Minimalist movement

by Pastor Doug Engel

When I was 15 or so my dad constructed a brand new wooden grain bin. It was square, maybe 16 feet by 16 feet, shiplap walls, and painted a nice barnyard red. Being the age where I wanted to start exploring my independence, I decided to make the grain bin my home for part of the summer! I furnished it with a bed, a night stand, a small table, and chair and a few other things. I moved just the right amount of stuff to feel like I was actually venturing out on my own. 

I honestly can’t remember how long I stayed in my new one-room suite. All I remember is that I made a point of being out before the evenings got too cold and before it was filled with grain. You might say that for part of the summer I was a minimalist!

In the last few decades the minimalist movement has grown in popularity. A couple of years ago Huttges Renovations & Contracting had a tiny house displayed at the trade show. It was ... well ... very small! I have to admit that there is a certain attraction to that way of thinking. Most of us have way more than we need! I can’t imagine packing up everything that’s been accumulated over the years to move to a new location.

What is a minimalist anyway? A well known minimal enthusiast and promoter describes “minimalism [as] the intentional choice to live with less.” Living with less includes living with less clutter, less stuff, less appointments on your calendar, all so that you can enjoy life and the people you love at a slower, more relaxed pace. Who can argue with that?

There is a kind of minimalism, however, that is anything but good. It has to do with faith. This is a large group and it includes individuals who ask questions like, “What is the minimum I have to do and still be called a Christian?” or, “What is the least amount of effort I can get away with and still make it to heaven?”

A lawyer once asked Jesus what he had to do to inherit eternal life (Luke 10). Jesus asked the lawyer what he thought according to the law. He gave a great answer. “Love God with all you’ve got and love your neighbour as yourself.” Jesus commended him for his good answer and then challenged that if he put these commandments into practice he would live. At this point it would have been best had he remained silent. He didn’t. The Bible says that he wanted to “justify himself” so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?” Here’s my paraphrase; “What’s the minimum I can do in loving my neighbour and still be eligible to receive life everlasting?”

Unfortunately, when it comes to faith, so many have this same attitude. “What is the minimum I have to do?” May I suggest that if this is how you are practising your faith then you have a heart issue that needs to be dealt with sooner than later. Jesus criticized the leaders of his day for making such a big deal about religious practices that only satisfy their need to look spiritual but in reality did nothing on the inside. Jesus reminded them of what Isaiah the prophet said. “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (Matt. 15:8).

Adopting the goals of the minimalist movement does have a certain appeal. Less clutter is good. A more relaxed schedule is good. When it comes to faith, however, don’t you dare become (or remain) a minimalist. Put your whole heart into it. After all, Jesus put his whole heart into it when he gave himself for you.