Should Christians Practice Minimalism?
Several years ago, I picked up a copy of Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up. Minimalism was starting to become more popular, and I liked the idea of trying to organize my life.
It didn’t take me long into the decluttering process to realize I had so much stuff that I never use. There were things I was holding onto simply because I thought I should. It’s like I suddenly woke up and saw all the stuff that was weighing me down, and the whole idea of minimalism totally clicked for me. Simplifying my life was a way to focus on what was important and free up time for me to really pursue the things I’m passionate about.
Before I even started my minimalism journey, I decided to undergo a spending fast for Lent. Besides the basic necessities and going out with friends, I held myself to the goal of not buying material things. It was essentially a “stuff fast.” Let’s just say avoiding Target was half the battle.
I had no idea what a challenge this would be.
I ended up donating over 10 large garbage bags full of stuff, plus boxes of books and other items. And though I was happy to be getting rid of things that others could enjoy more than me, the process made me feel a little guilty. I realized what a hoarder I had really been (and still am). I found myself internally struggling to let go of things that didn’t bring me joy but I felt I had some sort of emotional attachment to. My stuff had much more of a hold on me than I wanted to admit.
Here's what my journey into minimalism has taught me: It’s not just about decluttering my home; it’s about decluttering my heart.
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21, NIV)
Though cleaning up our physical spaces and giving stuff away can feel freeing, it’s nothing compared to the freedom that Jesus brings. God wants to purify my heart and mind of the worldly things that have been stealing my joy and keeping me from doing what He’s calling me to do.
Like an episode of “Hoarders,” I tend to argue with God about why I can’t let go of something in my life, rattling on defensively about why I need it. And God just shakes His head with a sympathetic look and says, “Don’t you know how worthless that is? Don’t you know how much more I can give you?”
He wants us to be free of the things that are hurting our hearts, of the things we think we need but are ultimately just weighing us down. Through minimalism, God has been opening my eyes to the fact that He is the only thing that can bring me true joy and contentment. I stare at the pile that is my sin and think, “Seriously, I’ve been carrying this with me for this long?” And like a Japanese organizing expert, Jesus comes in and helps me wade through the pile, helps me throw the things away even when it hurts.
Minimalism isn’t really anything new. There’ve been generations of Christians before us that have pursued the simple life. I believe Jesus Himself was a hardcore minimalist. In fact, He warned of the dangers of too much wealth and greed.
When a young man asked Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal life, Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Matthew 19:21). But the man went away sad because he had a lot of stuff and couldn’t part with it.
Sometimes we tell ourselves that Jesus didn’t really mean that we should sell our stuff. We breathe a sigh of relief because we literally couldn’t bare the idea of giving up all our earthly possessions. But after the encounter with the rich young ruler, Jesus told His disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich 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” (Matthew 19:23-24).
Let’s face it—we are rich. We have so much more than most of the world. We are just as likely to fall victim to the idol of possessions as the rich young ruler was. If we aren’t willing to literally leave every single thing we own behind to follow Jesus, then maybe we need to do some decluttering in our hearts.
Just like materialism though, it’s so easy for minimalism to become an idol of its own. We have to be careful not to compare who has less stuff and idolize the simple life rather than the Godly life. Ultimately, it’s about finding contentment in the Lord.
Minimalism is just a beginning for me. But if I can free up the earthly things that keep me from going after what I’m called to do, than I can also allow God to clear out the earthly clutter of my heart that keeps me from pursuing Him wholeheartedly.
I encourage you to do the same. Start with evaluating what’s cluttering your heart. What is taking up space and keeping your Saviour from bringing you joy? Maybe, for you, it isn’t things. Maybe it’s admiration from others or a bad habit that you really need to let go. Start small. You don’t have to throw everything away at once. But, once you start, you’ll notice it becoming increasingly easier to let go of the things that don’t “spark joy” because there will be more and more room for the One who can. Give the Jesus Christ method of minimalism a try. I don’t think you’ll regret it.
What do you think about living a life of minimalism as a Christian? If you’ve tried it, what were the results? What did you learn?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Abigail is a 25-year-old freelance writer from Jackson, MS who earned her bachelor's degree in journalism and English from Mississippi College in 2015. She spends most of her time climbing ladders and recommending her favorite authors at Lemuria Books. You can read more of her writing at abbiewalker.com.