The False Gospel of Simplicity

The other day I stumbled across one of those Instagram accounts— you probably know the ones— where a woman has somehow gotten 100,000 followers just by having a clean house with hardly anything in it, where everything she owns is made out of yarn and wood and muted colors. She goes on about the Merits of Simplicity and Minimalism and Coziness and Being a Mama of 2 Littles.

I have to admit, when I stumble across those kinds of Instagram accounts, I like to stay on them and browse for a while. Because I like to make fun of them. This probably isn't a good idea because 1) I really don't need any help honing my gift of snarkiness, and 2) even though I  know these accounts are fake and manicured and unrealistic, I still sometimes sometimes see those pictures and think "I want to be a little more like that."

I see the coat rack by the door, with just one or two grey yarn scarves placed neatly on it, and I compare it to mine where there are a dozen coats for just three people, and a couple of scarves, and a few hats that aren't even supposed to be there, and occasionally a phone charger or two. "It would be really nice," I think "if the next time I wanted to get my coat off the coat rack, it didn't start a chain reaction of a few hats and phone chargers falling to the floor. In fact, this would eliminate all my stress. My home and my life and my mind would finally be uncluttered and free.”

With a new year starting, the push to simplify is everywhere—at the store, on our social media ads, and especially in our own hearts and minds. It's after Christmas; we've just eaten all the things and received all the things as presents. It is physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually the prime time to want to simplify, cut back, clean out, organize, declutter, and give everything away. So if you're like me, you see that apparition of simplicity this time of year, you see that some people have apparently achieved it, and you want to go for it. 

Today as I started down that war path, I was able to take a second and reflect on that longing inside me and recognize a voice I've heard before. It's the voice that tells me that something else will finally make it all click. That this thing will be the answer, the relief for my soul, the missing piece that will finally make me feel happy and calm and at peace. 

A lot of times that thing is a job, a possession, or a particular life stage. I usually recognize those lies a lot quicker and am able to call them out as a false gospel -- a belief that Jesus + something else is the answer.

But the false gospel of simplicity is more dangerous because there is some merit to it -- which is why the minimalism and simplicity movement has grown in recent years in our modern Christian subculture. Our lives have become too complicated and too obsessed with things, and we should shun materialism and consumerism. We have certainly bought into a lie that things will make us happy, but we may now be buying into a lie that a lack of things will make us happy. Or: Jesus + simplicity in my life/home/schedule = satisfaction. This is a false gospel, and we must treat it like any other false gospel.

Separate the lies from the truth. Realize the truth about simplicity and its connection to the message of Jesus. Recognize that He has already provided simplicity of spirit by taking our heavy burdens and giving us one that is light.

Keep the truth. Aim to live simply and give generously out of love for Jesus, as a reminder that our treasure is in Him and not things.

Declare war on the lie. Realize that having less will not make us happier or better people. Bring these lies to Jesus and find the peace, rest, and the simplicity we're looking for in Him.