Today, you are in for a special treat! I asked my sweet, online friend, Evelyn Rennich, to write a guest post for us, and she so kindly agreed. Her words are words of wisdom, and I am so honored to have her as our very first guest writer! I know you will be abundantly blessed as you read. (You can also read her Inner Views interview by clicking HERE.)
A Case for Christian Minimalism
Modern Christians are suffocating in stuff, and we don’t even know it. Our lives are overflowing with junk and we feel the crush but don’t know what to do about it. Material possessions promise to make us happy and fill an emptiness in our souls. Purchases lend a temporary high, yet we are trading peaceful spaces for homes high on clutter. Christians are not immune to this vicious cycle. We know that our hearts are yearning for a connection with Almighty God, and yet buying another scarf is easier than pursuing His presence. Biblical minimalism is one way for cluttered Christians to fill their heart-void and un-fill their homes.
Secular minimalism is defined loosely as owning fewer items so that the important things in a person’s life can become truly clear. The Minimalists define minimalism as “a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important—so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.” Christians believe that God created the world to reflect and draw His own glory, so a tweak of that definition could suggest that “minimalism can be a tool to help believers focus on God so that we can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom in Him”.
Jesus, of course, is the ultimate example of godly minimalism. We aren’t told explicitly in the Word that He owned nothing, but Gospel accounts show His adult life as mostly a nomad, owning very few—if any—things. Jesus is the ultimate example of a life wholly devoted to God’s purposes, valuing relationships with people over possessions. He lived slowly, purposefully. He valued individuals and trusted God to provide for His every basic need. While He lived a very human life, His trust was placed outside of human reality—100 percent on God. Jesus warned against the danger of letting the desire for wealth and possessions rule your life.
“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” Matthew 6:24
Throughout the ages groups of Christianity have followed Jesus’ example in leading a simple life, undistracted by stuff and money. Monasteries and convents are obvious examples, where devoted followers of Jesus give their lives to worship, service, and meditative work without the burden of material possessions. Some sects of Christianity withdraw from the current culture in order to live simply. These groups forego technology and modern conveniences in order to more fully embrace a God-centered life. These lifestyles are beautiful pictures of singular passion and Biblical minimalism, but many of us find ourselves planted deep in a consumer culture with a family and a full schedule filling our calendars. Christian minimalism is one way to say “I don’t want it” to the world and invite a fuller experience of God into your life.
Owning wealth is not wrong
The Bible has a lot to say on the subject of riches, wealth, and belongings. Some verses and passages show that God blesses with physical wealth, such as in 1 Samuel 2:7, “The Lord sends poverty and wealth; He humbles and He exalts.” Examples of people who were divinely blessed with wealth and belongings include Abraham, Solomon, and Job to name a few. It is true that sometimes God chooses to bless people physically with wealth and belongings, so owning things is not a wrong act.
“If riches increase, Do not set your heart on them.” Psalm 62:10
There is nothing wrong with owning things. The real problem comes when our things rule us like they did the rich young ruler in Matthew 19. His riches owned him; he could not part with them when instructed to do so by Jesus.
Biblical minimalism isn’t determined by the number of things you own. Surely, a single person is free to live with less than a family who lives in a home and is involved in a myriad of activities. Biblical minimalism is a setting of the heart to trust in the person of God over money and things. It values delighting in the Creator more than delighting in consumable things. Biblical minimalism is a moment by moment decision to chase righteousness over riches.
Let’s look at a sampling of verses which warn against the love of money and wealth:
“For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. 8 If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.” 1 Timothy 6:7-8
“Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, Cease from your consideration of it.” Proverbs 23:4
“Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is my portion, That I not be full and deny You and say, “Who is the Lord?” Or that I not be in want and steal, And profane the name of my God.” Proverbs 30:8
The key is to rule your stuff, not the other way around
This content state of heart and mind is a hard one to maintain, especially in a consumer culture. I admit that I often must keep my own intentions in check. It’s too easy to fall into wondering, how can I get more money so I can do this/buy this/have this? The sinful human response is to focus on the thing or the lifestyle we envision, and before we know it we are worshipping an idol instead of the living God. The foundation of Biblical minimalism is to hold loosely to things but to hold tightly to God’s character. Biblical minimalism is to worship God’s person, not to worship gold or possessions. If riches do increase, do not set your heart on them.
A practical step for an average family living in a first-world country is to purposely own less stuff. Choose to shed unnecessary items in your home, and you will discover if your things have a hold on you or the other way around.
Solomon was a man who had access to every pleasure possible. He set out to discover the purpose of life. He owned all the things, rich food, unlimited money, and yet he concluded what we all know deep down—these earth-based comforts are empty, unfulfilling. Solomon’s conclusion was that man’s sole—soul!—purpose was to fear God and keep His commandments. This is where abundant life is found—when our eyes and hearts are laser-focused on God and delighting in Him, our souls feel valued and full.
When we fixate on our Creator and choose to meditate on His character and His word, that is when we find true happiness, fulfillment, and freedom. Biblical minimalism is a practical way out of the consumerist trap and into the untethered life God designed for us. Shed your stuff, friends, and spiritual connection is likely to follow.
"Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man." Ecclesiastes 12:13
Minimalism from a Biblical Point of View —
Biblical Minimalism is "a complete, whole-person release of anything unlike Jesus, a letting go of everything that hinders us from following Him wholeheartedly and single-mindedly, and a relinquishing of all that brings us under bondage to this earthly, very temporary life." Cheryl E. Smith