In Freedom of Simplicity, Richard J. Foster explores the surprisingly complex topic of simplicity. I’m excited to share about this book because it has had a significant impact on my life. I read it for the first time when I was in college and I’ve read through it at least a couple of times since then. Though many books have helped shape my outlook and how I practice my faith, this book remains one of the most influential.
In the first half of the book, Foster defines simplicity and explains its Biblical roots. He provides clear and convicting Old Testament and New Testament examples that illustrate how simplicity is a call given to every Christian. He then provides examples of how the saints practiced simplicity throughout church history.
In the second half of the book, Foster describes and provides advice on the practice of simplicity. He begins by discussing inward simplicity (wholehearted focus on the Lord) and outward simplicity (budgeting, sensible buying, giving, etc.). He then discusses the practice of simplicity within the church and the larger world.
When seeking simple living, it is very easy to fall into legalism or outward expressions that lack conviction. Thus, I am very appreciative of how Foster addresses the outward expressions of simplicity. He steers clear of checklists and steps. At no point does he provide a set of five steps to achieve simplicity or a list of dos and don’ts. Simplicity is far too complex and too personal to be achieved through these! He does provide many practical examples, though, which I find to be very useful.
Though unwavering in his commitment to living simply, Foster is very realistic. For example, he discusses the topic of buying things for their usefulness instead of their status. He uses clothes as an example, suggesting that we should be more concerned with wearing clothes until they wear out than with the newest fashion. During this discussion, he mentions that this is particularly difficult for teenagers. He suggests that we should address this with tenderness, love, and encouragement by not exposing teens to unnecessarily ridicule from their peers. This is a great example of how Foster addresses difficult topics in a sensitive and realistic manner.
This book was written some time ago, so the statistics Foster provides on topics such as world hunger are outdated. Unfortunately, in many instances the current statistics are more dismal. These outdated numbers indicate that the topic of this book is just as relevant as ever!
Foster’s eloquent and deliberate style of writing makes Freedom of Simplicity an enjoyable read. Though enjoyable, I wouldn’t call it an easy read. If you contemplate the Biblical principles he presents and examine yourself, you’ll be convicted and hopefully walk away making changes to live more simply.
Have you read Freedom of Simplicity? What did you think of it? What other books have you read on the topic of simplicity?