Spiritual Disciplines // SIMPLICITY AND FASTING
A few years ago, my teenage daughter brought home two fish whom she promptly christened, “Hide” and “Seek.” Hide and Seek lived in a fish bowl on her dresser and spent their days happily blowing bubbles and eating fish flakes, blithely unaware of the murky waters building up around them. Though she was faithful to feed them, my daughter’s fish tank fared similarly to her bedroom, which was in a constant state of semi-organized chaos. Fun-loving and extremely busy, it was too late before she noticed that “Hide” and “Seek” were no longer hiding and seeking. They were belly up.
That dirty fish bowl had become a death-giving system.Without a filter or change of water they were destined for an unhappy ending. Whether we know it or not, we live in a death-giving system of consumerism that is making us sick and dividing us away from an important Christian discipline: simplicity.
A Little Bit About SIMPLICITY:
In my study this past week I discovered that, ironically, simplicity is more complicated than I expected. While simplicity does refer to having less, doing less, expecting less, even wanting less, it is so much MORE. It can never be about an outward presentation of lack or sacrifice because simplicity at its core has more to do with what is happening on the inside. It requires self-awareness. Somewhere between legalistic asceticism (brutally avoiding all forms of indulgence) and gluttonous worship of mammon (money/materialism), lies the human who embraces simplicity. This person rejects status, addiction, accumulation, debt, ownership and stinginess not out of a desire to do good, but out of a deep love for God and understanding of God as THE provider. In this discipline, the heart is everything…without heart change, acts of simplicity place us on the slippery slope of idolatry, worshipping either lack or abundance.
Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) provides a framework for us to understand how Jesus invites us to live in trust and dependence. As we focus on developing simplicity in our lives, we may be fearful that we will miss out on something. But, Jesus helps us to see that God has all we need. We won’t read the whole Sermon on the Mount today, but let’s read and focus on Matthew 6:19-34:
Read Matthew 6:19-24
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.Matthew 6:19-24, NLT
Simplicity is about trust. Engaging with simplicity means thinking differently-rejecting the death-giving system we are immersed in which is a pool of self-trust, consumerism, materialism, and image-control. The way of Jesus reminds us that this world will pass away-that there is foolishness in storing up our treasures here. He points to an invisible kingdom that builds up God’s glory, not our own.
- Make a list of the non-essential items in just one room of your home (suggestion: start with a closet or bathroom). Become acquainted with the excess in your life. For an extra step: estimate the total cost of those items.
- Read Matthew 5-7. Spend some time reflecting on how the way of Jesus infuses simplicity into our lives.
Sometime this week, read Richard Foster’s chapter on simplicity out of Celebration of Discipline. You can find a PDF version here: https://thecrosschurchrr.org/wp-content/uploads/Celebration-Discipline.pdf