For the past year or so, I’ve been rolling around the idea of minimalism in my head. It is attractive to me as a way of life and seems to fit well within my desire to be a true follower of Jesus. If you are unfamiliar with the term, one website defines a minimalist lifestyle as a life that “is free of complications, clutter, confusion and distraction.” Minimalists live with only what is necessary for their daily needs. There are some who take the lifestyle to the extreme of almost making a religion of it, but I am only concerned with its usefulness as it applies to living a life that is more in tune with Jesus.
Certainly anyone can see that a life that is free of confusion and distraction would be a lifestyle that would more easily lend itself to prayer and quiet times alone with the Lord. I don’t know about you, but my prayers are often distracted by the countless “mental emergencies” that pop into my head. This year I have endeavored to set aside two hours each Sunday afternoon for quiet reflection, study and prayer. My weeks are rather full, as I’m sure you can relate, so the first two weeks of quiet time with God led to about a forty-five minute exhaustion nap creeping into the beginning of my time with God. I feel like Peter who couldn’t even stay awake and diligently pray with Christ when He asked him to. Too often our attempts at extended times of prayer become frustrating because our minds are so busy that we find it difficult to concentrate on the task at hand; or like me, our lives are so busy that that the body only understands slowing down in the context of sleeping.
Surely pursuing a simpler, less complex life could do wonders for our spiritual growth. In fact I see it modeled in the life of Jesus. After embarking on His ministry, it appears that He had no permanent home of his own, or at least not one He visited very often. Perhaps He left His home and belongings behind to model the lifestyle He would require of His disciples. After all, He was a man in His twenties, so He would have surely accumulated some material possessions by this point. Since He walked everywhere He went, he apparently had no means of transportation. When he sent His disciples out, He instructed them to not even take an extra shirt, telling them that God would provide for their needs (Luke 9:3). Indeed, when he taught about living stress free, He told us not to worry about what we will eat or drink, or what we will wear (Matthew 6:31-33). Yet somehow we have reversed that teaching and now fill our pantries and closets to be certain that we will have enough for the foreseeable future. Instead of depending solely on God for our needs, we have come to depend on our paychecks. We only cry out to God to sustain us when we lose our jobs.
All of the “stuff” we accumulate can distract us from focusing on Jesus. We rely on our possessions to provide for our needs. The more we have, the more time and energy it consumes to maintain it. Cars must be washed and repaired, appliances must be cleaned and serviced, and houses must be continuously picked up and organized. Every new thing we add to our list of possessions has ramifications far beyond its purchase in the form of some sort of ongoing time and energy investment. Let me be clear by saying I am not advocating that we all sell our cars, appliances and houses; but I’m not saying we shouldn’t either. I’d honestly rather not own a home than have it become something that gets between me and God. In fact I’d rather not own anything if what I possess distracts me from my pursuit of loving and serving Him. There is probably a happy medium in between somewhere, so that is what I am seeking. I look at those Christians in other parts of this world who are devastatingly poor, yet immensely happy. They have discovered that joy is found only in Jesus, not in their “stuff”. Then I look at all the unhappy, stressed out and defeated Christians in America. We are missing something and I want to find it!
Here’s my challenge to you: take an honest look at your life and see if there are areas where you have come to rely more on your possessions than on Jesus. Begin praying for Him to sustain you each day, and be truly thankful for that provision. Don’t pray over your meals out of habit but rather concentrate on the immense blessing that has been given you. I am embarking on an interesting adventure where I have decided to get rid of five possessions each week until the end of the year. I didn’t count first to see if that is a comfortable or reasonable goal, but I want to see where it takes me and how simply I am willing to live. I want to depend on God each day for everything and nothing else. The Psalmist says that He is our provision. I want that to be true of my life; I want to live a simple life for Jesus, free from distraction and clutter. Following Jesus is simple; it is we who have made it complex. Let’s get back to basics, living a life that depends wholly on Him. Then we can truly be called followers of Jesus.