the kingdom first, we can practice and find the simple life, with the Spirit’s help. This is our goal whenever we practice the disciplines; to match an inner reality of faith in God and His kingdom, with an outward manifestation of the kingdom’s reality.
For the next several weeks, as we examine specific areas of our lives and how simplicity might challenge them, let’s remember we do not seek simplicity, even as we practice it. When we know, as Paul puts it in Philippians 4, not only how to be brought low, but also how to abound, how to be content in any and all circumstances as a gift of God, when we seek first His kingdom, then we are on the right track. And we will increasingly find that “all these things will be added to you.”
Prayer: Pray that God would give you contentment as you pursue the discipline of simplicity.