Christian Minimalism? Was Jesus a Minimalist?

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(The following is a transcription from a video Joshua Becker and I recorded. Please excuse any typos or errors.)

Jesus and minimalism

So was Jesus a minimalist? Jesus and minimalism is what we’re talking about in this article.

I’m interviewing my good friend, Joshua Becker. He is of of the leading voices of minimalism.

I encourage you to check out his great blog. Joshua has also written several books teaching his theory of practical minimalism.

In this discussion, we’re looking to see if minimalism is actually found in the Bible. Also, we’re discussing whether Jesus was a minimalist, and whether or not minimalism is something Christians should strongly consider.

Let’s get started with the discussion and talk a little bit about minimalism in the Bible. The first question I want to ask, “Do you think Jesus was a minimalist? Why, or why not?”

All right… before we dig in, I want to let you know that I’ve included the transcript of our discussion on minimalism below. But, if you’d rather watch this interview with Joshua Becker, you can do so here:

Do you think Jesus was a minimalist? Why, or why not?

Joshua: Yes, absolutely. I don’t think you can read any historical account of Jesus and not find that He was minimalistic. Jesus even talks about not having a place to lay His head. And, you find Him calling the people who follow Him also to embrace this lifestyle.

Certainly in the story of the rich young ruler. Jesus tells him to s”ell all your possessions and follow me.” Life is not found in the abundance of possessions. And to the disciples, He calls them to “leave everything behind.” So as you can see, Jesus calls people into that lifestyle in order to follow Him well.

Varies From Individual To Individual

However, let me make one point. That still looks different from person to person. So, the twelve disciples He tells them to leave their nets and their boats and come follow me. The story of the demon possessed man in the book of Matthew, Jesus casts out the demons. And then the man came up to Jesus and said he was ready to go, “I’m ready for the boat where are we headed next?” And Jesus says “No, no no. You go back to your home. You go back to your city and you tell the people what I’ve done in your life.”

The disciples He tells them to: leave your job, leave your home and come follow me. But this man, Jesus told him to go live in your house and be a witness in your own city doing what you’re doing. So it looks different for different people.

Does that mean that the man went back and bought the biggest house that he could find in the nicest gated community he could find? Does he buy the most expensive car he could buy? Probably not. Because he would have defied all these principles and truths taught by Jesus.

Anyways, your question was about Jesus. Yes, I think you absolutely find him to be a minimalist.

Bob: I’ve seen that too, where he was sending out (I don’t know if you mentioned this) the Disciples. Jesus said to them, “don’t take an extra cloak.” I don’t remember specifically what He told them but, He very much told them to go without very much.

Ok, so as you as a Pastor, you’ve worked with I’m assuming (you can correct me if I’m wrong), I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of people’s issues. You’ve talked to a lot of people about their struggles. As a Pastor, you see everything, you hear everything, all the issues everyone has all over the map.

Consumerism And Materialism

Bob: What I’m curious about, is how do you think consumerism, materialism, contributed to some of those issues? Particularly the ones that maybe you wouldn’t think would be caused by that. Do you have any thoughts on that?

Joshua: Yeah. Let me try to think of something that would apply.

Issues That Arise

Bob: I’m thinking about marriage issues that people might have. You know, financial issues. I don’t know, you know better than I do. Some of things that people came to you with.

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Joshua: I once interviewed someone for a paid staff role at the church. He wanted to be very passionate about Christ and serving Him. And so, he wanted a paid position at the church. We talked it over and had the interview, and it went pretty well. And then, we got to the question about salary.

When he saw what the salary was going to be, it was the reason he couldn’t take the job. Because his lifestyle had become accustomed to a certain salary and a certain pay scale that he had. And he knew that it was gonna be a pay cut to go to a church. But it was more of a pay cut than I think he thought it was going to be. And he couldn’t see how the numbers would work. Because of the house he had, the mortgage that he had, the car payment he had, even some student loans they were still paying off.

Because of those factors, it prevented him from taking the job. It seemed that his burden of debt and the cost of his lifestyle, that he hadn’t realized, was keeping him from serving Christ in some way. Deep down, he wanted to. So that’s one that comes to mind.

Looking back, certainly you have the financial stress and different views on how to run a home. In which some people can point to those issues. I think materialism does cause some of those issues. But, I almost think materialism is caused as a result of an even deeper heart issue.

Discontentment

I think a lot of the consumerism that we have is because of discontent in our lives. Or, jealousy in our heart. Or, wanting to impress other people (aka keeping up with the Joneses mentality). Looking for happiness in the world. I think our discontent is evidenced in our excess.

When you’re discontent and you don’t have any money, then it looks like envy or jealousy. But when you’re discontent and you have money, then it looks like overstuffed closets. You have drawers that are filled and garages you can’t keep our cars in, because we’re missing some happiness and so we go buy whatever we think is going to fill that hole. And, it doesn’t. So we go and try to buy something else to fill that hole. It just never does. We just end up accumulating more and more and more stuff.

I think both consumerism and materialism is a result of some internal issues. And then it just compounds the issue in all the different ways that we’ve already mentioned.

Bob: Yeah. That’s really, really good. I mean because that makes perfect sense that it’s tied to deeper heart issues. I feel like I’ve definitely seen that trickle up in my life in different areas.

And, I think we can all observe people who we know, and think that may be the case as well. Not that’s where we should go with it, but I think we see that. And, we understand that it does come from those heart issues.

We’ve talked a good bit about personal finance and I know it’s something you care about. And, you were close to writing a book on this subject. I’m curious what role minimalism should play in our personal finances. I’m going to leave this pretty open-ended and let you just kind of run with it.

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Minimalism And Personal Finances

Joshua: Probably the starting piece of advice for every financial advisor, is to spend less money. This is the first step in any personal finance plan. But so many people, even myself ten years ago, would see that as a sacrifice like a difficult step. But, if I spend less money and then it means my life is going to be boring. I’m not going to have nice things. I’m not going to enjoy living.

Until I started actually owning less. Until I found minimalism and found how owning fewer things freed up my life to go and do the things that actually brought me happiness and purpose and fulfillment in life.

All the things I was spending money on were not adding value and they were not contributing to my life. They were actually burdening my life. And suddenly, this entire first step of spending less didn’t become a sacrifice. I think it became an invitation to refocus my life on things that actually matter.

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So when it comes to personal finance, when you buy less stuff you’re spending less. When you own less, it costs less to take care of. And so you have more money available for whatever you need it for. If it’s to get out of debt. If it’s build up savings. If it’s becoming more generous. If it’s to change jobs. More money becomes different depending on where we are in our own personal financial journey.

God’s Calling For Your Lfe

Bob: To the point with the guy who was applying for the job, that’s a big motivator to me. And I’ve talked to a whole bunch of readers over the years where that same type of thing where they feel called to do X or Y, but financially they’re in a position where they feel like they can’t do it because of all this debt or whatever.

I feel like just right there, it frees us up to honestly for it to be a little bit easier to do some of the things that God might be calling us to do. So maybe God is calling us to retire. Or take a retirement at 60 years old so that we can go and serve in a not-for-proift for free for the next 20 years of our lives. And if we don’t save for that point, or if we are debt ridden a that point, it makes it a lot more difficult to do.

Downsizing

Joshua: Or, if we see it as a step down and say “oh man, I’m going to have to move into a smaller house.” All those things I found to be just wonderful blessings. We move into a smaller house and we loved it. I own fewer clothes, like I have loved almost every change that we’ve made. For owning less, I don’t see it as a sacrifice anymore. But, as a better way to live.

Bob: What’s funny about that, so we moved. My wife and I spent four years in an apartment when we first got married. Then we bought our first house in St. Louis where we lived. Then we moved to Franklin, TN and we bought a bigger house. Part of the reason was knowing that we were going to have guests a lot. And, we did the first couple of years we had it. It was like running a hotel.

But in terms of our personal preference, it’s definitely the older smaller over this one. And on some days, it’s even the apartment over that one. Because smaller simpler living just felt better. Now, obviously apartments come with some issues that were separate things. But in terms of actually size of the space, that really as attractive. You know?

Joshua: Yeah, we moved into a smaller house when we moved here to Phoenix. I started this journey in Vermont and we moved from a 2,300 square foot house to a 1,600 foot home. Which isn’t tiny compared to certainly most of the rest of the world. But we love it and we’re a family of four so it works for us.

I’m a big seaons of life guy. I think it’s important to embrace your season of life and live for that season you’re in. When my two kids are out of the house, maybe. And, when my mother-in-law’s kids moved out of the house she moved into a smaller town home. So who knows what that next stage of life looks like. I certainly love downsizing and all the opportunity it brings.

Larry Burkett Quote

Bob: For sure. Alright, let me read this quote from Larry Burkett. And I’ll tell you where I’m going with this.

So, he says “The minimum provision that God promised is that He will not allow His people to go hungry or to beg bread. In the very fact that there are many people, including Christians, that are hungry and begging bread says that many of God’s people have failed the fundamental concept that God put in His word the concept of sharing.”

So I’m curious, if you agree with that. And, how that ties into all of this.

Joshua: Well I want to agree with it. I sounds really good on paper, doesn’t it? I think of the Old Testament, you know, the Israelites from wandering around in the desert and they get manna every single morning. And, their direction is to just take enough for the day. There’s enough for everyone if each family just collects what they need for themselves. and doesn’t try hoarding a lot.

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I do think for the most part there’s truth to it. You run into a little bit of a world where there’s just a lot of dishonesty and corruption. Are there ways to get food around improper waste, probably. I think those are all solvable problems. So for the most part, yes I would agree with what Larry said.

The Wealthiest Christians

Bob: I think it’s just such a challenge for us as basically the wealthiest Christians who have every walked the earth. That’s what most of us in the U.S. are. The Apostle Paul talks about this, I think it’s in the book of Timothy, where he gave instructions for the rich. And all these different things that the rich are supposed to do.

I’ve created a separate video all about this, just walking through this. Like this is for Americans. This is for us. This is what we are supposed to do. And I think there’s just so much that we’re missing out on.

Being Too Comfortable

It’s easy when you’re surrounded by abundance to get focused on yourself and how can I make my life as simple as possible. And, as comfortable and pain-free as possible. That level of comfort just makes it really really hard to get out and serve God when He callas you to do something beyond the norm.

We have our fireplace that’s been roaring the last month or two. And, I love it. I get close to that thing and get all cozy but when that time comes that I got to get up and walk through the rest of the cold house. It’s just really really hard, you know?

Versus when the fires not going I’m just walking through the house and it’s no big deal. I feel it’s just really similar where we’re just so accustomed to so much that it becomes more difficult to get out there and do what we should be doing.

Instructions And Warnings For The Rich

Joshua: Yeah. I mean you can’t read The New Testament without seeing like tons of instructions to the rich. Tons of instructions about the end of times. And warnings, like there are far more warnings to wealthy people in The New Testament than there are people who live in poverty.

One problem is that there is nothing more relative in the world than money. And so we as literally the wealthiest Christians who ever walked the face of the earth are living a lifestyle that is so out of the norm. Thousands and thousands of years, no one has owned as much stuff as we do today. It’s highly abnormal the lives that we’re living.

We can read all that stuff and read all those warnings to the wealthy and automatically think of someone wealthier than us that these warnings apply to. And not us, right? That’s the greatest danger of wealth I think is we’re even blinded to the fact that we actually are wealthy and all of these warnings.

GlobalRichList.com

Bob: Yeah and that was the whole point of that video that I made was to point out, I”m sure you’ve heard of that website called GlobalRichList.com. Just because it’s eye-opening. You can type your salary in there and you can see… wow I didn’t realize I was a one percenter. I feel like I’m behind everybody I know. But, I’m actually in the 1%. It’s eye-opening if you let it be, you know what I mean?

The Minimalist Home

Bob: Alright, so you’re book The Minimalist Home coming out on December 18th, 2018. Where can people find this?

Joshua: Yes. Everywhere, everywehere!

Bob: Everywhere books are sold!

Joshua: People can find it everywhere and in every format: hardcover, ebook, audiobook (which I narrated myself).

Bob: Awesome!

Joshua: Yes, it should be available in most every book store. Christian bookstores, it’s a Christian publisher. The book isn’t explicitly Christian but should be in Christian bookstores. As well as all Barnes & Nobles. You can order online from Walmart if you want. Every store is selling the book about buying less stuff.

Bob: The irony, I love it. All right man. Now it was good chatting with you as always. And yeah, we’ll have to do it again soon.

Joshua: Thanks so much, man.

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