Is Minimalism Compatible with Being a Christian?

I recently read about a movement called minimalism. It seems to encourage people to live with as few possessions as possible. Is minimalism compatible with being a Christian?

The minimalist movement is a rather loosely organized group of people committed to encouraging people to reflect on what they value and not to allow possessions to swallow up their lives. As such, there is nothing inherently unchristian about minimalism, and there are certainly significant parallels to Jesus' teaching on money and possessions.

Christians should reflect on what they own and be aware of the impact their lives have on the world around them. Those promoting minimalism frequently note the spiritual freedom associated with being less tied down by worldly goods.

The danger is that "minimizing" can become an end in itself and can impose its own iron bars of judgment that sap the joy and freedom of life. 

I’ve sometimes thought of it this way: Imagine the world as a swimming pool into which you will jump. There are two extremes. You can do a cannonball and see how much water you can splash out of the pool, or, like an Olympic diver, you can make it your goal to disturb the water as little as possible.

That's a little like how we go through life. We can make a big splash, consume and own as much as we can, use up as many of the world's resources as we can, and leave a trail of damage in our wake. Or we can try to artfully slip through life leaving as little trace as possible. The world barely knows that we were there.

I don't know that either of these options are the “Christian” one. I'm quite sure the first one is not. But I'd also don't know that trying to slip through this world leaving the smallest possible mark is the way to go. That sounds more Buddhist than Christian. Instead, we are called to be responsible

About the Author

Rolf Bouma is an ordained pastor in the Christian Reformed Church who teaches religion, ethics, and ecology in the Program in the Environment at the University of Michigan.