Jesus is a minimalist, and as Christians we are called to be one too.
Now if you’re anything like me you are already feeling a tad defensive and a little frustrated that I’m telling you what to do, but hear me out okay? I’m still working through this too, but I think this is an important subject to talk about, especially for Christians in America. And if you have no idea what I’m talking about when I say minimalist let me break down a little for you.
About two months ago my wife and I watch a documentary called Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things and instantly felt motivated to respond in our own lives. Essentially the point of the documentary is showing how people are chasing after more stuff/money to find happiness when in reality if they had less stuff they would find themselves being more content and fulfilled. It’s the idea that less is more in life. So this documentary showed people quitting their high paying jobs for a simple lifestyle to pursue what they enjoyed. It showed them selling or giving away most of their possessions as to be smart with their money and feel less stress. It even showed one guy who can fit all of his possessions into a backpack and small duffle bag, so that he can travel the world. And for someone like me who is cheap, doesn’t like to spend money on anything, but loves to travel I was a huge fan right off the bat. But as I sat and watched several people, ranging from single men to families with six kids talk about this minimalism lifestyle, I couldn’t help to think that they were missing something. They all talked about getting rid of their stuff so their lives felt less cluttered. They want to be happy and find meaning outside of materialism. The way it was portrayed felt to me a bit like escapism, or at the very least putting meaning and identity into other non-material stuff – traveling, savings accounts, family – which obviously are not bad, but those things will not ultimately give us the joy or peace that we should have.
But I still can’t help think they are on the right track… just fall one step short. As Christians, we are told over and over in the Bible to not focus on the “earthly things, but the things above," not to “lay up treasures here on Earth, but in Heaven.” (Matthew 6:19; Colossians 3:2) But we don’t do so in order to find happiness or follow the newest trend. We are commanded not to be attached to things here on earth so that our attachment is to nothing else but God.
Christians in America have been duped into thinking that we too are supposed to follow the “American Dream,” that we are supposed to pursue a house (and all the stuff to fill it), financial security, a great job, and good vacations etc. Consumerism has wiggled its way into our relationships, our worldview, our church and our faith. The world is constantly telling us through advertisements, celebrities, politics, and social media that we should be happy and that happiness will come through more technology, more money, more rooms in our house, more, more, more. We are constantly told to be building up more treasures that we can see, and Jesus says that “where our treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matthew 6:21) Our faith, our identity, our joy, our treasure is not in the American Dream but lies solely -that’s a pretty minimalist word if you ask me - in Christ.
Jesus Christ (the founder of the whole Christianity thing) was a minimalist. He literally didn’t own anything except the clothes he wore. He traveled from place to place staying with people he met or friends. He didn’t have a white picket fence, two car garage and several flat screen tv’s. He didn’t even own a bed. (Luke 9:58) His life was devoted to showing what a life dependent on God alone looked like, and spoiler alert, it had nothing to do with accumulating things or money.
So what I am saying… Sell all of your stuff and live as a vagabond preacher? Maybe. Well not really. But shouldn’t we all be ready to do so if called? Should we not honestly be ready to give away everything that we have so that we can be less hindered to spread the love and good news of Jesus? Or at the very least be using everything that we have for that purpose (which would mean if it doesn’t serve that purpose we get rid of it)?
My wife and I are SLOWLY exploring this world of simplicity and minimalism more and more, and not because we think that it is THE way to follow Jesus, but because we believe that as we detach from things, clutter, and consumerism we will be able to attach our minds, heart, strength, soul, and resources to God and His command to love Him and others. I say slowly because it is hard, it takes the sacrifice of our wants/desires, it is counter to everything we have been taught by culture, it goes against our pride and selfishness. But nevertheless, our identity should never be in things that we own, the money that we have, our houses, or even the people that we are around. Our identity, our lives, our everything should always stem from one person, and that is Jesus Christ, who I believe says it best in Matthew 16…
“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall man give in return for his soul?”
The minimalist lifestyle is a tool that helps us keep things in perspective. Our things don’t define us. We don’t define the purpose of our things. For Christian’s, Jesus gives meaning and purpose to both, our things and us.
If you want more information about Minimalism or Simplicity. Here are some websites/podcasts/books to check out.
Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things(was on Netflix as of 8/1/17)
Richard Foster’s – Celebration of the Disciplines (chapter on Simplicity)
Joshua Becker’s – The More of Less
Major Parts of the Bible ;)
Written by Austin Greco