Chapter 6 - The Discipline of Simplicity

From Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline (Hodder & Stoughton, 1998)

When we are truly in this interior simplicity our whole ap­pearance is franker, more natural. This true simplicity . . . makes us conscious of a certain openness, gentle­ness, innocence, gaiety, and serenity, which is charming when we see it near to and continually, with pure eyes. O, how amiable this simplicity is! Who will give it to me? I leave all for this. It is the pearl of the Gospel. —Francois Fenelon

Simplicity is freedom. Duplicity is bondage. Simplicity brings joy and balance. Duplicity brings anxiety and fear. The preacher of Ecclesiastes observed that "God made man simple; man's complex problems are of his own devising" (Eccles. 7:29, Jerusalem Bible). Because many of us are experiencing the liberation God brings through simplic­ity we are once again singing an old Shaker hymn;

It's a gift to be simple,
It's a gift to be free,
It's a gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we see ourselves in a way that's right,
We will live in a valley of love and delight!

When true simplicity is gained,
To live and to love we will not be ashamed,
To turn and to turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning
We turn 'round right.

The Christian Discipline of simplicity is an inward reality that re­sults in an outward life-style. Both the inward and outward aspects of simplicity are essential. We deceive ourselves if we believe we can possess the inward reality without its having a profound effect on how we live. To attempt to arrange an outward life-style of simplicity without the inward reality leads to deadly legalism.

Simplicity begins in inward focus and unity. It means to live out of what Thomas Kelly called "The Divine Center." Kierkegaard cap­tured the nucleus of Christian simplicity in the profound title of his book, Purity of Heart Is to Will One Thing.

Experiencing the inward reality liberates us outwardly. Speech be­comes truthful and honest. The lust for status and position is gone, because we no longer need status and position. We cease from showy extravagance, not on the grounds of being unable to afford it, but on the grounds of principle. Our goods become available to others. We join the experience that Richard E. Byrd recorded in his journal after months alone in the barren Arctic: "I am learning . . . that a man can live profoundly without masses of things."

Contemporary culture lacks both the inward reality and the outward life-style of simplicity.

Inwardly modem man is fractured and fragmented. He is trapped in a maze of competing attachments. One moment he makes decisions on the basis of sound reason and the next moment out of fear of what others will think of him. He has no unity or focus around which life is oriented.

Because we lack a divine Center our need for security has led us into an insane attachment to things. We must clearly understand that the lust for affluence in contemporary society is psychotic. It is psy­chotic because it has completely lost touch with reality. We crave things we neither need nor enjoy. "We buy things we do not want to impress people we do not like." Where planned obsolescence leaves off, psychological obsolescence takes over. We are made to feel ashamed to wear clothes or drive cars until they are worn out. The mass media have convinced us that to be out of step with fashion is to be out of step with reality. It is time we awaken to the fact that confor­mity to a sick society is to be sick. Until we see how unbalanced our culture has become at this point we will not be able to deal with the mammon spirit within ourselves nor will we desire Christian simplic­ity.

This psychosis permeates even our mythology. The modem hero is the poor boy who becomes rich rather than the Franciscan or Buddhist ideal of the rich boy who voluntarily becomes poor. (We still find it hard to imagine that either could happen to a girl!) Covetousness we call ambition. Hoarding we call prudence. Greed we call industry.

Further, it is important to understand that the modem counter cul­ture is hardly an improvement. It is a superficial change in life-style without seriously dealing with the root problems of a consumer soci­ety. Because the counter culture has always lacked a positive center it has inevitably degenerated into trivia. Art Gish has said:

Much of the counter culture is a mirror of the worst features of the old sick society. The revolution is not free dope, free sex, and abortions on demand. That is the dying gasps of an old cul­ture and will not lead to new life. The pseudo-libertarian erot­icism, elements of sado-masochism, and sexist advertisements in much of the underground press is part of the perversion of the old order and an expression of death. Many in the underground are living the same values of the establishment, only in inverted form.

Courageously we need to articulate new, more human ways to live. We should take exception to the modem psychosis that defines people by how much they can produce or what they earn. We should experi­ment with bold new alternatives to the present death-giving system. The Spiritual Discipline of simplicity is not a lost dream but a recur­rent vision throughout history. It can be recaptured today. It must be.

The Bible and Simplicity

Before attempting to forge a Christian view of simplicity it is neces­sary to destroy the prevailing notion that the Bible is ambiguous about economic issues. So often it is felt that our response to wealth is an in­dividual matter. The Bible's teaching in this area is said to be strictly a matter of private interpretation. We try to believe that Jesus did not address himself to practical economic questions.

No serious reading of Scripture can substantiate such a view. The biblical injunctions against 'the exploitation of the poor and the ac­cumulation of wealth are clear and straightforward. The Bible chal­lenges nearly every economic value of contemporary society. For ex­ample, the Old Testament takes exception to the popular notion of an absolute right to private property. The earth belonged to God and therefore could not be held perpetually, and on the year of Jubilee all land reverted to its original owner. In fact, the purpose of the year of Jubilee was to provide a regular redistribution of wealth, since wealth itself was viewed as belonging to God and not man. Such a radical view of economics flies in the face of nearly all modem belief and practice. Had Israel faithfully observed the Jubilee it would have dealt a death blow to the perennial problem of the rich becoming richer and the poor becoming poorer.

Constantly the Bible deals decisively with the inner spirit of slavery that an idolatrous attachment to wealth brings. "If riches increase, set not your heart on them," counsels the psalmist (Ps. 62:10). The tenth commandment is against covetousness, the inner lust to "have," which leads to stealing and oppression. The wise sage understood that "he who trusts in his riches will wither" (Prov. 11:28).

Jesus declared war on the materialism of His day. The Aramaic term for wealth was "mammon" and Jesus condemned it as a rival God: "No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon" (Lk. 16:13). He spoke frequently and unambiguously to economic issues. He said, "Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God" and "Woe to you that are rich, for you have received your consolation" (Lk. 6:20, 24). He graphically depicted the difficulty of the wealthy enter­ing the kingdom of God to be like a camel walking through the eye of a needle. With God, of course, all things are possible, but Jesus clearly understood the difficulty. He saw the grip that wealth can have on a person. He knew that "where your treasure is, there will your heart be also," which is precisely why He commanded His followers:

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth" (Mt. 6:21, 19). He was not saying that the heart should or should not be where the trea­sure is. He was stating the plain fact that wherever you find the treasure you will find the heart.

He exhorted the rich young ruler not just to have an inner attitude of detachment from his possessions but literally to get rid of his posses­sions if he wanted the kingdom of God (Mt. 19:16-22). He said, "Take heed, and beware of all covetousness; for a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions" (Lk. 12:15). He counseled people who came seeking God, "Sell your possessions, and give alms; provide yourselves with purses that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail . . ." (Lk. 12:33). He told the parable of the rich farmer whose life centered in hoarding—and called him a fool (Lk. 12:16-21). He said that if we really want the kingdom of God we must, like a merchant in search of fine pearls, be willing to sell everything we have to get it (Mt. 13:45, 46). He called all who would follow Him to a joyful life of carefree unconcern for possessions: "Give to every one who begs from you; and of him who takes away your goods, do not ask them again" (Lk. 6:30).

Jesus spoke to the question of economics more than any other single social issue. If in a comparatively simple society our Lord would lay such strong emphasis upon the spiritual dangers of wealth, how much more should we who live in a highly affluent culture take seriously the economic question.

The epistles reflect the same concern. Paul said, "Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction (1 Tim. 6:9). A bishop should not be a "lover of money" (1 Tim. 3:3). A deacon should not be "greedy for gain" (I Tim. 3:8). The writer to the Hebrews counseled, "Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, 'I will never fail you nor forsake you' " (Heb. 13:5). James blamed killings and wars on the lust for possessions: "You desire and do not have; so you kill. And you covet and cannot obtain; so you fight and wage war" (Jas. 4:1-2). Paul called covetousness idolatry and commanded the Corinthian church to exercise stem discipline against anyone guilty of greed (Eph. 5:5, 1 Cor. 5:11). He listed greed alongside adultery and thievery and declared that those who live in those things would not inherit the king­dom of God. Paul counseled the wealthy not to trust in their wealth but in God, and to share generously with others (1 Tim. 6:17-19).

Having said this I must hasten to add that God intends that we should have adequate material provision. There is misery today from a simple lack of provision, just as there is misery when people try to make a life out of provision. Forced poverty is evil and should be renounced. Nor does the Bible condone asceticism. Scripture declares consistently and forcefully that the creation is good and to be enjoyed.

Asceticism makes an unbiblical division between a good spiritual world and an evil material world and so finds salvation in paying as little attention as possible to the physical realm of existence.

Asceticism and simplicity are mutually incompatible. Occasional superficial similarities in practice must never obscure the radical dif­ference between the two. Asceticism renounces possessions. Simplic­ity sets possessions in proper perspective. Asceticism can find no place for a "land flowing with milk and honey." Simplicity can rejoice in this gracious provision from the hand of God. Asceticism can find contentment only when it is abased. Simplicity knows contentment in both abasement and abounding (Phil. 4:12).

Simplicity is the only thing that can sufficiently reorient our lives so that possessions can be genuinely enjoyed without destroying us. Without simplicity we will either capitulate to the "mammon" spirit of this present evil age, or we will fall into an un-Christian legalistic asceticism. Both lead to idolatry. Both arc spiritually lethal.

Scripture abounds in descriptions of the abundant material provision God gives His people. "For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land ... a land ... in which you will lack nothing" (Deut. 8:7-9). It also abounds in warnings about the danger of provisions that are not kept in proper perspective. "Beware lest you say in your heart, 'My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth' " (Deut. 8:17).

The Spiritual Discipline of simplicity provides the needed perspec­tive. Simplicity sets us free to receive the provision of God as a gift that is not ours to keep, and that can be freely shared with others. Once we recognize that the Bible denounces the materialist and the as­cetic with equal vigor, we are prepared to turn our attention to the framing of a Christian understanding of simplicity.

A Place to Stand

Archimedes declared, "Give me a place to stand and I will move the earth." Such a focal point is important in every Discipline but is acutely so with simplicity. Of all the Disciplines simplicity is the most visible and therefore the most open to corruption. The majority of Christians have never seriously wrestled with the problem of simplicity, conveniently ignoring Jesus' many words on the subject. The reason is simple: this Discipline directly challenges our vested interests in an affluent life-style. But those who take the biblical teaching on simplicity seriously are faced with severe temptations toward legalism. In the earnest attempt to give concrete expression to Jesus' economic teaching it is easy to mistake our expression of the teaching for the teaching. We wear this attire or buy that kind of house and canonize our choices as the simple life. This danger gives special importance to finding and clearly articulating an Archimedian focal point for simplic­ity.

We have such a focal point in the words of Jesus:

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, 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 of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, 0 men of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, "What shall we eat?" or "What shall we drink?" or "What shall we wear?'' For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well (Mt. 6:25-33).

The central point for the Discipline of simplicity is to seek the king­dom of God and the righteousness of His kingdom first—and then ev­erything necessary will come in its proper order. It is impossible to overestimate the importance of Jesus' insight at this point. Everything hinges upon maintaining the "first" thing as first. Nothing must come before the kingdom of God, including the desire for a simple life-style. Simplicity becomes idolatry when it takes precedence over seek­ing the kingdom. Soren Kierkegaard wrote:

"Seek ye first God's kingdom and his righteousness." What does this mean, what have I to do, or what sort of effort is it that can be said to seek or pursue the kingdom of God? Shall I try to get a job suitable to my talents and powers in order thereby to exert an influence? No, thou shall first seek God's kingdom. Shall I then give all my fortune to the poor? No, thou shalt first seek God's kingdom. Shall I then go out to proclaim this teach­ing to the world? No, thou shalt first seek God's kingdom. But then in a certain sense it is nothing I shall do. Yes, certainly, in a certain sense it is nothing, become nothing before God, learn to keep silent; in this silence is the beginning, which is, first to seek God's kingdom. . . .'*

Focus upon the kingdom produces the inward reality, and without the inward reality we will degenerate into legalistic trivia. Nothing else can be central. The desire to get out of the rat race cannot be cen­tral, the redistribution of the world's wealth cannot be central, the con­cern for ecology cannot be central. The only thing that can be central in the Spiritual Discipline of simplicity is to seek first God's kingdom and the righteousness, both personal and social, of that kingdom. Worthy as all other concerns may be, the moment they become the focus of our efforts they become idolatry. To center on them will inevitably draw us into declaring that our particular activity is Chris­tian simplicity. And, in fact, when the kingdom of God is genuinely placed first, ecological concerns, the poor, the equitable distribution of wealth and many other things will be given their proper attention. The person who does not seek the kingdom first does not seek it at all, re­gardless of how worthy the idolatry that he or she has substituted for it.

As Jesus made so clear in our central passage, freedom from anxiety is one of the inward evidences of seeking the kingdom of God first. The inward reality of simplicity involves a life of joyful unconcern for possessions. Neither the greedy nor the miserly know that liberty. It has nothing to do with abundance of possessions or their lack. It is an inward spirit of trust. The sheer fact that a person is living without things is no guarantee that he or she is living in simplicity. Paul taught us that the love of money is the root of all evil, and often those who have it the least love it the most. It is possible for a person to be developing an outward life-style of simplicity and to be filled with anxiety. Conversely, wealth does not bring freedom from anxiety.

For riches and abundance come hypocritically clad in sheep's clothing pretending to be security against anxieties and they become then the object of anxiety . . . they secure a man against anxieties just about as well as the wolf which is put to tending the sheep secures them . . . against the wolf. . . .

Freedom from anxiety is characterized by three inner attitudes. If what we have we receive as a gift, and if what we have is to be cared for by God, and if what we have is available to others, then we will possess freedom from anxiety. This is the inward reality of simplicity. How­ever, if what we have we believe we have gotten, and if what we have we believe we must hold onto, and if what we have is not available to others, then we will live in anxiety. Such persons will never know simplicity regardless of the outward contortions they may put them­selves through in order to live "the simple life."

To receive what we have as a gift from God is the first inner attitude of simplicity. We work but we know that it is not our work that gives us what we have. We live by grace even when it comes to "daily bread." We are dependent upon God for the simplest elements of life: air, water, sun. What we have is not the result of our labor, but of the gracious care of God. When we are tempted to think that what we own is the result of our personal efforts, it takes only a little drought or a small accident to show us once again how radically dependent we are for everything.

To know that it is God's business, and not ours, to care for what we have is the second inner attitude of simplicity. God is able to protect what we possess. We can trust Him. Does that mean that we should never take the keys out of the car or lock the door? Of course not. But we know that the lock on the door is not what protects the house. It is only common sense to observe normal precaution, but if we believe that it is precaution that protects us and our goods we will be riddled with anxiety. There simply is no such thing as "burglar proof" pre­caution. Obviously these matters are not restricted to possessions but include such things as our reputation or our employment. Simplicity means the freedom to trust God for these (and all) things.

To have our goods available to others marks the third inner attitude of simplicity. Martin Luther said somewhere, "If our goods are not available to the community they are stolen goods." The reason we find these words so difficult is our fear of the future. We cling to our possessions rather than sharing them because we are anxious about to­morrow. But if we truly believe that God is who Jesus said He is, then we do not need to be afraid. When we come to see God as the al­mighty Creator and our loving Father we can share because we know that He will care for us. If someone is in need we are free to help them. Again, ordinary common sense will define the parameters of our sharing and save us from foolishness.

When we are seeking first the kingdom of God these three altitudes will characterize our lives. Taken together they define what Jesus meant by "do not be anxious." They comprise the inner reality of Christian Simplicity. And we can be certain that when we live in this central reality "all these things" that are necessary for abundant living will be ours as well.

The Outward Expression of Simplicity

To describe simplicity only as an inner reality is to say something false. The inner reality is not a reality until there is an outward expres­sion. To experience the liberating spirit of simplicity will affect how we live. As I have warned earlier, to give specific application to sim­plicity runs the risk of deteriorating into legalistic rules. It is a risk, however, that I must take, for to refuse to discuss specifics would banish the Discipline to the theoretical. After all, the writers of Scrip­ture constantly took that risk.*

I want to list ten controlling principles for the outward expression of simplicity. They should not be viewed as laws but as one attempt to flesh out the meaning of simplicity into twentieth-century life.

First, buy things for their usefulness rather than their status. Cars should be bought for their utility, not their prestige. Consider riding a bicycle. In building or buying homes, thought should be given to livability rather than how much it will impress others. Don't have more house than is reasonable. After all, who needs seven rooms for two people?

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. Buy only what you need. Wear your clothes until they are worn out. Stop trying to impress people with your clothes and impress them with your life. If it is practical in your situation, learn the joy of making clothes. And for God's sake (and I mean that quite literally) have clothes that are prac­tical rather than ornamental. John Wesley declared, "As . . .for ap­parel, I buy the most lasting and, in general, the plainest I can. I buy no furniture but what is necessary and cheap.''

Second, reject anything that is producing an addiction in you. Learn to distinguish between a real psychological need, like cheerful sur­roundings, and an addiction. Eliminate or cut down on the use of ad­dictive, nonnutritional drinks: alcohol, coffee, tea, Coca-Cola, etc. If you have become addicted to television, by all means sell your set or give it away. Any of the media that you find you cannot do without, get rid of: radios, stereos, magazines, movies, newspapers, books. Chocolate has become a serious addiction for many people. If money has a grip on your heart, give some away and feel the inner release. Simplicity is freedom, not slavery. Refuse to be a slave to anything but God.

Third, 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. I still remember the Christmas I decided that rather than buying or even making an item for a particular individual I would give him something that meant a lot to me. My motive was selfish: I wanted to know the liberation that comes from even this simple act of voluntary poverty. The gift was a ten-speed bike. As I drove to his home to deliver the gift,,I remember singing with new meaning the worship chorus, "Freely, freely you have received; freely, freely give." Yesterday my six-year-old son heard of a classmate who needs a lunch pail and asked me if he could give him his own lunch pail. Hallelujah!

De-accumulate. Masses of things that are not needed complicate life. They must be sorted and stored and dusted and re-sorted and re­stored ad nauseam. Most of us could get rid of half our possessions without any serious sacrifice. We would do well to follow the counsel of Thoreau: "Simplify, simplify."

Fourth, refuse to be propagandized by the custodians of modem gadgetry. Timesaving devices almost never save time. Beware of those words, "It will pay for itself in six months." Most gadgets are built to break down and wear out and so complicate our lives rather than enhance them. This problem is a plague in the toy industry. Our children do not need to be entertained by dolls that cry, eat, wet, sweat and spit. An old rag doll can be more enjoyable and more last­ing. Often children find more joy out of playing with old pots and pans than the latest space set. Look for toys that are educational and dura­ble. Make some yourself.

Usually gadgets are an unnecessary drain on the energy resources of the world. The United States has less than 6 percent of the world's population, but consumes about 33 percent of the world's energy. In the United States, air conditioners alone use the same amount of en­ergy as does the entire country of China with its 830 million people. Environmental responsibility alone should keep us from the majority of the gadgets produced today.

Propagandists try to convince us that because the newest model of this or that has a new feature (trinket?) we must sell the old one and buy the new one. Sewing machines have new stitches, tape recorders have new buttons, encyclopedias have new indexes. Such media dogma needs to be carefully scrutinized. Often "new" features are only a way of inducing us to buy what we do not need. Probably that refrigerator will serve us quite well for the rest of our lives even without the automatic ice maker and rainbow colors.

Fifth, leam 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. Many things in life can be enjoyed without possess­ing or controlling them. Share things. Enjoy the beach without feeling you have to buy a piece of it. Enjoy public parks and libraries.

Sixth, develop a deeper appreciation for the creation. Get close to the earth. Walk whenever you can. Listen to the birds—they are God's messengers. Enjoy the texture of grass and leaves. Marvel in the rich colors everywhere. Simplicity means to discover once again that "the earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof" (Psa. 24:1).

Seventh, look with a healthy skepticism at all "buy now, pay later" schemes. They are a trap and serve to deepen your bondage. Both Old and New Testaments condemn usury for good reasons. ("Usury" in the Bible is not used in the modern sense of exorbitant interest; it re­ferred to any interest at all.) Charging interest was viewed as an unbrotherly exploitation of another's misfortune, hence a denial of Christian community. Jesus denounced usury as a sign of the old life and admonished His disciples to "lend, expecting nothing in return" (Lk. 6:35).

These words of Scripture should not be construed into some kind of universal law obligatory upon all cultures at all times. But neither should they be thought of as totally irrelevant to modem society. Behind those biblical injunctions stand centuries of accumulated wis­dom (and perhaps some bitter experiences!). Certainly prudence as well as simplicity would demand that we use extreme caution before incurring debt.

Eighth, obey Jesus' instructions about plain, honest speech. "Let what you say be simply *Yes' or 'No'; anything more than this comes from evil" (Mt. 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. Reject jargon and abstract speculation whose purpose is to obscure and impress rather than to illuminate and inform.

Plain speech is difficult because we so seldom live out of the divine Center, so seldom respond only to heavenly promptings. Often fear of what others may think or a hundred other motives determine our "yes" or "no" rather than obedience to divine urgings. Then if a more attractive opportunity, or a situation that will put us in a better light, arises we quickly reverse our decision. But if our speech comes out of obedience to the divine Center, we will find no reason to turn our "yes" into "no" and our "no" into "yes." We will be living in simplicity of speech because our words will have only one Source. S0ren Kierkegaard wrote: "If thou art absolutely obedient to God, then there is no ambiguity in thee and . . . thou art mere simplicity before God .... One thing there is which all Satan's cunning and all the snares of temptation cannot take by surprise, and that is sim­plicity."

Ninth, reject anything that will breed the oppression of others. Per­haps no person has more fully embodied this principle than the eight­eenth-century Quaker tailor John Woolman. His famous Journal is redundant with tender references to his desire to live so as not to oppress others.

Here I was led into a close and laborious inquiry whether I, as an individual, kept clear from all things which tended to stir up or were connected with wars, either in this land or in Africa; my heart was deeply concerned that in future I might in all things keep steadily to (he pure truth, and live and walk in the plainness and simplicity of a sincere follower of Christ .... And here luxury and covetousness, with the numerous oppressions and other evils attending them, appeared very afflicting to me, and I felt in that which is immutable that the seeds of great calamity and desolation are sown and growing fast on this continent.

That is one of the most difficult and sensitive issues for twentieth-cen­tury Christians to face, but face it we must. 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 certain tasks are beneath us?

Often our oppression is tinged with racism and sexism. The color of the skin still affects one's position in the company. The sex of a job applicant still affects the salary. May God give us prophets today who, like John Woolman, will call us "from the desire of wealth" so that we may be able to "break the yoke of oppression."

Tenth, shun whatever would distract you from your main goal. George Fox warned:

But there is the danger and the temptation to you, of drawing your minds into your business, and clogging them with it; so that ye can hardly do anything to the service of God, but there will be crying, my business, my business; and your minds will go into the things, and not over the things ... And then, if the Lord God cross you, and stop you by sea and land, and take your goods and customs from you, that your minds should not be cumbered, then that mind that is cumbered, will fret, being out of the power of God

God give us the courage, wisdom and strength always to hold as the number-one priority of our lives to "seek first his kingdom and his righteousness," understanding all that that implies. To do so is to live in simplicity.


* It is sad to realize that often the attempt of Scripture to apply the principle of sim­plicity to a given culture has been universalized by succeeding generations and turned into soul-killing laws. Witness, for example, the laws against Christians braiding their hair or wearing rings because Peter had said to the people of his day, "Let not yours be the outward adorning with braiding of hair, decoration of gold, and wearing of robes" (1 Pet. 3:3).