Sometimes all the stuff in our lives can get overwhelming. We have homes with rooms upon rooms. Our garages are meant to house cars, but instead they’re filled with our belongings, and on top of this, we use storage units that hold even more. Often we keep things around “just in case” — just in case we need them one day, or just in case they’re worth monetary value.
A movement called minimalism is helping a number of people counter this problem of clutter and too much stuff. Minimalists embrace the idea that having less is actually having more.
And interestingly, this concept of minimalism ties very nicely into our own Christian faith.
Here is how minimalism can help in our Christian journey.
Minimalism is intentionally striving to own fewer possessions. The minimalist lifestyle embraces decluttering. Instead of a closet crammed with clothing, it involves keeping a few key items that you wear consistently, then donating or getting rid of the rest. In the home, it might look like having a few treasured items on a shelf, and not a hodgepodge of stuff that collects dust.
The basic idea behind minimalism is that too much stuff clutters our surroundings and therefore our minds and hearts, making us forget the truly important things we should focus on. But by minimalizing our lives – decluttering all but the basic necessities or a very few, treasured, joy-filled items – we can focus on what is truly of value.
While the Bible doesn’t specifically use the term “minimalism,” there are a number of verses in Scripture that embrace this mindset.
Too often we crave the false security that having stuff provides. When we have a closet full of clothing, we don’t have to worry about what to wear. When we have a garage full of equipment, even if we don’t use it, it gives us the idea that somehow we have control over the chaos of life. In this, too much stuff can become a sort of god in our lives.
Worldly items are just that, items of this world. They rust and crumble and eventually are gone. They do not matter in the big picture. They are merely things.
And the Bible warns us repeatedly not to keep our focus on worldly things.
As it says in 1 John 2:15-17, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”
The apostle Paul writes in Colossians 3:1-2, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”
In James 4:4, we’re chastised, “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”
And in Titus 2:11-14, we’re reminded, “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.”
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Jesus resisted the devil’s worldly temptations, which shows us how we, too, can counter the temptation of excess and embrace what really matters: God.
In the wilderness, Jesus was weakened physically and likely emotionally. He’d fasted 40 days, and the devil knew exactly where to push.
“If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread,” the devil taunted in Matthew 4:3, but Jesus refused.
The devil kept at it, finally promising the world, quite literally. He took Jesus to a high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world—all their riches, all their splendor. I’ll give all of it to you, if you’ll just bow down and worship me, the devil said.
But Jesus wasn’t having it.
“Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only,’” Jesus said in Matthew 4:10.
He didn’t need the riches of the world, and neither do we. For with Jesus, we are children of God, and God is the only One we need.
We often have a mistaken sense that God tends the soul, but in life, our security comes through things like safe homes, dependable cars, retirement and college savings plans, even government programs like Social Security. But all of that is an illusion. There is nothing wrong with having a home or a car or even a long-term financial plan, but when we have these things for the wrong reasons, or we become obsessed with acquiring too many “security measures” in this life, that’s when earthly things become our masters instead of the Lord.
And, as Jesus told us in Luke 16:13, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
This is echoed in the instructions Jesus provided the rich man who asked how to be perfect. He’d told the young man to follow God’s commandments, which the man was already doing. What else? the man asked.
Jesus wasn’t saying money was bad or evil, but rather, what is evil is the love of money. When we let things get in the way of our love for God or other people, there is a disconnect.
Those without all the material possessions of the rich are blessed in that they are not hindered by so much “stuff” coming between them and God. Their lives are simpler. The minimalist lifestyle, in this, helps us because with less stuff, we are less distracted and can do more for the Lord.
Photo credit: Unsplash/Sarah Brown
If you feel like God is calling you to become more minimalist regarding the items you own or possess, consider these steps:
1. Ponder Your Why
Pray on why you want to understand or adopt minimalism. Perhaps write down your reasons or talk with a Christian friend about the obstacles or problems too much stuff is creating for you.
2. Begin to Simplify
Start small and get rid of what you can. Do you have two coffee makers in case one breaks? Donate the other. Trust that you’ll be able to get another if needed.
Amazing things happen when we start to use bookshelves for books or coffee tables for coffee instead of a repository for knick-knacks and other things. Consider your “junk drawer”—why do you need a drawer for junk?
4. Experiment Slowly
If you have a weekend trip coming up, choose to bring one pair of shoes instead of three. Pick your outfit and stick to it instead of having a bunch of options. Enjoy the lighter, smaller bag you are carrying. Or plan your meals, then shop only for what you plan to eat that week. Don’t just buy snacks or staples because you think you might need them. Buy what you need and use what you buy.
5. Start Using Cash
Often when we use plastic (like a debit or credit card) we don’t feel the pain of spending. But when we use cash, we have a tangible sense of what we are purchasing. Then, in the store, we might not feel as tempted to get that cute shirt or that trinket “just because.”
6. Make Over Your Closet
Do you have a bunch of clothes you’re saving for when you reach that ideal weight? Or shirts from a few years ago you’re saving in case they come back in style again, or your hold onto because you “just might” need it? Give it away. Keep what you really need and what you actually wear. Let your extras go to someone who really does need what is taking up unnecessary space in your closet
Not everyone needs to embrace the minimalist lifestyle. But if you are one who tends to focus on acquiring stuff or if you are feeling overwhelmed in general, minimalism might be a move in the right direction. Pray on this. Is God calling you in this direction?
Photo credit: Unsplash/Sarah-Dorweiler
Jessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian novelist, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach and the recipient of the 2018 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Award for her novel, The Memory Garden. She is also the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism. Learn more about her fiction and read her faith blog at jessicabrodie.com. She has a weekly YouTube devotional, too. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and more. She’s also produced a free eBook, A God-Centered Life: 10 Faith-Based Practices When You’re Feeling Anxious, Grumpy, or Stressed.