Saturday, January 14, 2012

Spiritual Disciplines: Simplicity (2 of 2)

I already talked about simplicity, so this is more of a practical application. Richard Foster, in Celebration of Discipline, suggests 10 ways that we can live the outward expression of the discipline. I did a little digging on these for the Bible class I was teaching and attempted to come up with what the Bible said about many of these things.

1. Buy things for their usefulness rather than their status.

Foster talks about clothes and cars and condos. I think it's related to what Peter says:

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. (1 Peter 3:3-4)
I like this verse because it's about focusing on what's inside of us, rather than what's outside of us. This is a tough one to swallow in our culture. I'll try to stop here before I get on my soapbox on how wearing your "Sunday best" is unscriptural.

2. Reject anything that is producing an addiction in you.

I mentioned 1 Corinthians 6:12 when I talked about fasting, below. ("I will not be enslaved by anything.") I really what Paul says because it's about letting something else enslave us - regardless of what it is. It could be almost anything. Foster talks about a friend who was addicted to his newspaper. I recently had to delete half the apps from my phone for that very reason. (Yes! Including Angry Birds! Or especially Angry Birds!)

3. Develop a habit of giving things away.

We don't own anything; it all belongs to God.

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it... (Psalm 24:1)
Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power
and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,
for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom;
you are exalted as head over all.
Wealth and honor come from you;
you are the ruler of all things.
In your hands are strength and power
to exalt and give strength to all.
(1 Chronicles 29:11-12)
This one is hard for me - but I've tried to learn it a little from my wife, Krista (who is very good at it). When I have something I like to feel ownership of it, and I like to keep it nice. I like to tell myself that this is the good quality of stewardship, but I'm beginning to feel like it's an excuse to own things. I don't like to lend things out if I feel like someone won't take care of it like I do. But I need to feel less of an ownership of things and be more giving. Krista loves to give things away, much to my chagrin.

4. Refuse to be propagandized by the custodians of modern gadgetry.

I feel like this is related to #2 and our addiction to get the next new thing. Like all the people who have to get the newest version of their phone, calling themselves "early adopters". (When someone says that, all I hear is "this is my excuse to spend money on something I don't need.") But it really hit home to me as I taught this lesson from my iPad. I want to come to my own defense and say that my iPad is the only money I've spent on a computer in the last 5 years, and I use it all the time, but that's another excuse. Maybe I just need to be happy with what I have.

5. Learn to enjoy things without owning them.

This is related to #3 for me, and those verses apply here, too.

I don't like to borrow stuff. I do when I don't feel like I can go buy it or I just want to use it temporarily - but there's nothing worse in the world than borrowing something and having to return in worse condition than when I got it. And I love the feeling of ownership. If there's a book I like, I have to own it. If there's a movie I like, I have to own it. This is almost an addiction (for me) and is also related to #2. I think it was someone in our Bible class that said, "ownership improves the quality of our experience," and that seems to be so true.

6. Develop a deeper appreciation for the creation.

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
(Psalm 19:1)
We need to remember to look around and see the beauty of God in creation. Wouldn't that solve a lot of our problems? It seems like that always gives me a "big picture" view. It reminds me that life is much bigger than whatever little problem I'm having right now.

7. Look with a healthy skepticism at all "buy now, pay later" schemes.

The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender. (Proverbs 22:7)
I'm not a fan of Dave Ramsey, but honestly, I see the wisdom in this.

8. Obey Jesus' instructions about plain, honest speech.

Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. (Matt 5:37)
What happened to simple honesty? And why do we have the same problems as people did 2,000 years ago?

9. Reject anything that breeds the oppression of others. Foster writes,

Do we sip our coffee and eat our bananas at the expense of exploiting Latin American peasants? In a world of limited resources, does our lust for wealth mean the poverty of others? Should we buy products that are made by forcing people into dull assembly-line jobs? Do we enjoy hierarchical relationships in the company or factory that keep others under us? Do we oppress our children or spouse because we feel certain tasks are beneath us?

Often our oppression is tinged with racism, sexism, and nationalism. The color of the skin still affects one's person in the company. The sex of a job applicant still affects the salary. The national origin of a person still affects the way he or she is perceived. May God give us prophets today who...will call us "from the desire of wealth" so that we may be able to "break the yoke of oppression."

I don't have a specific verse for this. Because this is what all of the teachings of Jesus were about. The fact we so often miss this just shows how we miss the point of the gospel.

10. Shun anything that distracts from seeking first the kingdom of God.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Mt 6:33)
'Nuff said.

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