Image "My Friend" by Helen Thomas Robson (Used by Permission)
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
The word "aftermath" means ~ the consequences or aftereffects of a significant unpleasant event.
If you and I were to meet at a quaint, little downtown cafe for coffee, find a quiet corner, sit down face-to-face, and I were to ask you, "What does the aftermath of your past look like?" what would you say? I'm not talking about the good parts of your past or the precious memories you hold dear, but the aftermath—the consequent-baggage of significant unpleasant events that have happened to you. How would you answer me if I were to ask you about it?
Would you tell me that you fear commitment because you were deeply wounded when you made yourself vulnerable? Would you say that a toxic relationship has drained every good thing from your life? Would you mention that an abusive father made you afraid to trust your Heavenly Father, a controlling mother causes you to fear to have children of your own, or a failed relationship left you too bruised to try again? Would tears fill your eyes as you remorsefully recall the biggest mistake you ever made? Would anger rise to the surface as you begin to think of the person you have never been able to forgive?
Or what if you were to invite me to your home and show me all your physical possessions, pointing out how each one of them makes you feel? Would you tell me that the clutter is smothering your ability to breathe? Would you say that you feel overwhelmed by all the excess? Would there be moments we would take a pause next to certain belongings as a sense of morose negativity clouded our visit?
What exactly makes up the aftermath from your past? It is worth thinking about, isn't it?
None of us want to live life looking backward, right? All of us are broken by the pain of our past, but my friend, today is a new day. Today is the day to forgive, to release, to surrender it all to the One who is the Healer. He has an amazingly bright future ahead for each one of us, but we can't move forward if we are loaded down with old toxic relationships, nursing old wounds, clinging to old grudges, and holding on to physical possessions that we no longer want, need, use, or enjoy.
"Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:13,14 (KJV)
It is time to let go of the old and embrace the new, leave the past where it happened, and clear everything from our lives that its aftermath has left behind. I'm ready, how about you?
In order to follow Jesus wholeheartedly, we must hold nothing back. It will require us to relinquish control over every "slice" of what makes up our whole person. This includes the money He allows to fall into our hands, and I believe we should strive to follow His Word and example in the allocation of it—beginning with the first ten percent.
I've heard a lot of controversy and discussion over the matter of tithing ~ some argue against it, saying it was strictly an Old Testament requirement but no longer necessary under grace. Others say we should give to God's cause, but the amount is not important, and a sporadic way of giving is acceptable. There are plenty of other ideas and opinions. I don't know about you, but I really don't care about opinions and ideas. I want to know the truth. Only the truth will set us free, and the whole, absolute truth can only be found in the Word of God. It is His Word that will be the rule of law when we stand before Him and give an account of what we have done in this life.
God's Word is actually very clear on the subject of money and the kind of financial stewards we are to be. Here are some Biblical precepts that I hope will be an encouragement and help as you seek to bring this slice of the pie into alignment with God's will. (All Scriptural emphasis is added.) Give to God first
Matthew 6:33 says, "But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you."
“Honor the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: so shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.” Proverbs 3:9,10
“Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” Mark 12:17
Just as the government requires a mandatory deduction of taxes from a paycheck before it is ever released to an employee, God’s part should be returned to Him as soon as money is within our possession. It is rightfully His, and to Him, it should be rendered ~ first, before all else.
The word "tithe" literally means "tenth"
It doesn't mean "whatever you can afford this week" or "however much you have left over after paying the bills" or "dropping the loose change in your pocket into the offering plate" or anything other than 10% of the money you are given.
Abraham set the precedent and his is the first biblical account of what it means to tithe.
"And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) And he blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” And Abram gave him a tenth of everything." Genesis 14:18-20
Jacob followed the pattern by vowing to give God ten percent.
"Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father's house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God's house. And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you.” Genesis 28:20-22
God cemented the definition of tithing very specifically when He gave the law to Moses and laid the ground rules.
"Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the Lord's; it is holy to the Lord. And every tithe of herds and flocks, every tenth animal of all that pass under the herdsman's staff, shall be holy to the Lord." Leviticus 27:30,32
"You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field year by year. At the end of every three years, you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in the same year and lay it up within your towns. And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do." Deuteronomy 14:22,28-29
Giving is a New Testament command "Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you." Luke 6:38
“Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7
"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone." Matthew 23:23
The ESV words it this way, "“But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others."
In other words, Jesus was saying that they should include and demonstrate judgment, mercy, and faith, but they should also continue to tithe. In this solitary statement, Jesus confirmed that tithing is absolutely a New Testament command that continues to be God's will.
Disobedience steals from God and those in need
Malachi 3:8-10 says, “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed Me. But ye say, "Wherein have we robbed Thee?" In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed Me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in My house, and prove Me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”
This passage mentions both tithes and offerings. Since a tithe is equal to one/tenth, any giving above that amount is considered an offering unto the Lord. Both are mentioned, individually, so it is evident that God wants us to do both, to give as much as we can, and He will reward us accordingly. NOT that we should ever give from the motivation of hoping to receive, but blessing is the reward for obedience.
Refusing to put God first in our finances is robbing Him of what is rightfully His. When we fail to give to His cause, we not only rob Him, but the ultimate effect is that we take from those who are in need. God is all-sufficient. He has no need, but His children do. Someone else suffers from our failure to tithe.
There are so many who are hurting and in such dire need. How can we withhold help from them, when the proof of our love for God is demonstrated and measured by the degree with which we love our fellow man?
I John 3:17 says, “But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?”
When the love of God is in the heart, it cannot be contained. It automatically bursts forth when we see and recognize that someone else has a need. Just as when Jesus was on earth, many times, He was “moved with compassion”, we will not be able to turn away from those whose plight of poverty and need we could alleviate and remedy by our giving.
What could be more satisfying than to know God has used you to bless and provide for another person? The blessing is even multiplied when you give to those who cannot give back.
“Then said He also to him that bade Him, "When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbors; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompense be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.” Luke 14:12-14
“I have shewed you all things, how that so laboring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35
Proverbs 3:27 says, “Withhold not good from them to whom it is due when it is in the power of thine hand to do it.”
The power over the money God blesses us with is in our own hand. We can decide whether to give or to withhold…to reach out or to be selfish… to follow the world’s example of “hoard and accumulate all you possibly can” or to imitate Jesus’ example of giving all He had.
Matthew 10:24 says, “The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord.”
If we would be followers of Christ, should we not give as unselfishly as He gave?
Again, the proof is in the love. Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples if ye have love one to another.” John 13:35
Jesus also said, “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Luke 12:32-34
Truly, we have been so abundantly blessed, and there are so many who need our excess.
"Freely ye have received, freely give.” Matthew 10:8
"There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need." Acts 4:34-35
God's economy doesn't work like man's. The more you give, the more He gives back. My grandmother used to say, "You can't outgive God," and it has been proven many times through the years that she was right. I feel sure every person reading this can vouch for the validity of that statement.
As we sacrifice, put God first in our finances, and reach out to meet the needs of others, He will absolutely take care of us and supply our needs.
It is amazing to me how relevant the Word of God remains. It is every bit as powerful and on target as it was the day it was written. The world around us can make finances seem complicated, and the thought of bringing them under submission to God's will can seem daunting. The truth is when we view them through the lens of God's Word, they are quite simple.
The more we strive to live our lives as Jesus lived His, the more we realize that it is completely against His will and what He stood for to live life weighted down. Debt is a heavy burden to bear that creates untold stress and unnecessary worry. It wreaks havoc and causes strain in marital relationships and is a constant drain on one’s nerves and emotional state. Living indebted feels like being shackled to a ball and chain. Debt is a cruel, relentless taskmaster, and God never intended that His children live enslaved to such. His Word is very clear and has much to say about debt.
“Owe no man anything, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.” Romans 13:8 (KJV)
“For the LORD thy God blesseth thee, as He promised thee: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, but thou shalt not borrow, and thou shalt reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over thee.” Deuteronomy 15:6 (KJV)
“The LORD shall open unto thee His good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in his season, and to bless all the work of thine hand: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow.” Deuteronomy 28:12 (KJV)
"The rich ruleth over the poor and the borrower is servant to the lender." Proverbs 22:7 (KJV)
We have all made bad choices, bought more than we should have or intended to, and fell into the credit trap. Wherever you find yourself, debt-wise, there is hope, my friend, and there is help to be found in God's Word. Jesus came to give us deliverance from all forms of bondage, and that includes the area of indebtedness.
Here are Biblical steps to reach freedom from debt.
1. Face the truth.
Jesus said, "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." John 8:32 (CSB) The path to any type of freedom begins with the single courageous step of acknowledging what is true. The first step to recovering from indebtedness is to figure out how much you owe. Until you do that, you will more than likely never make any changes to your spending habits and the way you handle your finances. In order to accurately assess your situation, you will need to be completely honest—with yourself, with your spouse and family, and with God. As cringe-worthy as your plight may be, face it head-on. Own what is real, and embrace it. It is extremely liberating to overcome the hurdle of finding and facing the truth.
2. Forgive yourself.
"He will not always chide: neither will He keep his anger forever. He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities." Psalm 103:9-10 (KJV)
Stop beating yourself up. What's done is done. You cannot do one single thing about changing the outcome of where you are right now. Learn from what you regret, and move forward. Punishing yourself and living in a state of remorse won't undo a thing. God forgives, shouldn't you?
3. Stop borrowing.
"Don't be one of those who enter agreements, who put up security for loans. If you have nothing with which to pay, even your bed will be taken from under you." Proverbs 22:26-27 (CSB) The third step to debt recovery is to stop incurring more debt. God does not need a credit card to supply your needs, nor would He ever require you to do something that would cause disobedience to His Word. It is not His will that you incur more debt even in this “give it to me now,” “buy now, pay later” age of time.
Jesus even mentioned debts when He taught His disciples how to pray. “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Matthew 6:12 (KJV)
He would never instruct us to ask our Father in Heaven to forgive us for something, then ask us to turn around and repeat the same offense.
This can seem like a hard truth to swallow, when it comes to making larger purchases, such as a home or an automobile. In today’s world, to even imagine or suggest that someone not go into a mortgage or car loan debt seems preposterous. But, what if we all only purchased what we could actually afford to pay for with cash?
There is no shame in renting someone else’s property instead of owning our own if it means avoiding the pitfall and bondage of long-term debt. Laden with debt, we do not really “own” something anyway. What if we lowered our standard of living down to the size of home we actually need, instead of trying to conform to the world’s standards and dictations of what is necessary? The truth is that we need very little in order to not only survive but to thrive.
A big part of refusing to buy things on credit and not incurring more debt has to do with contentment. Contentment is something that has to be learned. It is not a trait with which we are inherently born. The Apostle Paul said, “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things, I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Philippians 4:11-13 If buying something requires going into debt, the bondage that ensues is just plain not worth it and is counter-productive to the calm of minimal living.
Things that are worth having are worth waiting for until they can be purchased with cash. Waiting on God’s timing for provision produces the sweet fruit of patience, and there is so much rest that comes from thanking God for what we have and trusting Him for what we need.
"But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content." I Timothy 6:6-8 (KJV)
4. Sell What You Have to Pay What You Owe.
In 2 Kings 4:1-7, we find a remarkable story. A widow came to Elisha and told him that her husband had died. Upon his death, she was left with unpaid debt, and, as a result, the creditor was threatening to take her two sons as slaves. Elisha responded, "How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?" "Your servant has nothing there at all," she said, "except a small jar of olive oil." Elisha said, "Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don't ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side." She left him and shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. When all the jars were full, she said to her son, "Bring me another one." But he replied, "There is not a jar left." Then the oil stopped flowing. She went and told the man of God, and he said, "Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left."
Selling what we have to pay what we owe is such a simple solution to indebtedness. Though it is radical and 100% counter-cultural, it makes perfect sense. Where can we look with confidence to find such obvious clarity? To God's Word, of course.
Living in a house we cannot afford, driving cars that require us to keep our noses to the grindstone, having to use credit cards to finance a lifestyle far beyond our means just so we can impress others and fit into someone else's "mold"—these are the things that do not make sense. It all boils down to one question—what do you want most? To be debt-free or to hold on to what you "own?"
The woman could have clung to her olive oil and it would have prevented God from working a Divine-intervention miracle of such magnitude that it is still inspiring faith to this day.
God is able to take what we have and multiply it into what we need if we will take Him at His word and walk in obedience to Him, regardless of how absurd or radical it seems. He takes the insignificant and insufficient and turns it into overflow and abundance.
Where do you find yourself, my friend? Does your situation seem impossible? Perhaps you owe more than your assets are worth and liquidating them would not produce enough to cover the entirety of your indebtedness. Any elimination of debt is a good thing, even if you aren't able to wipe the slate completely clean with one swipe. Don't lose hope. Focus on what God can do, not on your circumstances.
He took a small jar of olive oil and kept multiplying it until it produced enough oil to not only pay off every, single one of the widow's debts, but there was enough surplus to provide a livelihood for her and her sons. (2 Kings 4:1-7)
He took a little boy's lunch of five loaves of bread and two fish and not only fed over 5,000 people, but there was enough left over to fill a basket for each of the twelve disciples. (John 6:4-13)
He took one smooth stone in the hand of little David and killed a giant over nine feet tall. (I Samuel 17:20-51)
He took a handful of flour and a little oil and stretched it to feed and sustain Elijah, a widow, and her son throughout the duration of a drought. (I Kings 17:8-16)
He took a jawbone of a donkey in the hand of Samson and killed 1,000 of his enemies. (Judges 15:11-15)
He took a cloud the size of a man's hand and produced not just a small downpour but an abundance of rain. (I Kings 18:41-45)
He took a tiny newborn baby boy born in the lowliest of settings and made Him the Savior of the whole world. (Luke 2:1-20 & John 19:1-34)
Let Him lead the way, and be pliable and willing to take His path to freedom, even if it is not your preferred way out of debt.
It is absolutely God's will that we repay our indebtedness. He wants us to walk free and unencumbered. Yes, it is a lofty goal but if we follow our Example and are willing to take the humble road He trod, we will find the complete liberation that living a life of self-denial affords. Nothing in this world could ever bring such peace.
After making the decision to respond to Jesus' initial call by choosing to follow Him and pattern our lives after Him and the earthly life He lived, we will find that there are many subsequent "calls" as the road from earth to Heaven becomes increasingly narrow. Each call presents a fork in the road as the call necessitates a response. The motivation behind each of those ensuing calls is to pull us ever closer to and invite us into a deeper level of intimacy with Him. His desire, all along this Christian journey, is that you and I would make a steadily-continuing shift from an earthly to an eternal focus.
I don't know what your minimizing journey looks like but if we dig deep enough we will find the same root reason at the bottom of each Christian's desire to pursue a Biblical path to minimalism—we all intensely hunger for Him and long to live our lives like Jesus lived His. We all yearn for the peace and simplicity that such a life affords. We all want to let go of the things of this world for the sake of a higher call. We want to run a successful Christian race unencumbered by the things of this world, free from the bondage to people and things, unfettered by selfish ambition and pursuits, unbound by the shackles of sin, and completely unchained to anything that is not like Christ.
I have often said that the one passage of Scripture that most fully encapsulates the meaning of Biblical Minimalism is Hebrews 12:1-2, "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." Along with that Scripture, there is a song that has been coming to mind that also encapsulates what Biblical Minimalism really means.
It is simply called, "Consecration." Written in 1907 by Mildred E. Howard, its words are every bit as relevant today as they were 111 years when it was first composed.
Since Jesus gave His life for me,
Should I not give Him mine?
I’m consecrated, Lord, to Thee,
I shall be wholly Thine.
My life, O Lord, I give to Thee,
My talents, time, and all;
I’ll serve Thee, Lord, Thine own to be,
I’ll hear Thy faintest call.
I care not where my Lord directs,
His purpose I’ll fulfill;
I know He everyone protects
Who does His holy will.
Though He may call across the sea,
With Jesus I will go;
And tell the lost of love so free,
Till all His power may know.
My home and friends are dear to me,
Yet He is dearer still;
In my affections first He’ll be,
And first His righteous will.
My all, O Lord, to Thee I’ll give,
Accept it as Thine own;
For Thee alone, I’ll ever live,
My heart shall be Thy throne.
To say those words, and mean them from the heart, is truly a cry of surrender and total consecration. Too many times, as Christians, we surrender some of ourselves to God. We pick and choose the areas in which we want Him to have full control, and we hold Him at arms' length, reserving certain other parts to ourselves, attaching an invisible "off limits" sign. If we are to run a winning Christian race, we have to give it all we've got, holding nothing back from the One who gave all for us.
In closing, I want to share the lyrics to and video of another song that is so relevant to this discussion. It is called, "The Secret Place" and was recorded by The Booth Brothers. Please scroll down to hear Ronnie Booth's story of his and Michael's Dad's testimony followed by them singing this moving song.