The 9th Commandment: You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.
Luther’s Small Catechism
What does this mean? We are to fear and love God, so that we do not try to trick our neighbors out of their inheritance, or property or try to get it for ourselves by claiming to have a legal right to it and the like, but instead, be of help and be of service to them in keeping what is theirs.
Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” (Luke 12:13-15)
This one we could take pretty directly. According to the US Census, the average house was 1,660 square feet in 1973 and 2519 square feet in 2008, more than 50% bigger. Why have we become accustomed to feeling we need so much and aren’t satisfied without more?
Simplicity Is More than Uncluttered Closets (adapted from Matt Bell “The Art of Simple Living”)
In his classic book, Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster argues that, “The majority of Christians have never seriously wrestled with the problem of simplicity, conveniently ignoring Jesus’ many words on the subject. The reason is simple: This Discipline directly challenges our vested interests in an affluent life-style.”
Foster, who explores the meaning and practice of simplicity in more detail in his book, Freedom of Simplicity, says there are three heart attitudes related to possessions that lead to peace. “If what we have we receive as a gift, and if what we have is to be cared for by God, and if what we have is available to others, then we will possess freedom from anxiety.”
Of course, there is no clear line indicating exactly how much is enough. But one thing is for sure: simple living does not begin with a trip to The Container Store. Instead, Foster describes simplicity as “an inward reality that results in an outward lifestyle.” It’s “a life of joyful unconcern for possessions” and “the one thing that sufficiently reorients our lives so that possessions can be genuinely enjoyed without destroying us.” What have you found helpful in cultivating a simpler lifestyle?
I do want to point out, friends – time is of the essence. There is no time to waste, so don’t complicate your lives unnecessarily. Keep it simple —in marriage, grief, and joy, whatever. Even in ordinary things—your daily routines of shopping, and so on. Deal as sparingly as possible with the things the world thrusts on you. This world as you see it is on its way out. – 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 (Message Translation)
- Find ways to make your home simpler and less cluttered. Give something you don’t need to a secondhand store or put it on Craig’s List. If you sell an item, give the income to an organization that helps people find housing and shelter like Missoula Family Promise.
- Make your home consume less with an energy audit or Energy Star appliances and Water Sense products when needed. Do a home energy audit https://energy.gov/energysaver/do-it-yourself-home-energy-audits
- Be a leader in helping your congregation with an Energy Stewardship Initiative. Check out resources at