Minimalism and faith

A couple of years ago, I caved into the desires of my kids and signed up for Netflix. Since then, I have found myself exploring and learning about things that I didn’t really know existed. Apparently there is a trend towards what people are calling “minimalism.”

I watched a documentary about two guys who both quit their jobs and started emptying their apartments, and began a journey of promoting a minimalist lifestyle. I would couple this trend of selling and getting rid of unnecessary things with another movement referred to as “tiny homes.” On Netflix, and online, you can find all kinds of stuff about tiny homes. There are stories of people downsizing; there are design ideas on how to function in tiny homes, and there are even plans for building your own tiny home.

As I learned more and more, I began to ask myself – is there value to embracing the minimalist lifestyle? I also began to wonder, would embracing this lifestyle impact our spiritual growth and development? The simple answer seemed to me that this minimalist, tiny home trend is actually very biblical. The more I thought about it, the more examples I found in Scripture that support and encourage a lifestyle that is not focused on wants and desires, but on simple necessities.

My first thought was of Jesus himself. Everything we know about Him speaks to how simple a life he lived. In one encounter, someone approached Jesus with great passion telling Him that he would follow wherever. It was then that Jesus replied “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” (Luke 9:57 f.f.) Jesus didn’t just live it though; He also taught it. In Jesus’ day there was an obsession with wealth, just like in our day. Someone in the crowd approached Jesus asking for help with a family fight over money. Jesus responded by telling the story of a farmer whose land was proving more productive than expected and so he was building more and bigger barns. As the story unfolds, Jesus tells of how this farmer can’t take any of it with him when he dies. Jesus was basically making the point that earthly riches are nothing, and that we should rather focus on our spiritual lives. It is the state of our souls that matters most.

Then we have Paul, who came to follow Jesus later, and he takes on pretty much the same message. Paul had experienced great privilege and also great poverty. He knew what it was like to have an abundance, and he also had experienced hunger. With those experiences, he writes to the church in Philippi and basically says that he has “learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.” His secret he then says is that he can do “all things through Him (Jesus) who strengthens me”.

So when I think of minimalism, it seems to me to a be a great idea. For each of us it may look very different. But the principle behind it all is the same. Minimalism is all about downsizing, getting rid of stuff that is unnecessary in life. But don’t do it for the simple sake of minimalism. Do it because you have discovered that personal possessions get in the way of true joy. You will never find joy or satisfaction in things. They can be fun for a time. However, eventually these things that we buy, that we inherit, they become more of a burden then a joy. Sometimes they even become a crutch in life. We begin to rely on these things to provide for us, to give us security, to give us satisfaction. The reality is that these things are really just a very cheap substitute for a genuine trusting and loving relationship with Jesus. True joy, a real lasting contentment, is only found when you rest your life in the hands of Jesus who gives each of us the strength we need.

By Pastor Mark McCready
Alma Bible Church

Pastor Mark McCready