What is Simplicity?

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I’ve written in previous posts about simplicity and how it can assist us in remembering our mission to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ, but I didn’t really offer a definition of simplicity. It’s a tough word to define, especially when seeking to satisfy the masses. I’ve had several conversations with the EvangelicalDisciple concerning the topic and we have yet to nail down a good definition of it. Well, I have good news for everyone: I think I have found a good definition!

St. Francis de Sales (whom I quoted last week) offers this:

Well, simplicity is nothing else than an act of pure and simple charity, having only one end, which is to acquire the love of God; and our soul is simple when we have no other aim in all that we do or desire.

To break open his definition, he brings into the discussion the example of Martha and Mary as they welcomed the Lord into their home. Mary was the one who understood simplicity, for she looked straight to God, without ever allowing any self-interest to creep into her motives for sitting at the feet of Jesus. Martha, meanwhile, was so focused on herself that she became anxious and weighed down by her work. Her life had become so self-interested that she lost all freedom to rest with Jesus.

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Consider the ramifications of what life might look like for one devoted to living a life solely founded on the virtue of simplicity: no more little indulgences after consuming enough food and drink, no more excessive TV watching, spending, hoarding… no more excess at all. What else might it entail? Well, resting on Sundays, spending more time in the peace and quiet of prayer, striving for holiness and inviting others to do the same, encountering great joy in detachment from self, realizing you don’t have to defeat Satan because Jesus already did it, calmness of spirit and freedom from anxiety. The pros outweigh the cons.

If you’re interested in living a life of true simplicity, ask yourself:

Do I want serve this person because I want to look good in the eyes of others, or because I want to show him/her God’s love?

Do I want to buy this car because it looks a certain way, or because it will help me glorify God?

Do I want to grow a good garden so I can show it off to my friends, or because a good garden will nourish me and remind me to thank God for my health, and beautiful flowers will remind me of all that God created?

Do I exercise only because it makes me look better to other people, or because I can serve God better with a healthy body?

Do I want to fast today because my friends might notice and think I’m a holy person, or because it will remind me of my soul’s hunger for God’s grace?

Am I focused on myself, or on God and his glory?

Do I think only of myself and how I look in the eyes of others, or do I think only of God and his love for his people?

Do I pray only because it makes me feel good, or because God deserves my worship, reverence, and love? Do I stop praying when the good feelings vanish, or do I persevere even through the times when I can’t feel God’s presence?

Ask yourself these questions – and similar questions about things that better relate to your life – frequently. Live a reflected life so you don’t lose sight of the ultimate goal, which is the glory of God and the salvation of souls. Be simple.