On Letting Go of ‘Cumber

Richard Foster and Dallas Willard discuss the spiritual discipline of simplicity:

RF: That’s why the Discipline of simplicity, for example, is a great—well, actually frugality  is the Discipline, and simplicity is the result of a life of frugality.

DW: But the way simplicity has been understood, it really is frugality. And it leads to a life where you are able to get rid of the clutter, and you are able to have a unified purpose. And that means, among other things, you can throw stuff away.

RF: I remember this wonderful phrase—I think it was from William Penn—about letting go of “cumber.”

DW: Yes, and think of a society in which we have all these rental places where you can put your junk.

RF: Right, I’ve got to rent another storage place.

DW: You’ve already got your garage full. But what that says about the person—I mean, that they are inwardly in bondage!

RF: Exactly, because simplicity is an inward reality [such] that, when that change comes about, the inward reality results in an outward lifestyle free of cumber.

DW: I guess the thing you practice most in simplicity is letting things go. It’s actually trusting God instead of keeping everything around that you might need, or on the other side (the really wealthy), [it would mean not] buying all this stuff.

RF: I remember once feeling drawn to experience this, and it wasn’t much really; it was a ten- speed bike, and I felt I needed to just let go of it. I just listened for a couple of weeks, and I heard a man mention that he wanted very much to get a bicycle for his son, but didn’t have the ability to do it. I went to him and said that we had one—used, but good—and I remember going to his house to give it to him singing that little chorus, “Freely, freely
did we receive, freely, freely give.” When we gave it to him, he came out to the car to talk to us, and he was only connected to the church in a really distant way, and he said, “Why are you doing this?” That gave a little opportunity to share a little about what was going on with me, and it was just a wonderful experience of letting go.

DW: Well, then, you know what you did was to bring the kingdom near to that man. You might just as well have said, “Because the kingdom is at hand.” I think after this talk, I’ll go home and throw away twenty-five books.

RF: And your wife will rejoice; so long as they are not her books.