Being formed for simple living

November 7, 2023

This is a blog about living simply. I swear it is. But before we get there I think is really important to understand why living simply is so hard for American Christians (speaking as an American Christian who struggles to live simply). So I want to first talk about formation.

Formation was not a word we used in the church I grew up in (and still attend). We had (and have) Sunday school. Although I don’t think we call it that anymore because many people seem strangely adverse to the idea of school on the weekends. Anyway, once the scope of my connection to the wider Christian world began exposing me to different understandings and expressions of my faith I latched on to the idea of Christian formation.

According to Webster formation is:

Definitions 1-3 all fit the way the concept of formation is used by church leaders and thinkers. These definitions explain so well why it is helpful to name how we understand and know our faith as formation and why we need to be intentional and constant in our Christian formation. If something is giving us shape it should be based on our faith. The manner in which we are formed should reflect the gospel. And we should be a thing that is formed to be like Jesus.

This is important because formation is always happening – throughout our lives, throughout our days even, we are being formed/shaped by what we have seen, heard, been told, experienced etc. So it is imperative one, that we seek to be formed by Godly teachings, people and experiences and two, that we use the lens this helps us create to respond to and correct the ways in which we are formed outside of our faith – the ways we are mal-formed.

Now we come to living simply. It’s hard. For me at least. And I don’t think it is just me. There are whole industries dedicated to helping declutter and/or organize all of our stuff. Never mind the people and companies that help us make more space so we can keep it all (or get more) by building bigger houses (our houses are 150% bigger than they were in the 1980s) or renting storage units (a multi-billion dollar industry). Credit card debt in the US has hit staggering heights (it’s more than a trillion!) and we are now entering into a season that seems much more about consumption and excess than the world-altering reality of God becoming flesh.

We can’t expect to live counter to the widely accepted and deeply entrenched cultural norms of wealth, acquisition and accumulation if they have been the only thing forming us. Even when we begin to be intentional about our formation and seek to learn and live into the Biblical call of sacrifice and simplicity it is still hard! However, if we are being formed and reformed by our walk with the Lord and his will for our lives and seeking the community of those who are doing likewise living simply becomes more possible and frankly more joyful!

Boston Faith & Justice is a community trying to live like this and we are eager to support every one in their simplicity-formation. Our Generous Living Foundations Financial Literacy 101 video series helps listeners understand some basics of managing money and also consider how our faith should inform how we use our resources. It is available now and its free. Another free resource is Lazarus at the Gate, an 8 week small group study that examines the Biblical call to live gratefully, generously, justly and simply. Engage with these resources and stay connected to BFJN and we will continue being formed together to live more simply and embody Jesus’ call to love God and others with our whole selves!

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