Minimalism and the Christian Life

I wouldn’t call myself a minimalist, per se. But I do strive to live a simpler life than what I’ve grown up with and what I see as normal in our culture. In case you’re wondering, minimalism is essentially cutting out what is unnecessary in order to focus on what is truly important. For example, minimalism can be a design philosophy, which you can get a taste of by looking at my blog theme. I’ve taken away sidebars, ads, social sharing buttons, and even comments. The reason is because I want to focus on writing and I want the 3 people that read this blog to be able to focus on the articles rather than being pulled this way and that. We get enough of that online.

The type of minimalism I’m referring to, however, has more to do with lifestyle. In our culture we’re consumed with having the latest gadgets, large wardrobes, nice cars, more house than we need, and more channels than we can watch. But the truth is that the so-called “American dream” hasn’t done much to add value to our lives. Just look around.

Are fewer people being murdered in our time?

Are we less stressed out?

We buy, buy, and then buy some more because we think these things will add value to our lives. But they don’t. If they did we wouldn’t need to keep buying and stuffing our homes. Aside from not just adding value, our overconsumption has actually devalued our lives. We have less time because we overwork ourselves so we can pay for all those meaningless things. Getting a glimpse of this is what has led me to strive to live a simpler life. As I mentioned already, I don’t consider myself to be a minimalist and am far from an expert on the subject.

So what does all of this have to do with the Christian life? What does minimalism have to do with the life of the Church, both corporately and as individual followers of Jesus? I will say this blanket statement, which you can agree with or disagree with. From what I’ve seen of the early church and most importantly from Jesus himself, I believe all believers are called to live simper lives. Call it minimalism or whatever you’d like. I see simple living all throughout the New Testament.

For too long and in far too great of numbers, Christians and the Church have looked more like the culture it lives in than Jesus. This is at least true for Western Christianity. We have taken this radical, counter-cultural life in a different Kingdom and turned it into this private religion. Christianity has been detached from community and as a result we live individualistic lives just like the rest of our Western society. We look out for ourselves and immediate family. The strangers and sojourners are considered less-than.

There are more unsavory Western traits many believers unknowingly possess, but I just mention those to illustrate how “off” we are. But what if we, as Christians, strove to live simpler lives? What would the results be for Christians and for the Kingdom of God if we spent less on things we don’t need, worked less, allowed ourselves more rest, and weren’t so overcommitted?

What are practical implications of Christians striving to live simpler lives?

  • Spending less money on things we don’t need frees us to help others in need. Whether that need is building a well in Africa so a village can have clean water or paying a family’s rent in your church for the month so they don’t become homeless. The average Christian in America could free up so much money by simply buying fewer unnecessary things.
  • Having fewer possessions allows us to work less, both at our job and at home maintaining all those possessions. Time is freed up to spend personal time reading and studying the Bible, theology, and spiritual books. Not only that, we have more time (and money) to open our homes to believers to share meals, study together, and just become family.

What does scripture teach about simple living? Here’s one thing Jesus said…

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21 ESV)

What do we see in regards to this with the first century church?

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47 ESV)

The text speaks for itself. You can call it minimalism or whatever you’d like, but we can’t deny that simpler living, whatever that means for each of us, is part of the Kingdom of God. Minimalism is more of a process or journey than it is a destination. For us the destination is Christ alone. Our goal is know Him, to share Him, and to love. The point of minimalism isn’t to be a minimalist. The point is to pare down what doesn’t matter in order to focus on what truly matters. For us what truly matters is the Lord Jesus Christ. So let us humbly examine our lives and creatively find ways to cut the fat and gain riches that never rust or decay and that cannot be stolen.

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