Minimalism and Christianity
Over the last decade there has been a major movement of Minimalism in our consumer driven culture. In a world that continues to force you to believe you need more of the latest things, Minimalism sought to fight back. The movement pushed an agenda that promoted the value of time and life over “stuff.” The Minimalists, as they are commonly called, also addressed the out-of-control spending habits of our culture. As a Christian, I can see much Biblical wisdom here. The Bible does not shy away from speaking about money and possessions. Christians would definitely do well to realize that more money or more things are not the secret to more happiness. Christians would also be wise to realize that spending crazy amounts of money that amounts to serious debt is not a good witness and arguably a sin. A sin of theft, disorder, and discontentment in Christ. Certain texts come to mind (and more at the end of the blog) such as:
1 Timothy 6:6–8, 17
But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content… As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.
“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.
And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
While there are many positives to Minimalism, sadly I fear the alternatives are not true fulfilling ends in themselves. What do I mean by this? Let me explain by using direct quotes from a Minimalist mindset.
“There’s more to life than bills, money, and work.”
This is a correct statement. Yet left to itself it is not full enough. There is more to life than bills, money, and work but there is also more to life than the absence of bills, copious amounts of money, and enjoyable work. The Christian worldview would argue that money, work, and yes even bills are all designed to help our joy in Christ when they are done to His glory! Christianity differs from Minimalism, which can at times sound a bit monastic, in that God gave us creation to enjoy and delight in! I admit that the Christian can also place too high of an importance on money (and be a terrible manager of money) and work and get overwhelmed with bills but that’s beside the point. What I am trying to advocate for is that all things in the realm of creation, that aren’t inherently sinful, are designed for us to enjoy and give us supreme joy in Christ. The Christian is now able to enjoy whatever work he does if he is doing it unto the Lord. The Christian is able to handle money well and not let it rule him if he is a steward to the glory of God. Only the Christian worldview dignifies even the laborious and stressful aspects of life since they all come from the sovereign hand of God!
“We are always distracted by things like phones etc, and meditation is an antidote to these distractions.”
Again another true statement. But here are some follow up questions: Mediation on what? And what happens when meditation also becomes a distraction like a phone? I would argue that our meditation should be on the glory of Christ and His word. To set our mind upon those things would foster a life of joy and beauty, no doubt. Where the Minimalist miss the point is that like anything else, the antidotes can become the disease. How much meditation is enough? How can we get rid of more and more? Much like the Christian who studies theology for theology’s sake all the while missing the point of theology which is to drive us to Christ, the Minimalist do not offer real lasting solutions to an otherwise meaningless world. What happens when the joy of getting rid of things and meditating also become mundane and lack fulfillment? Nothing will satisfy eternally except for Christ. The problem is that we at times think that all our problems are outside of us, but we fail to realize the root issue is an internal problem. Namely, that we are made in the image of God and therefore were created to worship Him. Until that happens, all pursuits of lasting joy end in vain. A quick read of the Book of Ecclesiastes would serve us well to remember these truths.
“Human identity should be defined by what one does and not what one owns.”
Again there is a vital truth missing here. The latter statement is correct (what one owns) but the former statement is not. To the Minimalist who is struggling to find something he is passionate about and perhaps never finds it, what was his/her identity? That is a recipe for depression and confusion. Rather, human identity should not be found in what one does, nor what one owns, but should be found in Christ. When one’s identity is in Christ there is a peaceful and calm joy that follows. Knowing that whatever I do for a living, whatever I own as possessions, does not dictate who I am. What dictates who I am is my union with Christ. That we are adopted sons and daughters of the Most High King of all the Earth, that we are joint heirs with Christ and will receive all things with Him. So being a lawyer, a mother or father, or brother or son, or whatever label you want to place here, does not ultimately decide or influence my supreme joy. Rather, how we occupy those spaces and roles to the glory of God as found in Christ provides major implications to our supreme joy!
Simply put, in our fallen state we possess an insatiable desire to be fulfilled and happy, which cannot be remedied in more or less things but only in Christ.
(more verses below)
Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have…
1 John 2:15–17
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.