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Biblical Minimalism

Updated: Jun 2, 2019

In my previous blog on simplicity I shared a few thoughts on minimalism.  I am keen to explore this topic because I have been grappling with it since college.  At one point I even thought spirituality equated to the vow of poverty.  I resonated with current thinking of reducing stuff and making more time for what really matters.  Not only do I want to be intentional and missional but I also want to make sure that this is all grounded on the Word of God, and that I am doing this to please my heavenly Father.  It’s also important that I don’t make the mistake of getting proud and judging others.  As I looked into what the Bible has to say on this topic I realized that Jesus is the Perfect Minimalist.  Let me explain.

Jesus is perfect in every way

Let’s start by examining Jesus’ life. The Son of God lowered himself to come to earth as a commoner born in a rural village and grew up in a working-class family.  After spending at least 10 years in carpentry he became an itinerant rabbi with no possessions or savings.  He lived day to day with full attention on loving people.  When he died he left nothing behind save a simple tunic.  He managed with far less than today’s minimalist but accomplished far more.

Scanning through the Gospels we can easily see this minimalist Jesus in full 3D.  there is so much more to him than just absence of stuff.  He wasn’t trying to save money, conquer his will or suppress his desires.  Instead, his minimalism was an integral part of his identity and mission.  The way he taught, lived, and loved came from an unquenchable zeal to show us the Father and reconcile us to Him.  Everything he did was for his father’s glory.  

He took every opportunity to heal the sick and deliver people from demonic oppressions.  He is tough on the legalistic establishment and intolerant of hypocrisy and injustice.  As the Champion of the marginalized he is both the compassionate Savior and outspoken activist.  

Jesus was so committed to his mission that things of this world simply don’t get on his radar. Minimalism was not a reaction to consumerism or an attempt to declutter.  It was part of his nature from the beginning. 


Let's look at the teaching of this Jewish rabbi

Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment is to "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." (Mk 12:30) How can anyone give his or her all unless we ruthlessly remove distractions and clutter from our mind and heart.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus teaches how we should view riches: "Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be." (Mt 6:19-21) He adds, "You cannot serve both God and riches."  (Mt 6:24)

Jesus also wants us to minimize our fears, have faith in him and to minimize our anxieties (Mt 6:25), because God cares for us and will provide for our needs.  In fact, the entire Sermon on the Mount calls His followers to minimizing consumption and accumulation but maximizing on giving and loving. Talk about swimming against the current.

So, what is Biblical Minimalism?

Biblical minimalism is so much more than the current discussions on minimalism.  It’s not about capsule wardrobe, counting square feet and number of items you own.  Reducing consumption, waste and living intentionally are all good but they are just the means to an end.  Focusing on the external behavior also has the tendency to cause comparison and pride.  God looks at the heart and the focus is always on relationships.

Biblical minimalism is the intentional choice of living simply in order to love God and our neighbors fully. Bible believing Christians are not of this world and do not conform to the pattern of this world.  “Dear friends, I warn you as ‘temporary residents and foreigners’ to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls.” (1 Pet 2:11) It’s about being content in whatever circumstances we’re placed in.  This is a fierce battle against today’s culture of narcissism, materialism and entitlement. The antidote is to know who you are and become preoccupied with the purpose for which you were created. 

I am still on this journey to sharpen my intentionality and to free up more resources to bless others.  Most importantly, I need to fix my eyes and affections on Papa.   

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,

Look full in His wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,    In the light of His glory and grace.


For your reflection:

  1.  How are you loving God with all of your heart? mind?

  2. In what ways can you be intentional about your purpose this week?

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Thanks Ed. You are such a Barnabas! I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic.


Edward W. Li
Edward W. Li

This is great, David. I'm encouraged by your desire to stay true to the spirit of the matter. Good stuff... I bless you on your journey!

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