The Disciplines: Simplicity
What are “spiritual disciplines?” Author and pastor John Piper describes them this way:
“The spiritual disciplines are those practices found in Scripture that promote spiritual growth among believers in the gospel of Jesus Christ. They are habits of devotion, habits of experiential Christianity that have been practiced by God’s people since biblical times.”
If something’s been practiced by believers since biblical times, it’s probably pretty important, right?
The answer should be, of course, a resounding “Yes!” Yet many of us struggle to make these disciplines habits.
Today, we want to focus on just one of the many spiritual disciplines to help you grow in your walk with Jesus and equip you to begin to make these disciplines part of your daily life.
Let’s take a close look at the discipline of simplicity.
In the History Channel show “Alone,” contestants are given essential clothing (shirt, jacket, etc.) and then allowed to choose ten other items to survive in the arctic for up to a year. If you could only pick ten items, besides clothes, to “survive” your current daily life, what would they be?
This question might be difficult for many of us to answer. Most of us have homes full of things that mean the world to us but also distract us from focusing on God and His Kingdom. Luke 12 speaks to the idea that living simple makes God our treasure.
Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” — 12:13–21
Let’s take a moment to learn more about the importance of practicing simplicity and how we can implement this discipline into our daily rhythms.
The thought of living a life of simplicity can often bring about feelings of anxiety. If I have less, what does that mean? Thankfully the passage in Luke 12 continues,
And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. — 12:22–34
Take a moment to reflect on the following questions and assess where you are in your practice of simplicity:
1️⃣ How do you see the cultural narrative of more money + more stuff = happiness reinforced to you? What examples can you give? What are ways you are prone to embrace that narrative?
2️⃣ What things do you feel anxious about? How might living simply address those fears or anxieties?
3️⃣ What other things compete for your devotion or focus in life? What needs to change to help you embrace a single-hearted focus on God’s Kingdom?
William Macdonald once noted: “This radical financial policy is based on the underlying principle that where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. If your money is in a safe-deposit box, then your heart and desire are also there. If your treasures are in heaven, your interests will be centered there. This teaching forces us to decide whether Jesus meant what He said. If He did, then we face the question, what are we going to do with our earthly treasures?”
One of the great ways that we can combat making “stuff” our treasure is by following Jesus’ call to “Sell your possession and give to the needy” (Luke 12:33). This week, spend some time in prayer asking God to help reveal to you how you can practice the discipline of simplicity in your life and what that might look like for your family.
We pray that we are ultimately a people who treasure God above all else.