If you’ve been on the internet for more than 3.8 minutes, you’ve likely heard the term “minimalism” or “minimalist” thrown around. The idea of a minimalist home or a minimalist wardrobe or a minimalist lifestyle is vastly appealing to people these days, because we’ve found ourselves neck-deep in the slew of consumerism culture.
We all want more simplicity. Which, I’ll confess, makes me super excited because it’s one of those topics I could jabber on about for hours.
But it also makes me a smidge worried. For several reasons.
Simplicity isn't a trend
I fear that minimalism and simplicity are becoming a trend, and therefore won’t result in any lasting change for people. Like fringed vests or poofy sleeves, I fear people will wear minimalism for a while and then abandon the idea when it’s no longer in fashion. Now, before you denounce me as a hipster and click off of this page to a Buzzfeed article about kittens in Halloween costumes, hear me out.
But I don’t want you to shrug off simplicity as soon as another lifestyle becomes trendy.
Because simplicity that endures is simplicity that’s anchored in the Gospel. If you’re not into Jesus (which is okay, I’m never going to shove something down your throat on this blog, but man you’re missing out), then what is simplicity anchored in for you? A desire to live more fully and authentically? A goal to become debt free? A declaration of mutiny against consumerism?
Simplicity isn't behavior modification
Another fear I have about the trend of minimalism is the idea that we can formulaically manufacture a simple life. Slice your wardrobe down to this number, get rid of X number of bags of stuff, declutter your whole home in 43 simple steps, paint all your walls white and organize all your paperwork into a file cabinet the size of a shoebox...and viola! You’re a minimalist!
The problem is, that kind of mindset convinces us that modifying our behavior will create lasting simplicity.
Simplicity begins in the heart and works itself outwards. To be sure, blog posts about decluttering your closet or putting boundaries on your schedule are great, but they are only band-aids for the cancer of consumerism and excess if a deep-seated shift in thinking hasn’t occurred.
Simplicity isn't legalism
Another tendency I’ve noticed in the conversation about minimalism is the “simpler than thou” mindset. We create minimalism measuring sticks, grading others and ourselves by how few items we own or how few square feet we live in.
We can swing to the other end of the spectrum - becoming enslaved to asceticism instead of consumerism - and think it makes us holier.
Concerning this legalistic mindset, Richard Foster says, “Asceticism makes an unbiblical division between a good spiritual world and an evil material world and so finds salvation in paying as little attention as possible to the physical realm of existence.” Over and over again in Scripture (Deuteronomy 8:7-9, Psalm 34:10, Matthew 6:31-32, 2 Corinthians 9:11, Philippians 4:19) God says that creation is His good gift to us and that He will provide for our needs.
This kind of legalism rejects God’s goodness and provision, and can be just as deadly as excess. Finding our identity and self-worth in anything other than the Gospel will never make us truly content.
In Philippians 4:10-13, Paul talks about being content in Christ, not in his external circumstances: “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
Simplicity is being anchored in the Gospel. Nothing more, nothing less.
What else do you think simplicity isn't?
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You can read all posts for the 31 Days series here.