If you want to find out exactly how much stuff you own, then you should plan an international move. The first thing you discover is that you own far more than you thought and most of it is unnecessary. After you relocate, you’ll discover that it is very easy to continue adding to your possessions. Somehow, we manage to keep accumulating stuff without paying much attention to it happening.
Richard Foster first introduced me to the phrase, The Discipline of Simplicity. Simplicity has to do with an inward reality that results in an outward lifestyle. Foster writes that we must first focus on our inner life before we see changes in our outward behavior. Three attitudes of inner simplicity will change our relationship to material things. When we practice simplicity, we work to –
- receive what we have as a gift from God
- know that God is the owner, and not us (this is stewardship not carelessness)
- have our goods available to others
The world around us makes us feel shame if our clothes aren’t the latest style or our car isn’t the newest model. We are judged by the brand of smartphone we have. The Bible talks about an inner spirit of slavery that an idolatrous attachment to wealth brings. “If riches increase, set not your heart on them.” (Psalm 62:10) In a world that is based on consumerism, we find this hard to do.
Practicing the discipline of simplicity is about more than just being wise with money. It is a way of living detached from the material things of this world. It is about learning to use our money and possessions for the Kingdom rather than being used by them and enslaved into endless upgrades. It is a discipline because this is something we will have to work on for the rest of our lives.