1. General Christian

Minimalism and the Christian Life

What do you think of when you hear the word “minimalism? Do you picture an almost-empty room devoid of color or furnishings, except maybe a bed? Literally, nothing else exists in this room. Bonus points if the room has glass walls. 

Minimalism is nothing like that picture, which is about what isn’t there—and that’s only half the story. That picture represents an extreme version of a lack of things that is unsustainable. 

Minimalism is prescriptive rather than restrictive, which means it is going to look different among those who decide to adopt a minimalistic lifestyle. It’s a way of thinking and being, of living in the world rather than a lack of everything. My working definition of minimalism is a focus on the aspects of life that matter most and intentionally removing everything else. 

What, then, are the aspects of life that matter most? Some of those are universal for virtually everyone. I think we can all agree that relationships in our lives matter, whether they are with family, friends, or a significant other. I think we can also agree that taking care of ourselves matters—body, mind, and spirit—which includes having something that we are passionate about to get us out of bed in the morning. For a lot of people, a big part of the minimalist lifestyle is lessening their attachment to material goods by buying, consuming, and owning less.

Consumption is not bad in itself. We have to consume to live, and we can strive to intentionally consume. Minimalists strive to avoid mindless consumption and only buy and keep the things that they need or add value to their life. 

Some minimalists sell everything and live as nomads, owning only the things they can carry with them. Some live in and own homes, have one or two cars, and collect things like stamps or magnets or funny comic strips. Many live between these two categories. Minimalism is a lifestyle that can be tailored to what works for you and those you live with. It is much more than buying and owning less. It’s about refocusing life to gain the freedom that comes from more time, more energy, and more financial resources. It’s about focusing on what matters most. 

Christian minimalism aims to connect this minimalist lifestyle with the Christian faith. Jesus said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Living an abundant,  or full, life is what Jesus wants for us. That full life includes spending our time and energy and resources on what matters most, which means removing anything that keeps us from living that abundant life Jesus wants for us.  

Our consumer culture has consistently told us that consuming more, owning more, and doing more is the abundant life that we should be striving for. But Jesus calls us to a different life.  Jesus consistently speaks about a simple and focused lifestyle. Jesus says in Luke 12:34, “For where your treasure is, there  your heart will be also.” Whatever we focus on as most important is where our heart is. A paraphrase of that verse from The  Message reads, “The place where your treasure is, is the place you  will most want to be, and end up being.” Christian minimalism helps us to be intentional about what our treasure is, and where our heart is. 

Jesus lived a simple, minimalist lifestyle. He didn’t own many possessions. He spent much of his time with family and friends. He spent most of his time traveling to help others by teaching, healing and casting out demons. And he spent a lot of time in prayer. 

In fact, Jesus summed up all of what we are supposed to do in life.  

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great est and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and prophets.” (Matthew 22:37–40) 

Love God with your whole being. Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself. Sounds like a Christian minimalist focus to me! 

Jesus also talked a lot about money. In fact, it’s one of the things he talked about the most. The message we get from consumer society is to buy, buy, buy. As Christians, we are called to be counter-cultural because we know that our life’s meaning is not wrapped up in material things. It is through Jesus Christ,  and what he did for us through the Cross and the Resurrection,  that our lives have meaning. Minimalism helps cut through the clutter and the busyness to refocus us on our Triune God—and the aspects of life that truly matter.

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