Minimalism: A Christian Concept?
by Nick Bishop
1 Timothy 6:6-11
“But Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs”.
In light of the truth of this wonderful scripture, one must ask the question: Is minimalism Christian?
Some scholars would say yes, given that it infers a simplistic lifestyle. If you look at many of the figures in the Old and New Testament, right up to Jesus himself, most certainly lived a simplistic life.
Minimalism as an alternative lifestyle and movement came about as an antidote to the consumerist world we live in. For some, it has been a reaction to a self-centred culture and what one owns that defines their goals and station in life.
Adverts on television, radio, social media, etc, constantly bombard us with how having the latest phone, car, etc, will transform our lives for the better. Material wealth can be a good thing for those that have it, if and when it is used to be a blessing to others. However, there are extreme dangers in neo-consumerism or extreme consumerism, if you will.
Rampant consumerism creates a society of greed and selfishness where the individual is never satisfied. It’s as if they are on a hamster’s wheel, going round and round and never knowing how to break the cycle of forever needing things.
According to ‘The Journal of Industrial Ecology’, consumerism is responsible for more than 60% of greenhouse gases and up to over 80% of the world’s water use.
Rampant consumerism has been shown to lead to dissatisfaction with life, unhappiness, lack of vitality, social cohesion, depression, anxiety, racism and anti-social behaviour. Satan is having a field day with consumerism, tempting us to the riches of the world, just as he tempted our Lord, in the Bible.
As Christians of course, we can seek advice on a human level, whether that be through a counsellor or a pastor. Spiritually, we can pray and meditate, asking God to protect and keep us from temptation as outlined in the ‘Lord’s Prayer’.
There is nothing wrong with capitalism and consumerism, as material wealth can bring benefits. It is when it is craved, like an addiction, and used only for selfish gain, that it becomes a problem. Before we know where we are, as in gambling, we find ourselves in a bottomless pit of debt and other evils connected to consumerism.
Minimalism is summed up on the ‘minimalist’ website in this way:
- Eliminate our discontent.
- Reclaim our time.
- Live in the moment.
- Pursue our passion.
- Discover our mission
- Create more.
- Be less consumer-led.
- Focus on our health.
- Grow as individuals.
- Contribute beyond ourselves.
- Rid ourselves of excess stuff.
- Discover purpose in our lives.
While Christian minimalism and worldly minimalism, have much in common, there is also a big difference. Much of worldly minimalism consists of humanistic or indeed atheistic philosophies, which may have good motivations behind them, but they lack a spiritual basis or foundation. Also, the aesthetic for other types of minimalism may have a spiritual dimension but not necessarily, a Christian one. Whereas Christian minimalism is about living a mindful and simplistic lifestyle with God and his teachings at the forefront.
For as many Christians who advocate a minimalistic/simplistic lifestyle, there will be those who think otherwise, and that is perfectly fine. Like any issue that Christians agree or disagree on, as long as we put God first in our lives and seek to love others (both in word and deed), that is ultimately what really matters. If you are a wealthy Christian, God expects you to use part of that blessing, for the benefit of those less fortunate. For the not so well off Christian, they can give their time, like time spent with those in need may be just as beneficial as any financial help (perhaps more so).
Not clinging to the things of this world and sharing with others will always prove to be beneficial. God wants everything of us in our relationship, just as we want everything of the Lord, in our daily walk. If God requires us to let go of something that is hindering our relationship with Him, then we must rid ourselves of it. Our relationship with God will be more enlightening and certainly, more fulfilling. This will lead us to a better understanding of our own life with God and everything else (as it says in scripture) will follow.
Finally, here are some helpful scriptures to help us understand minimalism and a more simple lifestyle:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves will not break in and steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”.
Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head”.
Then he said, “Beware! You should guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own”.
“What good is it if someone gains the whole world, yet, forfeits his soul”.
God bless you.
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