Jesus was the Ultimate Minimalist

I’ve read all the books and blogs.

I know all the secular and “spiritually ambiguous” reasons for becoming a minimalist.

But what does Christianity have to do with possessions?

What does Simplicity have to do with the Kingdom of God?

Why aren’t Christians at the forefront of this [minimalism] movement? Isn’t this exactly in line with what Jesus teaches?

Isn’t Jesus famous for saying that it’s harder for a rich guy to get into heaven than for a camel to walk through the eye of a needle, and for telling folks that in order to follow him, they need to sell all their possessions? Isn’t he the great leader who didn’t even have a place to lay his head?

Kathleen Quiring, Jesus and the Minimalist Lifestyle

I have often wondered the same thing.

Why are some churches out there preaching the prosperity gospel when Jesus himself wasn’t prosperous by the standards of the world?

Why are so many believers missing out on what secular minimalists have known for a while now?

That possessions weigh us down more than they fill us up.

That people are more important than things.

That less truly is more.

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

2 Corinthians 8:9, emphasis added

It is normal in our society to thank God for our wealth.

But will it ever become normal for us to actually turn from our wealth?

Martin Luther, the champion of those saved by grace alone not works, said: “There are three conversions necessary: the conversion of the heart, mind, and the purse.”

We need to realize that community and radical economics are at the heart of the Christian faith. Even John the Baptist insisted as he preached repentance from sin, “If you have two tunics give one away” (Luke 3:11).

Rebirth comes with responsibility and causes us to hold our possessions loosely.

Shane ClairboneRed Letter Revolution

A Radical Minimalist

Jesus himself didn’t have a place to lay his head. (Matt. 8:20)

His followers were wanderers, sojourners, outcasts, and travelers.

He asked them to leave everything to follow him. (Luke 9:23)

He sent them out with almost nothing, telling them: take nothing for the journey – no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic. (Luke 9:3)

Jesus taught that it is difficult for a rich man to get into heaven. (Matt. 19:23)

He didn’t say it was impossible for the rich to enter heaven.

But it is harder.

The more we have, the more we feel entitled to.

The more we have, the harder it is to let go and trust him with our wealth.

Jesus taught that in heaven the least will be the greatest and the greatest among you will be your servant. (Matt. 19:30)

Everything is backwards in his kingdom.

The least shall be greatest.

You must lose your life to find it. (Matt. 10:39)

Blessed are the meek. (Matt. 5:5)

Humble yourself like a child. (Luke 18:17)

Sell all your things and give to the poor. (Luke 18:22)

Don’t gain the world only to forfeit your soul. (Mark 8:36)

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on Earth. (Matt 6:19)

Freely you have received, freely give. (Matt 10:8)

Can we just look at those passages completely honestly?

Jesus is suggesting some radical stuff.

How can we embrace the simplicity, the humility, and the abandon that he intended?

The Rich Young Man

A famous and humbling story is found in Mark 10, when a rich young man comes and asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life.

The man is a good person. He thinks he’s about to get an A+ from Jesus and a pat on the back for living a good life, not murdering, not stealing, and all that jazz.

 Jesus looked at [the rich young man] and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”

Mark 10:21-23

I think there are two common errors people make when they read this passage.

First, some try to universalize Jesus’ words, saying that he always commands his followers to sell everything they have and give it to the poor…even some of the disciples, who admittedly abandoned much to follow Christ, still had a home, likely still had a boat, and probably had some kind of material support…

This causes us to breathe a sigh of relief. But before we sigh too deeply we need to see the other error in interpreting Mark 10, which is to assume that Jesus never calls his followers abandon all their possessions and follow him.

David PlattRadical

What does this mean for us?

Even if we aren’t all called to give up all of our possessions to follow Jesus, we are all called to at least be willing to give it all up to follow him.

This is something many of us are probably too too afraid to pray about.

We fear he might ask us do something “radical.”

Yes, that’s exactly what he might ask us to do.

Isn’t it irresponsible to give it all away?

No, I personally don’t think obedience is irresponsible.

As Ghandi put it, we are called to “Live simply, so others may simply live.”

The Early Church

The early church met in houses. The members sold what they had in order to help the poor, and as a result, there were no needy people among them.

All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Acts 2:44-47

We can take a hint from these early believers. They knew that their provision was from God because they were fully reliant on him and the body of believers – the Church.

When Jesus sent the disciples out with nothing at all- just like with Abraham, Sarah and Moses, it put them in a vulnerable place – where they were completely dependent on God. They could not trust in their own security or providence, but only in God.

What’s beautiful with the early Christians is that they were not just to wait around on God to rain down manna from heaven but…they were also to make friends and trust that people along the way would take care of them and welcome them into their homes. It put the early Christians in a position where not only were they to practice hospitality, but they were also to be dependent upon receiving it.

As one of the early Christians said, “We have no house, but we have homes everywhere we go.”

Shane Claiborne, Follow Me To Freedom

No, we don’t need bigger churches.

We don’t need more stained glass windows and expensive programs and famous guest speakers.

Jesus reminds us that all these temporary things will pass away. 

As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, “As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.”

Luke 21:1-6

The Lord no longer lives in temples built by human hands. (Acts 7:48)

Now he lives within his people. Therefore, we aren’t called to maintain fancy buildings, but to feed and clothe his people.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

James 1:27

Give Until it Hurts

And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

Hebrews 13:16

So based on what I’ve read and seen, I don’t believe it’s enough to simply thank God for our blessings and keep everything for ourselves.

I believe we are called, as Mother Teresa has said, to “give until it hurts…and then give some more.”

As the body without the spirit is dead, so is faith without deeds. (James 2:26)

As believers, our convictions should be turned into action.

This is not how we are saved, but it is the fruit of being saved.

If we truly believe God is real and Jesus meant what he said, then our lives should look different. 

That is why they call it a “conversion.” It means we have been changed. 

Yes, we’ve been given a lot we don’t deserve. And we have the amazing opportunity to use our privilege for the good of the kingdom.



How can we steward our resources without putting our faith in them rather than in God’s provision?

But if we have food and clothing we will be content with that.

1 Timothy 6:8

I’ve heard it said that it isn’t about how much you give, but how much you have left.

Embracing a life of simplicity and minimalism is about being content with less.

It’s about asking for your daily bread – what you need to get through each day – nothing more.

Let God use you without consulting you. We let him take whatever he wants from us. So take whatever he gives and give whatever he takes with a big smile. Accept the gifts of God and be deeply grateful. If he has given you great wealth, make use of it, try to share it with others because even with a little help you may save them from becoming distressed. And don’t take more than you need, that’s all. Just accept whatever comes.

Mother Teresa, A Simple Path

I believe Jesus was the ultimate minimalist, among many other things, of course.

I believe he brought salvation, but I also believe he brought a whole new way of living that many people have missed out on.

I fear that many Christians may have downplayed or unconsciously turned a blind eye to this important part of his character.

The result is a materialist Christianity – not unlike that of the rich Pharisees Jesus rebuked again and again.

…What would happen if we uncovered this blind spot in our lives and began paying attention to those who are in need? What if we took a serious look at them and actually began to adjust our lifestyles for the sake of the gospel among them? What would that look like? Think about the possibilities.

…Why not begin selling and giving away luxuries for the sake of the poor outside our gates? Why not begin operating under the idea that God has given us excess, not so we could have more, but so we could give more?

Now we’re getting radical. Or maybe we’re getting biblical. (2 Corinthians 8:14)

David Platt, Radical

What does a life of simplicity look like for each of us? Are we willing to be content with the necessities and nothing more? What might God be calling us to minimize or give up in order to serve him more wholeheartedly? 

One Comment

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  1. “Everything is backwards in his kingdom.” For some reason this resonated deeply within me and made me cry. Thanks for the article!

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