Unleavened Brett

Brett’s Friday Blog Post


Is minimalism the cure for materialistic misery?

I’ve been watching a few videos recently from “The Minimalists” — a couple of friends who’ve made a career out of promoting a lifestyle of less clutter. “Minimalism” has become a bit of a movement to not only live with less stuff, but to declutter every part of your life (digital clutter, calendar clutter, etc.). They make some great points, but I find it ironic that they’ve produced 5 books, 2 documentaries & so much redundant digital content that it seems to contradict their basic idea! So much of it is…unnecessary. From what I’ve seen, it seems to be a pretty basic TED-talk about living meaningful lives with less–only acquiring & holding on to things that truly bring value to living.

Both of these men by their 20’s were professionals making a good money & buying things they came to realize they didn’t need. They were in debt & unhappy. One of the men, after his mother’s death & own divorce, decided to adopt a minimalist lifestyle, moving into a smaller home, & soon helped his friend do the same. Their evangelistic fervor for helping people scale down their materialistic tendencies is commendable. They point out that we’ve been sold the lie that you can buy your way to happiness. Yet people are miserable, with a void in their lives. They try to fill it with purchases, but it’s never enough. We wander through Costcos, Home Depots, & click endlessly through Amazon to get the best Prime Day deals. We could be freer if we got rid of the excess & lived more simply. Amen! 

It’s just a shame that they’re doing it from a secular viewpoint, while missing that real meaning in life is found only in God. Shouldn’t the ones promoting this the most be Christians? We follow the One who said, “You cannot serve God and mammon [money & material things]” (Matthew. 6:24). Jesus was teaching long ago not to be greedy, envious, & materialistic. Don’t hoard, & be content with what you have. Trust God to meet your basic needs. Don’t wear yourself out to pursue worldly wealth, He said: “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). Yet, a significant portion of Christians subscribe to the “prosperity gospel” promoted by celebrity sermonizers & megachurch millionaires.

Jesus told a story about a businessman who began stockpiling for his future security. The world would call him a shrewd investor. Jesus calls him a fool because he would lose it all upon his unexpected death. The man had a lot of stuff but wasn’t “rich toward God.” If you put your trust in wealth your security is built on something that can be snatched away at any moment. It’s a delusional false security.  

Most never think of themselves as rich–but I guess it depends on who you’re comparing yourself to. There’s no definitive measure for what “rich” is. This is a heart issue–a matter of attitude more than amount. The scales by which you measure wealth need to be recalibrated to reality. What this world calls wealth is ultimately garbage to be burned up. It’s all going to dissolve one day. Only what’s done for & given to God will last. That’s what it means to be “rich toward God.” 

For most of us, surely there are ways we can become minimalists. Go ahead & declutter your closet & basement. Clear out the bric a brac. Empty the storage bin. Donate the stuff you don’t use. Cut down on frivolous spending. Eschew consumerism. Ignore advertising. But finding happiness, peace & purpose won’t come just from just tidying up & doing without. Minimalism isn’t a cure all. We always find new idols to pursue. There’s still a void that only God Himself can fill. When we put Him first, then we recognize that He’s the owner, & we’re just the stewards of His stuff. So how would He have me manage it? I want to invest in what really matters & what eternally lasts. The real treasure is yet to come.