My wife is currently in the throes of a full-blown 'simplify' campaign. I need to be careful—if I place my half-drunk coffee cup down it's likely to be thrown out. Anything not nailed to the floor may very well disappear.
I love it.
I love this periodic focus on simple living for a few reasons, not the least of them being, we have too much stuff in our consumer-driven lifestyle!
And just as 'too much stuff' easily overflows from one room to the next, this bloated lifestyle is difficult to contain to the literal 'material' aspect of our world—bloated living infects most aspects of our existence. In the material sense, the 'simple living' mantra allows us to declutter our space and helps us celebrate the few things we own that bring joy; 'simple living' affords us the ability to truly see the things worth celebrating in the first place. Removing the junk aids in rediscovering the treasure. Items that have sat unnoticed and unappreciated suddenly light up the room, elicit smiles on faces, and invite laughter. And from the deep, dark recesses of our minds, ancient wisdom is recalled, “Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it.” (Proverbs 15:16, ESV).
As much as I love the 'less is more' principle taking root in my home, it the non-material space in my life that now holds my attention. As the clutter in my living room ebbs away, it seems that an unintended effect has been that I finally noticed the clutter that has unassumingly accumulated in other areas of my life.
My calendar is a kaleidoscope of chaos. My schedule a slosh-pit of hurried, but ineffective, energy. While the vast majority of my productivity efforts have been well intended, they have primarily been aimed at doing more things, in less time—and in doing so I completely missed the point.
1 Thessalonians 4:9–12, ESV—“Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.”
There is a simplicity of life in Paul's directive here that we have often overlooked. Effective Christian fellowship, and indeed, Christian witness, happens within the scope of simple living. The fact that I consult my calendar to schedule a coffee with someone concerns me. More so—the fact that I refrain from gospel-saturated conversation with a neighbour because I'm rushing out the door for another engagement—disgusts me. The Australian, "flat out like a lizard drinking" mentality is often proudly worn as a badge of honour—but it's not, it's far from it. Hurried, chaotic lifestyles are flushing the effectiveness of Christian witness straight down the toilet; yet the greater tragedy of this is that you and I are too busy to even notice!
Even as I reflect on 20 years of preaching ministry, the subtle accumulation of junk is evident. I'm grateful for the early exposure to distant mentors on this topic, men who have championed the cause for a true gospel renaissance through their preaching and writing. So much of what I've noticed in my own ministry, and so much of what I see in present contemporaries, is far from Paul's declaration to the Corinthian church.
1 Corinthians 1:17–24, ESV—“For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
What is so often declared as 'preaching' would be almost unrecognisable to Paul if he were to visit many churches today. Gospel ministry has been slowly overrun with shiny trinkets and useless souvenirs. The house is filling up, but the treasure is being buried.
So I'm asking you to join my wife on her 'less is more' campaign, and as my children were recently (and incessantly) singing, "Let it go...".
Simple homes are just the beginning, you may be amazed at what you rediscover when you start throwing things away.