Why Minimalism Misses the Mark

Minimalism has been a buzzword in our society for some time now.  People have come to realize that the accumulation of “stuff” doesn’t satisfy – we just end up wanting more, and more, and more. And then some more.  It never really ends.  Our new state of the art iPhone becomes old and boring when the newest model is released a year or so later.  Our clothes go out of fashion quicker than the seasons change.  A new model of car comes out half way through the year, making our 2017 model seem dated.  It’s a constant circle of want-buy-want-buy-want-buy-want.  There is never a conclusion and we never really “make it.”  It’s all a big sham.

In response to this revelation, many have chosen to walk the path of minimalism, getting rid of the majority of their consumer goods, releasing themselves from the cycle of discontentment, living with less clutter and owning just what they actually need.

They’ve just stopped buying into the lie that more “stuff” doesn’t bring them the joy they’re searching for. But I wonder when they’ll realize that minimalism doesn’t either.

I’ve been interested in this minimalist movement for some time.  I think owning less goes hand in hand with ethical consumerism – being responsible with our purchases means choosing to purchase fewer items so that we don’t create unnecessary waste.  And let’s be honest, ethically produced items are too expensive to hoard anyway.  So, one day I was looking for something to watch on Netflix and found a documentary called Minimalism 1MinimalismInterest piqued, I decided to watch.

We should strive to live minimalistic lives as Christ followers because we have Christ and He is all we need. Click To Tweet

And my heart hurt for the men in this documentary.  Because they were completely missing the point.

They spoke at length about how unhappy they were despite the fact that they had good jobs, owned everything their hearts could desire, and lived “The American Dream.”  So, they gave it all up.  They got rid of their stuff and started living more minimalistic lives.  It made them much happier.  But my guess is that happiness won’t last because they only got it half right.  Owning stuff doesn’t satisfy our souls because we weren’t made for stuff.  But we weren’t made for not owning stuff either.

We were made for a relationships with Christ and others.

The minimalism that the documentary preaches is a minimalism without Christ (and without those important relationships?).  It promotes the idea that you’ll be much happier and live a fuller life if you simply give up the excess.  But they completely miss out on the fact that we were not made to be satisfied purely by our material state – whether it is in abundance or minimalism

In Matthew 6:19-21, Jesus says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasure on earth, where moths and rust destroy and 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 also be.”

We should strive to live minimalistic lives as Christ followers because we have Christ and He is all we need.  We choose not to treasure the things of this world because our true treasure is in heaven.  Having less for the sake of having less will in the end be just as disappointing as having plenty for the sake of having plenty.

If you’re running after the treasures of this world, or getting rid of them, whether you’re seeking abundance or a lack, the focus is still on worldly possessions.  But these should take up very little space in our mind or our heart.  Worshipping the art of living with little is just as much idolatry as worshipping stuff.  As followers of Christ the focus should be on Jesus, living out his kingdom in our relationships, giving him glory through our spending habits and being good stewards of the gifts he has given us. That means not buying things because you think they will bring you more joy, but also not giving things up for the same reason.  If you feel called to live a more minimalistic lifestyle, do it to make more space in your life for Christ and to learn to rely on his faithfulness, knowing that he alone can satisfy you.

Minimalism can be great.  It can clear the fog and help us to focus more fully on Christ and the things he called us to rather than on keeping up with our neighbours.  But minimalism for minimalism’s sake will leave you just as empty as filling your home with rusty, moth eaten material goods.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Minimalism