I love when the Bible has lessons on minimalism. In full disclosure, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not always the best at paying attention during Mass and that I don’t read the Bible nearly as much as I should. On Sunday mornings, I try to listen intently to the readings and the homily but my mind often wanders off thinking about something else, like what my plans are for the rest of the day or how I can get my kids to stop irritating each other during the service. A couple of weeks ago though, as I sat there trying to listen to the readings at Church, this sentence from Luke, Chapter 12 caught my attention.
Then he said to the crowd, Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.
We can be “rich” in many different ways and to be honest, I’m not sure which definition this verse is referring to, but the important lesson here is that our stuff should not define who we are. This is far from the only lesson in the Bible that teaches us not to love our stuff. A quick search finds verses like 1 Timothy 6:7-8
For we brought nothing into the world, just as we shall not be able to take anything out of it. If we have food and clothing, we shall be content with that.
This one is easier said than done. I think most of us would have a tough time being content with just having enough to eat and a place to live. The point is, we should be happy if we just have our basic needs met and we shouldn’t get greedy.
Several others have written on the subject as well. Josh Becker has a short post about how minimalism was a spiritual journey for him. Another post on the topic I found was by Jill Foley. One of the best posts I ran across in my search though was from Kathleen Quiring at Becoming Peculiar. She talks about how as she learned about minimalism, she wondered why Christians haven’t been leading the minimalist movement for years. As she kept looking though, it turned out that they have been. She points to a quote by St. Augustine (354-430 AD) that goes:
“Find out how much God has given you and take what you need; the remainder is needed by others.”
This particular quote (along with the verse from Luke above) brings up the point, I think, that it’s not necessarily a bad thing to be wealthy. Personally, I believe though that if you are wealthy, you don’t need to flaunt it and, more importantly, you have not only an opportunity but an obligation to help others. Ideally, the have’s would want to help the have not’s.
Sometimes, those helping others don’t even have much. I’m always impressed at the generosity of the people in the small town where I live whenever the opportunity arises to help those in need. I see it every time my Knights of Columbus council holds a fundraiser for something. Last fall, we collected enough donations from church members to purchase just over 100 coats for a local food pantry (feel free to donate if you visit their site) to distribute to the community. These are not wealthy people at my church. They are generous people who will happily help out others in their community.
What should we take away from all of this?
Finally, I would take the last point just a step further and say that, as you’re looking to declutter your home, rather than try to sell all that stuff, you should try to donate a lot of it to some organizations like Easter Seals, Purple Heart, Goodwill, Salvation Army, or some other local charity. Maybe a church nearby is having a garage sale or you just happen to know a family that could use some of the items you want to get rid of. Don’t get greedy or waste your time trying to get the absolute most money for that stuff you don’t want anyway.
By the way, if you want to read the rest of the reading from Luke, or any of the daily readings from the Catholic Church, go to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website. The reading above is from July 31, 2016. You can even subscribe to their email list so that every day you will receive an email with the readings for that day.
Copyright Dave Lubke and www.davelubke.com, 2017