Celebration of Discipline: Simplicity

Blog readers: Chi Alpha @ Stanford is engaging in our annual summer reading project. As we read through Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster, I’ll post my thoughts here (which will largely consist of excerpts I found insightful). They are all tagged summer-reading-project-2019. The schedule is online.

book cover - Celebration Of Discipline

I’m traveling right now and don’t have a lot of time to write up my thoughts on this chapter, so I’ll simply say that while I like this Foster’s thoughts on simplicity this chapter reminds me of how quickly he wrote the book. His thoughts are unfortunately jumbled at times, especially when it comes to economics. He has a good advice for individuals, but he seems to confuse wise individual choices with wise social structures. That aside, there’s a lot of solid advice in this chapter about living a simple life.

Foster doesn’t define simplicity clearly, but he mostly seems to mean being content, being generous and being suspicious of indulgence. I’m actually surprised he didn’t make generosity one of his twelve central spiritual disciplines. Generosity with a side of simplicity seems more faithful to the Biblical witness than simplicity with a side of generosity. Regardless, he made the focus simplicity (perhaps so he can bring in comments about simplicity in speech on pages 93–94).

If I had to pick one quote that stood out to me, it would be this one:

“The central point for the Discipline of simplicity is to seek the kingdom of God and the righteousness of his kingdom first and then everything necessary will come in its proper order…. Focus upon the kingdom produces the inward reality, and without the inward reality we will degenerate into legalistic trivia. Nothing else can be central. The desire to get out of the rat race cannot be central, the redistribution of the world’s wealth cannot be central, the concern for ecology cannot be central…. The person who does not seek the kingdom first does not seek it at all.”

Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, pages 86–87.

There are many people who pursue a simple lifestyle for other reasons. Godly simplicity isn’t primarily about reducing your carbon footprint or engaging in effective altruism. The simplicity we pursue is rooted in our uncomplicated devotion to God.

One last comment and a bit of a tangent: “It is time we awaken to the fact that conformity to a sick society is to be sick” (page 80). Silicon Valley in general and Stanford in particular have very unhealthy tendencies, and to the extent we feel fully at home here we reveal unhealthiness in ourselves. In this regard I often reflect on 2 Peter 2:7–8, “Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard).” If we are never distressed at Stanford then we are not paying sufficient attention to God, to Stanford, or to both.

Anyway, I hope you are challenged by this week’s reading! Remember that next week we are reading both the chapter on solitude as well as the preface.

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