traveling light, a theology of simplicity

Then [Jesus] sent them to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. “Take nothing for the road,” He told them, “no walking stick, no traveling bag, no bread, no money; and don’t take an extra shirt.”
Luke 9.2-3 (HCSB)

Does being a Christian have anything to do with simple living?  I believe it does.  Twice Jesus sent out his disciples (first the 12, then the 72) into the world to proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God.  Twice he exhorted them to travel light.  Why?

Traveling light minimizes distraction

If all I take with me is just what I need, then there is little risk of getting sidetracked or distracted along the way.  I’m not talking about stopping periodically to enjoy the scenery, savor a cup of coffee, or smell the proverbial roses–in fact, I’ll encourage that–but stopping to check email “just once more” because we’re conditioned to often results in loosing precious hours without even realizing it because email led to Twitter, which led to Facebook, which led to surfing, and so on.  The urgency of the crises facing the world today requires action, not distraction.  Being engaged with others via email, social media, and other avenues is a great way to coordinate, plan, and raise awareness, but if we become slaves to our inboxes then those avenues have become hindrances, not helps.

Traveling light brings freedom

Less ‘stuff’ necessarily means more freedom.  A storage unit filled with things you’ve not used in years is an anchor that keeps you in one spot, physically and emotionally.  Dragging along a wealth of things to ‘entertain’ the kids when you hit the road practically guarantees no one will have any real adventures, just virtual ones.  When Jesus sent the disciples out with only the essentials, he ensured they were not tied down to worldly concerns and had no hindrances to movement.  They could go wherever they were led or wherever there was a need.  So we too, when unencumbered, have the flexibility to truly respond to the needs we face, wherever they might be.

Traveling light requires faith

Perhaps the most obvious point about traveling light is that is requires us to step out on faith and trust in God’s providential care for us.  Many of us like to have backups for our backups and multiple safety nets…just in case.  While a backup plan isn’t necessarily a bad thing, not only can we be paralyzed by waiting for “just the right time” to act–which never comes, by the way–too much old-fashioned, American, self-reliance actually shows a lack of faith.  I don’t want to give the impression that I’m suggesting we throw caution to the wind at every opportunity, but we would no doubt all do better to trust God more and trust ourselves less.

(more thoughts on the theology of simplicity coming soon…)


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