Simple living is a traditional concept, but one that is integral to the life of generosity, to renewing our planet, to inner contentment. Simplicity and stewardship go hand in hand. One asks, what do I need? The other asks, how much do I need? The common link between the two is need. Generosity is a concept of need, not want. We often get the two confused. But when we seek clarity on what is essential, we find there is a lot more room to share with the world, whether it be financial or in service to others. The way to finding out what is essential is discernment and reflection, prayer and guidance from God who is an abundant provider of blessing.
William Ashworth wrote, “Simplicity deals with the ownership of property, stewardship with the use of it. Simplicity tell us to ask for no more than we need; stewardship reminds us that we need less if we take care of what we have. Simplicity insists that we get rid of encumbrances; stewardship helps us decide what are encumbrances and what are not. It does this in a very straightforward way. If a possession, or a task, is an encumbrance, using it properly readily becomes much more trouble than it is worth, and the possession falls into disrepair, or the task remains constantly undone. It is at this point that stewardship says, “Wait a minute—we have too much to take care of here,” and it becomes time, in the good Quaker phrase, to lay something down.” (p.48)
As Lent begins, we are in a season of invitation to this kind of discernment about the way we live our lives and the way we live our faith. What is God asking of us in living simply? In being stewards of all that God has given? How does living simply become an expression of generosity, of discipleship? These are powerful questions in our culture and in our congregations. And we might be surprised where the answers lead us, what we might be asked to lay down.
Resource: “Plain Living: A Quaker Path to Simplicity,” Catherine Whitmire, Sorin Books, 2001.
Rev. Stacy Emerson is the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church in West Hartford, CT and the Stewardship Consultant for ABCUSA. She is also the Coordinator for The Generosity Project which is about helping congregations deepen their understanding of stewardship as a call to generosity as disciples of Jesus; re-framing the stewardship conversation; and cultivating generosity in pastors, lay people, and congregations.