Spiritual Practice of Simplicity

Adele Ahlberg Calhoun defines this important spiritual practice: Simplicity cultivates the great art of letting go. Simplicity aims at loosening inordinate attachment to owning and having. Simplicity brings freedom and with it generosity. She sums up the goal of simplicity as: “to uncomplicate and untangle my life so I can focus on what really matters.” In her book Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us, Calhoun goes on to write:

Jesus teaches us that freedom is not found in having and doing but in keeping God and his will first in our heart. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21

Jesus wants us to know that we don’t need all the things or experiences we think we do. What we really need is to keep first things first—Jesus and his kingdom. Life becomes much simpler when one thing matters most.

Simplicity creates margins and spaces and openness in our lives. It honors the resources of our small planet. It offers us the leisure of tasting the present moment. Simplicity asks us to let go of the tangle of wants so we can receive the simple gifts of life that cannot be taken away.

Steve Sikkink shares his thoughts on the importance to him for leading a simple life.

Jot down a few key phrases that you heard and watch the video again, pausing to listen to what God may be saying to you as the topics Steve mentions come up:

  • relationship to God
  • relationship to possessions
  • relationship to others—in church and community
  • practice of giving
  • growing in awareness of values and aligning one’s life to reflect them

As you seek to grow in the spiritual practice of simplicity, keep in mind the list that Adele Calhoun presents. She says that the practice of simplicity includes:

  • assessing the things and activities that keep life convoluted, complicated, and confusing; working to simplify these things
  • setting priorities that flow from loving God above all else
  • downsizing possessions
  • cutting back on shopping and discretionary spending
  • eating simple foods
  • enjoying simple pleasures that require no expense
  • removing distractions and preoccupation with things

with the resultant God-given fruit:

  • living an uncluttered life
  • becoming clearer, more distilled as a person
  • creating more space in your life for loving and serving God
  • using simple, honest speech without dissembling and double meanings
  • experiencing freedom from envy and entitlement
  • being able to let go
  • staking your identity in God’s love, not accumulations and possessions

Resources: 

These books can help you as you journey toward more freedom to enjoy God and the life God intends us to have:

Freedom of Simplicity: Finding Harmony in a Complex World, by Richard Foster (HarperCollins, 1981).

The Good and Beautiful God: Falling in Love with the God Jesus Knows, James Bryan Smith (InterVarsity Press, 2009).

Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us, Adele Ahlberg Calhoun, (InterVarsity Press, 2005).