Minimalism is a philosophy that promotes sparseness and simplicity in living one’s life. Minimalists seek to get rid of unneeded or unused things and live in an uncluttered environment, consuming and owning as little as possible in the way of material goods. Minimalists believe that they should only own as much as they actually need, rather than piling up material possessions, stockpiling for the future, or saving money. Minimalists live by the idea that everything that they do not immediately need should be given away to someone who does have an immediate need. Christian minimalism is an attempt to combine this philosophy with the Christian life. There are arguments for and against Christian minimalism. In the end, a person needs to follow his or her conscience in regards to what is owned, saved, and given. No Christian should be compelled to be minimalist, because “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
There have always been Christians convicted to live in a manner agreeable to minimalism. There have also always been Christians who own possessions, save money, and are wealthy. The apostle Paul was known for supporting himself on his missionary journeys (1 Corinthians 9:1–27). At the same time, he told the churches it was right to support and feed those who were laboring for the kingdom (verses 9–11). Jesus did not own much, if anything (Matthew 8:20), but He never commanded His followers to live according to the same rule. In fact, Jesus was the beneficiary of the possessions and wealth of Lazarus and his sisters (John 12:1–5). Scripture places an emphasis on a Christian’s conscience in “gray areas.” Sinful behavior is clearly outlined in Scripture. However, there are behaviors that are not clearly called either “righteous” or “sinful,” and these things fall under this rule: “whatever does not proceed from faith, is sin” (Romans 14:23).
Christian minimalism should be seen as a way of life that some people choose in order to worship God in a way that is special and meaningful to them. Some choose Christian minimalism as a way to express gratefulness to God for providing for them and to remind themselves to give to those who are less fortunate. But there is no biblical command for a Christian to be a minimalist, so a commitment to minimalism cannot be used as a measure of godliness. The Bible does not speak against possessions or riches per se; its warnings are directed at greed and the misuse of material wealth (James 5:1–6; Luke 6:24; 1 Timothy 6:9). It is worth noting that a person can be generous without being minimalistic. Generosity is virtuous, and it is rewarding: “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Corinthians 9:6). Can some of the principles of Christian minimalism free us to be more generous in our giving? Yes. Do most of us possess more than we need? Most likely. Simplifying our lives and focusing more on giving should be a matter of prayer and consideration for all Christians.