Living as a Christian minimalist, I end up having a lot of conversations with folks who are curious. Many times, they’re curious about minimalism in general– but more often than not, people really want to know how I connect minimalism to my Christian faith.
One of the major reasons I am a Christian minimalist is because I truly believe Jesus is a minimalist, and as a follower of Jesus I look to him to see how to be the best human I can be.
Let’s take a look at some of the ways Jesus is a minimalist.
Jesus lived a simple life, and encouraged his disciples to live simply, too.
Over the course of Jesus’ ministry in the Gospels, Jesus travels. A lot. As he traveled to spread the good news and teach and heal, he lived a pretty simple lifestyle. He ate and stayed at other peoples’ homes, and didn’t take much with him. He encouraged his disciples to do the same when they traveled to do ministry as well (Mark 10:10, Luke 10:4). In fact, we find out that Jesus didn’t even have a home (Matthew 8:2). Jesus even distilled all the laws and commandments down into the two most important: love God and love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-40)
We also read about Jesus in Paul’s letter to the Philippians– he “emptied himself, taking the form of a servant” (2:7). At its core, minimalism is about emptying oneself of that which is unimportant, so that we can focus on what’s most important (serving God and others).
Now, I’m not encouraging people as a followers of Jesus to live like nomads and not take extra clothes with them (unless God is calling you to do so)! But it’s obvious that Jesus simplified his life so he could focus on his ministry. That is the basis of Christian minimalism.
Jesus taught against greed and accumulating possessions, at the detriment to ones’ relationship with God.
Jesus said it best: “No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Matthew 6:24) Jesus is very clear that our life’s meaning isn’t found in accumulating wealth and material goods– it’s in our relationship with our Triune God. We are told by Jesus not to gain the world at the expense of our souls (Mark 8:36). And in Matthew 19, when a rich young ruler (who says he has kept all the commandments) asks Jesus what he has to do to have eternal life, Jesus tells him to sell all his possessions and give all the money to the poor. The man leaves, dejected, and Jesus tells his disciples: “Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matt 19:23-24).
Time and time again, Jesus shows us that our love of money and possessions can hinder us from cultivating our relationship with God. Jesus teaches about this theme constantly. He tells the parable of the Rich Fool, who builds bigger and bigger storehouses to stockpile goods, only to find out that he will be dying that day (Luke 12:13-21), and in his Parable of the Sower, one of the sets of seeds (the Word) dies because “the cares of the world, and the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke [it].” (Mark 4:19) And Jesus encourages us to be generous with our resources for both our spiritual well-being and for others (Luke 21:1-4, Luke 6:38, Luke 12:33, etc).
Christian minimalism is about removing that which gets in the way of us living the life God is calling us to live. As Jesus says in Matthew 6:19-21: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” We are called by God to put our heart and whole being– not into accumulating more stuff– but into our relationship with God and serving others.
Jesus focused on what’s most important, and encourages his followers to do the same.
Because Jesus led a simple life, he was able to truly focus on what mattered most. He made relationships with others a priority (spending time with his disciples, sharing the good news with “sinners” and those who needed to hear about God, spending time healing and casting out demons, etc). He made it a point to rest when he needed to (Mark 6:31-32 and Luke 8:23, for example), and he made it a point to spend time alone with God in prayer (Luke 5:15-16, Mark 1:45, Luke 6:12-13, etc). He taught and lived out a focus on serving others in God’s name (Parable of the Sheep and Goats: Matt 25:31-46, Parable of the Good Samaritan: Luke 10:25-37, etc).
Jesus focused on his ministry, relationships with others, sharing the good news, serving others, taking care of his health by resting when necessary, and spending time in prayer. All of these things come together to form the bedrock of the Christian minimalist lifestyle.
Jesus reminds us that God is our provider and we don’t have to worry.
Our drive to accumulate possessions and wealth is, at its core, a trust issue. We don’t trust God to provide what we need.
But Jesus makes it clear that God will indeed provide, and we don’t have to worry. He reminds us of this in Luke 12:22-34; he says we don’t have to worry about what we will wear or eat or drink– we don’t have to stockpile these things. God will take care of us.
Even Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness– selfishness, worldly power, and fame were all offered to him. But he was able to resist temptation, and afterwards “angels attended him” (Luke 4:1-13). These things tempt us as well (Satan is active in our own lives, that’s for sure!), but Jesus shows us that God will help us resist temptation and God will make sure we are given what we need.
Jesus summarized this well in Matthew 6:33: “But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” If we– as Christian minimalists strive to do– put God first, the rest will fall into place. God will provide.
Living an Abundant Life
Jesus says: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) But this abundant life is not what our world tells us it is– it’s not about fortune, fame, or material possessions. The abundant life is one that is rich with the love of God and others, and doing God’s work to build up the Kingdom. Christian minimalists aim to live how Jesus taught us, and to cut through the clutter to live the abundant life Jesus wants for us.