Con­sumerism is a hal­lowed pil­lar of our soci­ety. And cer­tain­ly no econ­o­my func­tions with­out it. But when it warps our val­ues and steals our hearts, it is a hol­low pas­sion, indeed. It destroys sim­plic­i­ty— that sin­gle eye” toward God that results in an out­ward lifestyle free from the pas­sion to possess.

If you are a father who cares deeply about Chris­t­ian val­ues, you will want to teach this impor­tant grace to your chil­dren. Admit­ted­ly a tough assign­ment, since one must always mod­el what one teaches. 

There are some ways to build an appre­ci­a­tion for sim­plic­i­ty — first in terms of inward manifestations.

• Con­tent­ment is foun­da­tion­al to sim­plic­i­ty. The Apos­tle Paul said, I have learned the secret of being con­tent in any and every sit­u­a­tion… ” (Phil. 4:12 – 13, 13:5) The atti­tude that Enough is enough,” as Bish­op John Tay­lor describes must under­pin your efforts.

Young chil­dren are often the best teach­ers. They instinc­tive­ly delight in sim­ple joys more than in plas­tic toys. Fol­low their lead and turn a deaf fam­i­ly ear to the ad man’s four let­ter obscen­i­ties, More, more, more!”

• Talk with your chil­dren about how sim­plic­i­ty leads to free­dom, not bondage… how it makes life full rather than crowd­ed. .. how it allows peo­ple to be val­ued above things. Focus life on the beau­ty, friend­ships and sim­ple joys around us. 

• Encour­age slm­plíc­i­ty with plain and hon­est speech in your fam­i­ly. If you promise your chil­dren you will be at a soc­cer game or vio­lin recital, keep your word. To do oth­er­wise is dis­hon­est. Try to strike I am starved” from your vocab­u­lary. At best it is a half-truth and obscures the fact that many indeed are starv­ing. Do all you can to state what is actu­al­ly the case with­out embellishment. 

• Try to live on a mar­gin” —that is to arrive a few min­utes ahead of any sched­uled appoint­ment. If you have small chil­dren, this can require a mir­a­cle. But the prac­tice will remove some frus­tra­tion and anx­i­ety from fam­i­ly life.

• Work at cul­ti­vat­ing reg­u­lar moments of reflec­tion. Encour­age your chil­dren to read sig­nif­i­cant books to increase their under­stand­ing of them­selves and the world in which they live. Kay Lindskoog’s book, How To Grow A Young Read­er (David C. Cook Pub.) is an excel­lent resource.

Estab­lish a read­ing hour each evening for old­er young­sters. With younger chil­dren adjust it to 15 or 30 min­utes. And some­times read to your chil­dren and dis­cuss what you’ve read. 

Equal­ly impor­tant to your child is the pur­suit of out­ward simplicity.

• Help your child grow at self-con­trol and gov­ern­ment. Man­ag­ing mon­ey is one prac­ti­cal area. Tie his or her allowance to some chores and make oth­ers a sim­ple respon­si­bil­i­ty of fam­i­ly mem­ber­ship. Once it is deter­mined what per­cent­age of the allowance is to be saved and giv­en away (per­haps 10 per cent in each area) then decide togeth­er how the rest will be used, keep­ing an eye on the sim­plic­i­ty principle.

• As a fam­i­ly, dis­cuss bud­get expen­di­tures and estab­lish a line beyond which you will not go. Rec­og­nize that our cul­ture teach­es both adults and chil­dren to desire every­thing in sight. Learn­ing to buy what is need­ed rather than what is want­ed is a dif­fi­cult, but free­dom-giv­ing skill. 

• Revolt as a fam­i­ly against the pro­pa­gan­da machine in your home. Greet patent­ly pho­ny tele­vi­sion com­mer­cials with a round of Who do you think you’re kid­ding!” comments. 

• Help your chil­dren become acquaint­ed with Christ’s favorites — the poor and needy. Find sit­u­a­tions in your neigh­bor­hood or town where your fam­i­ly can con­tribute some time and ener­gy. Spon­sor an orphan child and with­out a guilt trip, find small ways to become friends with those in need. 

• Focus on home­made rather than com­mer­cial” cel­e­bra­tions. There is an infi­nite vari­ety of things which are great fun and draw you clos­er to one anoth­er. Make talk” a big thing in your fam­i­ly. Delight in lis­ten­ing to each other’s sto­ries. Dad, become good at sto­ry­telling so that you set the pace.

The free­dom of sim­plic­i­ty is tough to cap­ture and tough to main­tain with bal­ance. But it rewards the dili­gent with a match­less joy in liv­ing. As Fran­cis de Sales advised, In every­thing, love simplicity.”

First pub­lished in Dads Only (May 1981).

Originally published April 1981

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