By Richard J Foster
Reviewed by Benjamin C Maxson, Director, General Conference Stewardship Ministries
Richard Foster, author of a classic in spirituality—Celebration of Discipline, revisits us with the theme of simplicity in his 224 page volume, Freedom of Simplicity. We live in a world that is marked by busyness, materialism and the sheer complexity of things. Everything we face confronts us with a complexity of life that leaves us frustrated, stretched and straining.
Foster deals with the complexity of simplicity and its reality and impact. It becomes an inward reality before it becomes an outward lifestyle. Too often we focus on coercing individuals to external simplicity without empowering them with the internal reality which is needed. ?The outer expression of simplicity must flow from the inner resources. It is learning to walk in the Spirit that builds the life of purity, unity and grace. There is an inwardness that is central to our task; without it all is lost. We delude ourselves, however, if we think we can possess the inner reality of simplicity without its having a profound effect upon the way we live . . .? (p 9).
This book also highlights that simplicity as a discipline is part of the greater whole of the Christian life and devotion to God. It serves as both cause and effect. The integrated walk with God will lead us to simplicity, and simplicity will enhance our relationship with God.
Foster develops the foundations for simplicity from its biblical roots and the historical heritage of the church. Then he moves into the practice of simplicity. He presents practical steps for inward simplicity before moving on to application of outward simplicity.
In this latter section, Foster develops biblical concepts for financial discipleship that are practical and productive. However, Foster falls short when dealing with the subject of tithe in both the New and Old Testaments. He does not communicate the deeper meaning of tithe as a sign of loyalty and an as an extension of our walk with God. Instead he sees tithe as too small a sign when compared to the radical attitude of freedom from the tyranny of possessions as demonstrated in the New Testament models for giving.
The book concludes by exploring the concept of corporate simplicity. The practice of our walk with God cannot be isolated by our individuality. We are part of a greater whole, and the application of simplicity carries over to the church and our interaction with the world.
This work is foundational and crucial for maturing discipleship in God’s church. ?The Spiritual Disciplines (of which simplicity is a vital part) are the conduit through which our obedience flows; they are visible ways by which we express our discipleship. And more importantly, they set us before God in such a way that we can be transformed and conformed to the way of Christ . . . . Nothing is clearer than that Jesus Christ walked in a well-nigh amazing simplicity of life. He was centered in God and had a transparency toward God that ordered everything. Simplicity is part of what it means to be a follower of Christ? (p 184).