I wrote the following words a while ago, but I have not been brave enough to publish them here. The minimalism movement has been growing strong on the internet. I feel like I've been watching the movement develop for longer than the mainstream, and a few of the philosophies that have arisen from it cause me some concern:
Today, I am writing to my fellow Christians, to those of us that desire to follow Christ in all that we do.
It seems like there is a lot of talk on the web about living a minimalist lifestyle. I confess, there is much about throwing off the chains of possessions and living free from the responsibility of stuff that sounds very attractive to me. And all those tiny houses are so stinking cute!
The ideology that "less is more" is popping up all over the place, and is even beginning to resonate in the church. I have been intrigued with simplicity and minimalism, and have spent quite a few hours reading, watching videos, and studying what exactly is meant by minimalism, and how it manifests itself in everyday life. In my study of this philosophy, I have found those that claim the Bible teaches that believers ought to live a minimalist lifestyle. But, I'm not convinced that the Bible actually promotes this.
I believe that God has a different calling for each of his followers. Ephesians 2:10 says, "For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." My life won't look like yours, your life won't look like mine, and that's okay. God has called me to serve him in one way, and He has called you to serve him in another.
I don't believe the Bible tells us to live with less stuff so we can do what we want, when we want to do it. If anything, it tells us to simply do what you have been called to, live for Christ, regardless of your circumstances. I think the tendency with minimalism is to cause the pursuit of less stuff and more "living" to become your new "love of money" - your new distraction from that which God has called you to do. In minimalism, there is a lot of emphasis on counting items - getting rid of so many things from your home, tracking what you've gotten rid of, counting how many items you have left. So much focus on things... I feel as though we're missing the point. We are not to pursue less stuff, we are to pursue Christ.
Recently I heard of "experientialism" - the idea that life is not about stuff, but about experiences. It sounds good. Rather than fill my life with material goods, I'm going to pursue experiences. Those that live this way have travel itineraries that will surprise you; they take their kids to zoos and museums for their birthdays, they give tickets instead of presents. It sounds fantastic, and yet, I hear the writer of Ecclesiastes shaking his head and whispering, "I tried that, too."
The Bible does have something to say about what we own and how we spend our time:
- We are to be content with our circumstances, whatever they might be (content and thankful!). (Philippians 4...)
- We are to be good stewards with that which we have been entrusted. (Matthew 25...)
- We are to be generous with what we have been given. (Mark 12, and others...)
These principles, these attitudes toward our possessions and the physical blessings that God has granted us (because "every good gift is from the Lord") are not the same as the minimalist lifestyle; they can apply to those with many possessions and to those with very few. In fact, there are examples in the Bible of both very wealthy (many possessions) and very poor people (few possessions) having strong relationships and faith in God.
Moreover, Philippians 4:19 says, "And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus." Is my faith and trust in the Creator of the universe? Or is it in the number of items I have tossed in the "donate" box in the garage?
As I considered these three principles (be content, be a good steward, and be generous), I realized that I needed to spend some time searching my heart:
- Am I being content? What are my areas of weakness here?
- Am I a good steward? What gifts have I been given that I could care for more consistently?
- Am I generous? What more could I give to those in need?
- Am I trusting God to meet my needs? Or am I seeking to set myself up for earthly success in how I spend my time and money?
I can't say that I'm perfect at living these principles. But, this is what I'm pursuing: not less, not more, but contentment, stewardship, and generosity grounded in the Word of Truth, seeking God's glory above all else. Will you join me?