Opinion | Family

Simplicity: It's Complicated

When trying to buy and spend less only breeds anxiety, maybe it's time to check motives.

The New York Times recently profiled an Oregon couple who winnowed their possessions down to 100 things, giving away most of what they owned and cozying up in a 400-square-foot apartment. The article discussed new (read: more cautious) spending patterns, spurred by the recession but potentially having long-term staying power. Americans are investing in experiences and leisure activities such as vacations and concerts, which contribute to their happiness in a way that the latest electronic gadget does not. " 'It's better to go on a vacation than buy a new couch' is basically the idea," says Elizabeth Dunn of the University of British Columbia.

The emphasis on owning less relates to the Christian virtue of simplicity. In Matthew 6:19-20, Jesus reminds us to store up treasures in heaven, not on earth, while the parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:16-21) warns against preoccupation with saving for future comfort. Biblical examples of giving away wealth and possessions abound, from Old Testament ...

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