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SIMPLE LIVING

Simple living is the radical idea of organizing our lives around Jesus’ mandate to love each other and  applying it to everything we do each day. This would mean re-ordering our priorities based on a few simple principles:

  • Our purpose in life is to love and care for others;
  • In our loving, as it is said by physicians, “first do no harm” – to other people here and around the world, or to God’s creation; 


By following these principles, we reduce the burden we place on God’s people and his creation, and we re-focus our lives on sustaining people, communities, and the earth. As Gandhi said, we “live simply, so that others might simply live.”

Be warned: this is not for the faint-of-heart! It takes knowledge, skill, effort, and commitment, and we may be ridiculed or attacked by others. Few of us in 21st Century America want to hear about the problems we are causing, much less do anything about them, so many people will resent our way of living and try to stop us.

So if you begin to live authentically and simply, some folks might think you are an extremist, unpatriotic, or at least an economic ignoramus. And if you go on to become an out-spoken advocate for Christian simple living, you may lose some friends, but you'll also gain some great new ones!

One other important thing:  

Please don't take any or all of these principles as a litmus test or an exercise in political correctness. We should not judge each other in terms of the rigor of our simplicity practices or our faith practices because this would merely be a new legalism which Jesus preached against. Rather, we should see what we do together in our daily lives in light of love, compassion, empathy, and an eagerness to be helpful to each other as a part of "Kingdom Living."

And, as a practical matter, we can drive ourselves and others crazy if we constantly obsess over the details. We sometimes get seduced into spending time trying to decide which of three or four different alternatives would save the most resources, time, or money, or result in the least pollution when in reality the difference may be microscopic. It is sometimes better to focus on the big changes that we are sure will result in meaningful outcomes. The biggest issue for all of us that will make the greatest difference to people around the world and the earth as a whole is to buy and use much less of everything, every day - pretty simple, and very effective!

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How Do We Make The Shift From Consumer Living To Simple Living?

The first step is to make a realistic assessment of our daily living values to see if they are really in sync with Jesus' teachings about how we should value money, things, position, our families, and other people. Obviously we should be valuing people and their needs far above having a large salary, lots of stuff, or a 'convenient' life. This is easier said than done for most of us. But without having made this emotional values-shift, it is hard to live simply because we spend a lot of time rationalizing-away many of our habitual self-interested consumer behaviors so that we don't really have to change much in the end.

Once we have really made the shift from our values to Jesus', the rest is very intuitive. We can then begin to live more simply...     

By Stopping
     
… the thoughtless purchase, use, and discarding of all those things we don’t really need in the first place. Instead, we can:


  • Buy less of what we want, and buy only enough of what we actually need.
  •  Not soothe our egos on ever-trendier, bigger, faster, or more convenient appliances, gadgets, and other possessions.
  • Use environmentally, economically, and socially conscious values when buying those few things we actually do need, including large items (homes and cars), and small things (detergent and paper).
  •  Use energy-efficient and minimally polluting appliances and tools.
  •  Recycle everything, because in God's economy, there is no garbage and everything is valuable.

And By Starting   

 … to use our time and money focusing, instead, on truly important things like nourishing relationships with our families and communities, serving those who need our help, and working harder for justice, here and abroad.

This, after all, is the point of the Gospel - loving and caring for others rather than manipulating the world, its people, and its resources, so we can have an easier life..

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If you’re still with us …

God Is In The Details

The idea is to replace our more destructive habits with healthier, more mindful practices that are consistent with Jesus' teachings. 'Replacing' is important, because just adding new practices to our already busy routines can quickly overload us, making it harder to keep going.

For example, adding extra trips to organic food stores, local community-supported farms, and preparing healthier meals while still driving 2 hours to work every day and working overtime, can cause you a lot of grief. But, if you were able to move closer to your job and eliminate the long commute you could add these new, improved activities without so much strain.

For an overview of practical steps you can take to live more responsibly with the planet take a look at The New Community Project's Three-Step Plan. This list covers some of the issues that should be addressed on the way to a rewarding and productive simple life.

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Our Spiritual Lives

Without a strong spiritual life our simple living efforts are likely to be no more effective or long lasting than secular environmental, social justice, and simplicity programs. There is a much more important point to Christian simple living than merely cleaning-up the environment and being socially conscious.
Picture of small cross on face of guitar
We live this way because Christ taught that we are to live beyond ourselves and for others. This is what he meant by saying that the Kingdom is near – we are a part of it today, when we work with him in its creation.

The first step in Christian simple living is to invest in a regular practice of study, meditation, and prayer that will give us the energy and direction we need to succeed at this. It makes everything else possible!

READ MORE about, and find great resources for building a strong spiritual life to empower our simple living.


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 Community: How We Live Together


Having a spiritually supportive community around us that is invested in living simply is extremely helpful. It not only helps keep us energized, supported, and pointed in the right direction, it also improves the efficiency and quality of our lives and our world. Living simply can be more easily and efficiently done in a close geographical community. 

If we live close to our jobs, churches, extended families, and friends, we can significantly reduce our energy use and environmental degradation. We drive a lot less and share tools and appliances instead of maintaining our own personal treasure troves of gadgets.

For many of us, having this kind of community may mean having to create one from like-minded folks within our congregations or local communities. It’s sometimes surprising how many folks there are who would really like to do this, given the opportunity.

READ MORE on the role of community in living simply

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Our Homes


Our homes should be the first place where we practice the Christian principle of not harming others – by reducing our negative impact on the planet and each other right where we live. Our homes can:


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EATING WELL

We are over-eating (the wrong things) and getting too little exercise – all in the name of modern comfort and financial success. Two-thirds of the U.S. is considered to be either overweight or obese; we are in the middle of a diabetes epidemic, and heart disease, stroke, and cancer (all at least partially behaviorally caused) are the leading causes of death in this country.

Clearly we are not loving ourselves, and we are enabling our neighbors in their addiction to this vicious circle as well. A simple living approach views these problems as a systems problem that each of us can address by doing a number of things.

Here's how to do it:

 

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WHAT WE BUY

Jesus made a big point out of not piling-up too much stuff for ourselves because it distracts us from the real point of life. We already know that we buy far more than we need, and simply buying less will go a long way towards solving many of our problems. It means that we have to confront our egos,Picture of store clothesrack which push us to buy un-needed stuff merely to make us feel better about ourselves.

There is a lot we can do about our buying habits that can have profound effects:

  • Repair rather than throw away and buy new.

  • Buy fewer high tech devices – they aren’t nearly as clean as we’ve been told.

  • Buy fair trade goods.

  • Buy from locally owned and operated businesses.

  • Buy from local farmer’s markets or Community Supported Agriculture farms.

Resources From The New Community Project:

     
  • Consuming Appetites is a one-pager comparing the consumption habits of your typical US citizen to other people in the world. Hint: we use a little more than our fair share
  • The Average American paints a not-so-pretty picture of the consumption patterns of the "average" US citizen. For those who don't want to be average, the flip-side of this colorful flyer has loads of simple yet significant ways to live more responsibly with God's earth
  •  
  • Measure the impact on the earth of your consumption patterns by checking out How BIG is Your Footprint. How close are you to being sustainable?! Click here for youth version; click here for adult version.

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TRANSPORTATION

Transportation of all types accounts for more than 25% of the world's commercial energy use, and motor vehicles account for nearly 80% of that. We know that pollution by vehicles causes lung cancer, respiratory problems, urban smog, and acid rain, and contributes greatly to global warming, and we know that no other country can match the excessive automobile use of the U.S.

... If we care about the other people we live with, we will use our cars a whole lot less, and when we do drive, use much more fuel-efficient and less polluting models or use public transportation, and take a host of other actions to reduce our need to travel so dangerously.

Resources:

Click here to compare the environmental impact of cars, buses, trains, planes, bikes and boats. Guess which one is the most earth-friendly!

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FINANCES


The point of simple living is to live with less money and fewer possessions so that we can focus on using more of our financial and personal resources to help others. Picture of hands holding paper moneyFrom a Christian perspective we don’t live simply just to be environmentally friendly, or to live an uncluttered, or less stressful life, as nice as that would be. Of course these may also result from our simplicity, but the real reason behind simplicity is not degrading the lives of others just so we can “get ours,” and in the process we should be making things better for as many others as possible.

If this is why we live a simple life, then we have to pay close attention to how we deal with our money and our time.

Read More About it Here...

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TAKING ACTION FOR JUSTICE AND CREATION

We must do more than change our own lives. The bottom line for Christian simple living is that we are re-focused on reaching out to others who are poor, sick, or suffering injustice. Living simply gives us a unique and powerful perspective on these problems, and it gives us the time, resources, and energy to help. Not to reach out would defeat the purpose of simple living and the Christian life as a whole.

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kid's educational resource Transformation Puppet and Story Works logo

Puppetry for Christian living and simplicity

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Please visit our collaborating organization, The New Community Project website: 
www.newcommunityproject.org