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.”

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First published in Dads Only (May 1981).

Originally published May 1981