In June 2019, we rented a little yellow house from a man with thirteen children. It didn’t require a logic degree to know that our lease would be temporary. No surprise—a year and a half later, a son wants our house for his bride.
I immediately began making mental checklists of things to pack, but before I boxed anything up, I stumbled across Joshua Becker’s website, Becoming Minimalist. Intrigued by the idea—and perhaps motivated by the knowledge that I soon needed to pick up and carry everything I own—I read post after post. The extreme minimalism some people have adopted, such as paring all they own to 100 items or carrying all their possessions in a backpack, doesn’t appeal to me. But I was sold on the idea of owning less stuff to make space in my life for things that truly matter. Minimalism is deeper than decluttering your home, though it might include that. In Becker’s words: “At its core, being a minimalist means intentionally promoting the things we most value and removing everything that distracts us from it.”
Becoming a minimalist means we create white spaces in our life so we can devote time and energy to things we value. Cutting back on the time spent on our phones means more time is freed up for building relationships with people around us. Trimming back on excess calories means we buy a better chance of healthy living even in harsh climates. Spending less money on nonessentials means more money is available to support the work of God. Fewer things in our homes means spending less time cleaning and organizing, and more time devoted to what is truly important to us.
The problem is that we are bombarded with the temptation to acquire more, to upgrade our devices, or to update our home according to the latest trend. Digital marketing experts estimate that Americans see an average of 5,000 advertisements every day. On billboards, in magazines, on websites, through junk mail, in newspapers. Each ad is designed to grab our attention and get us to buy the latest products being offered. Learn to say “no.” Control the desire to buy more stuff. Take God seriously when he said, “Don’t covet what your neighbor has.” God knew that the more we are distracted by accumulating things, the less time we will have to focus on building our relationship with Him and sharing the Gospel with the world.
Become a generous giver. Living among a poor but generous tribe for two years highlighted how attached I am to things I consider rightfully mine. I didn’t feel generous towards my neighbors when they asked for nonessentials. Oil to add to a picky child’s food, for example, or powdered laundry soap for the woman who spent time in the city and now hated local soap. Nor did I feel kindly when someone permanently borrowed our water container. But the longer I lived in the village, the more I realized we were not singled out for unusual requests. Our co-teacher shared the last of his stew with people who didn’t need it, leaving him with no promise of food for the next day. Our village friends had no Bible and couldn’t read one if it were given to them, but they already lived out some of its principles. One of them was this: give without grudging, expecting nothing in return.
Perhaps everyone would benefit in some way from the minimalists’ mindset. But the person interested in sharing the Gospel with the world especially needs to guard himself against letting possessions dominate his thoughts and distract him from his goal.
Remain unattached to the things this world offers, and go serve the Lord.