Monks used to take a vow of poverty. Richard Foster suggests we consider a vow of simplicity (in The Challenge of the Disciplined Life).
After exploring righteous and unrighteous uses for mammon, he claims, “Our study of money leads us to one inescapable conclusion: we who follow Jesus Christ are called to a vow of simplicity.”
I’m not sure how far Foster would apply that passage, but I tend to agree.
After conversion, there is a call to less self-indulgent living. We ought to seek opportunities live on less. In the process of living on less we must discover more joy in the process. It’s a call for more joyful living because as we learn to live on less and learn contentment, we truly experience the joy of Christian living as we find our hope and satisfaction in Christ.
Perhaps instead of simplicity Paul uses the word contentment.
“But godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6).
Simplicity means a willingness not to clamor for more for the express purpose of trying to add more happiness, joy, or contentment through what one has.
Agur says it this way, “Give me neither poverty nor riches” (Prov. 30:).
The vow of simplicity calls us to seek enough while avoiding the dangers of too little or too much.
Our vows of simplicity may look different.
Here are things that are included in my pursuit of simplicity:
- Prayers of thanksgiving. I want to celebrate who God is and how he’s blessed us. In my prayers of thanksgiving I seek more than just physical things I own for which to thank God. As I find my joy and contentment in things outside of my resources, I’m able to give honor and praise to God.
- Deliberately questioning the necessity of purchase. The tea kettle story is an example of how we do our best not to buy items unless they are needs or wants that we will use often. We don’t want to buy things simply to fill up a garage or attic.
- Be in the presence of the poor. In PNG this was easier since we were surrounded by poverty. Now that might be in books or newspapers or interactions with people. The more immune we are to the needs of others, the less we’ll remember our call to simplicity.
- Explore cheaper options before more expensive options. Don’t mistake this for a desire to only buy items with the lowest price tag. Instead, if I want to buy a new item of clothing, I go to the second hand store before the mall. If I can find what I need for $3, why pay $30? Often times, the used clothes I buy are better quality than I’d pay for something new.
- Live more joyfully and intentionally. Capturing the joyful moments of every day is a part of the simple joys of every day. It might be sitting with one of my kids on my lap or playing a game with them. It might be holding my wife’s hand and chatting with her. Simplicity allows time and peace to really connect with the people around us.
- Give of ourselves. My wife is very good about inviting folks over for meals. I teach Sunday morning Bible class at church. Simplicity allows that because we intentionally don’t work demanding jobs that require all our energy. We don’t need demanding jobs because we don’t need the money. We don’t need the money because we’ve pursued a life of simplicity.