by Courtney Coates
In “Celebration of Discipline,” Richard J. Foster describes simplicity as “an inward reality that results in an outward lifestyle.”
Simplicity is not a set of rules for what to buy, where to
take vacations or what not to wear. Rather, it is a shifting of the heart’s focus off self and onto God, which gradually creates changes in the way we live our lives.
But these life changes don’t stop with us. When we strive for simplicity, there is a trickle-down effect. Choosing to live simply creates a well from which we can draw out blessings for others. Simplicity in spending means having more money to give. Simplicity in accumulation means having more room for guests. Simplicity in speech means having
more time to listen.
Jesus gives us clear instructions on how to steal some hours for listening. In Matthew 5:37, Jesus tells His listeners: “All you
need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” In making speech more truthful and less verbose, we make room for something more important than our own pretty words. It’s hard to miss the point of Jesus’ story of the Pharisee and the tax
collector in the temple (Luke 18:9-14). God is unimpressed with cascading, self-righteous prayers. Rather, prayer that strikes right to the heart of the matter – that God is holy, and we are not – are the most pleasing and acceptable sacrifices.
It’s hard to limit words when free speech tops our list of cultural values. When everyone has something to say through blogs and social networks, is anyone really
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listening? It’s easy to be so busy describing your political views or your baby’s latest milestone that you don’t hear the neglected voices of your down-and-out friends.
I am not recommending we quit talking. The therapeutic value of talking things out is well known. But perhaps we should examine more closely the people, place and time in which we choose to make our thoughts and feelings known. When
my young daughters whine, I often reply, “All right, I’ve listened to you. I know how you feel about nap time, but now it’s time to just let it go.” Christians have some just complaints, but much of the time, we should probably just let it go.
When you are careful with your words, you are given a gift. You are blessed with a little more time on your hands. Why not use that precious time to do something countercultural and radical? Just listen.
 Does your outward reality reflect an inward simplicity?
 When you spend time with other people, are you likely to spend more time talking or listening?
 How do we make sure our conversations are therapeutic instead of destructive?