Friends General Conference

Nurturing faith and Quaker practice

Quakers Consider: Simplicity

Photo by Colby Asazs
Quakers Consider...

Thomas Kelley, 1941

Life is meant to be lived from a Center, a divine Center—a life of unhurried peace and power.  It is simple.  It is serene.  It takes no time but occupies all our time.

Kara Cole Newell, 1982

We have a testimony about simplicity and we need to think about what that means in the world we're living in right now. What does it mean to be lean and disciplined and not dependent upon our things?

Robert Lawrence Smith, 1999

Simplicity . . . has little to do with how many things you own and everything to do with not letting your possessions own you.

Richard Foster, 1978

Both the inward and the outward aspects of simplicity are essential.  We deceive ourselves if we believe we can possess the inward reality without its having a profound effect on how we live.  The attempt to arrange an outward life-style of simplicity without the inward reality leads to deadly legalism.

The central point for the Discipline of simplicity is to seek the kingdom of God . . . first and then everything necessary will come in its proper order.  . . .  Everything hinges upon maintaining the “first” thing as first.  Nothing must come before the kingdom of God, including the desire for a simple life-style. Simplicity itself becomes idolatry when it takes precedence over seeking the kingdom.

Fran Irene Taber, 1985

The first generation of Friends did not have a testimony for simplicity.  They came upon a faith which cut to the root of the way they saw life, radically reorienting it.  They saw that all they did must flow directly from what they experienced as true, and that if it did not, both the knowing and the doing became false.  In order to keep the knowledge clear and the doing true, they stripped away anything which seemed to get in the way.  They called those things superfluities, and it is this radical process of stripping for clear-seeing which we now term simplicity.

Quaker Trivia

Early Quaker merchants initiated the fixed price system.  They believed that bargaining over the cost of merchandise could lead to untruthfulness, so to avoid the temptation to exaggerate the worth of their goods, and to avoid encouraging customers to do the opposite, they set what they figured was a fair price and stuck to it.  Customers liked the system, and it took hold generally.