“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear…But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:25a, 33, NRSVUE)
I have thirteen tabs open on Google Chrome, and another four tabs open on Firefox as I sit on my couch reflecting on simplicity. Next to me, I have eight crochet works-in-progress organized on my craft cart. I take a break from writing to glance at my phone, which notifies me I have 22,675 unread emails in my various email inboxes. I sip from my mug of coffee, which is sitting right next to my water bottle, and I realize something about myself: I’m not sure I know what simplicity is.
A couple of summers ago, I came across the book How to Be Everything: A Guide for Those Who (Still) Don’t Know What They Want to Be When They Grow Up by Emilie Wapnick, and I felt seen. I struggled through my growing up years to discover what I wanted to do for work when I got older, primarily because I was interested in so many things. I felt excited about writing music or stories, by learning about ancient civilizations and giving speeches. Every class I took in college nearly persuaded me to make that subject my next major. How can a person with varied interests simplify their focus and choose just one thing to be when she grows up?
What does it look like for the multipotentialite (a person with multiple interests or revenue streams) to find simplicity? What does it look like for the person with too many interests, too many irons in the fire, or the person who wears too many hats to seek out and discover simplicity?
“Do the birds worry about having food? Do lilies worry about how to clothe themselves? Of course they don’t.”
In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus teaches on a wide variety of topics, everything from murder and divorce to prayer and fasting. At the end of Matthew 6, Jesus takes a look at worry. He talks about real, human needs like having food and drink and having clothing to wear, and he says that we should not spend time worrying about these things. He points to the natural world as an example. Do the birds worry about having enough food? Do lilies worry about how to clothe themselves? Of course they don’t. Jesus urges his listeners to have faith in God because God cares more for them than for the birds and lilies.
The word for worry in Jesus’s teaching is a word that can mean “to be pulled in different directions.” It is a word for being divided within yourself, of having your cares and concerns separated and spread out. The solution, Jesus says, is to make the kingdom of God our focus. He concludes his teaching on worry with this famous verse: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” God knows what we need, and it isn’t wrong for us to care about what we need, too. But, we find the joy of the Lord when we seek first God’s kingdom. When we make that our focus, everything else will fall into place.
Marie Kondo won both accolades and side-eye with her simple focus on keeping things tidy. She urged readers to touch their belongings and see what things “sparked joy.” If there’s no joy, thank it for serving its purpose, and get rid of it. Even though this simple approach doesn’t automatically make it easy to get rid of things, it shares a lot in common with Jesus’s words in Matthew 6. Focus first on God’s reign and righteousness. Make that the priority, the bullseye we aim for.
This Advent season, while we dash around to our various commitments, try to check all the boxes on our list of expectations, and try to do it all with a smile on, let’s take a moment to focus on one simple, life-giving thing: the Christ child coming into the world. God, through this one vulnerable act, became human with and for us. God walked among us, healed the sick, cared about our concerns, and dealt with the crushing pressure of being pulled in far too many directions by the crowd. But, his focus was singular: proclaiming the coming of the kingdom of God, the kingdom where Love would reign, where the table is ever-expanding to include the multitudes.
“… let’s take a moment to focus on one simple, life-giving thing: the Christ child coming into the world.”
May we find joy this season as we focus on one, simple thing that means everything: the gift of Jesus, who is with us and for us.
Prayer: Holy God who took on flesh for us, when the magi went in search of you, they saw the star stop over your home, and they were overwhelmed with joy. Give us the courage to focus our eyes on you, to take the journey you call us to take, and to receive the joy you offer. Amen.
Read other pieces by April Fiet of our 2022 Advent series: