What Does the Bible Say about Minimalism?

  • Stewardship.com Teamstewardship.com

What Does the Bible Say about Minimalism?

Let’s talk about your stuff for a few minutes—everything you own, from your car and your furniture to your clothes and your gadgets. We want you to consider a few questions when it comes to your relationship with all those things:

Did you buy them because they bring you joy or serve a practical purpose? Or did you buy on an impulse and then never even use them?

Were you truly able to afford them so that they didn’t derail your financial goals? Or are you still paying them off?

Do they help—or at least not interfere with—God’s calling on your life? Or do they prevent you from living that out?

Do you take care of them so they last? Or are you constantly replacing them?

And most importantly, do you realize at the end of the day, it’s all just stuff? Or do you place your identity in it and value it above most other things in your life?

So how’d you do? If you’re unhappy with any of your answers, it means you might need some guidance. Let’s talk about it.

A Matter of Perspective

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus explains how we should live among material possessions:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:19–21 NASB).

That’s an important reminder when it comes to stuff—and even money. We’re called to put our faith not in the things that fill our garages and closets (or bank accounts), but in our Creator.

We’re called to put our faith not in the things that fill our garages and closets (or bank accounts), but in our Creator.

Makes sense, right? Unfortunately, many Americans love their stuff—a lot. They love shopping for it, collecting it, showing it off, and putting their identity in it.

Now, big disclaimer here: We’re not against stuff, or even you having it—even some really nice stuff! What we are against is the wrong perspective. In other words, we don’t want your stuff to have you—to hold you hostage or distance you from what really matters.

Hopeful Insights on Temptation, Warnings, and Endurance

  • Russell Moore
    Russell Moore

    Russell Moore is President of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. He formerly served as DeanMore

  • 2019Jul 22
  • Comments0

businessman in suite holding forehead and looking wistfully off toward windows in cafe

As you resist temptation, keep a close watch on the stories around you, not with a prurient interest and certainly not with a sense of moral superiority, but with a sense of warned empathy. You could be in every one of those situations. Feel the horror that comes with each of them.

Also, though, keep before your conscience the warnings of eternal loss. I recognize that this idea will probably trouble many of you so let me preface it by saying what I’m not arguing. I am not arguing that you ought to be wondering whether or not Jesus will reject you and you’ll go to hell.

I believe one who is genuinely born from above by the Spirit will continue in that faith until the very end. The one who believes in Christ will be raised with him at the last day (John 6:40).

But, at the same time, no one will be saved who doesn’t “endure to the end” (Matt. 10:22Matt. 24:13Mark 13:13). The Spirit ensures that the living faith that begins at the onset of the Christian life continues throughout it.

The Spirit uses warnings, as well as promises, to prod us along to continued faith and repentance.

For an excellent defense of the warning passages as a means of endurance in the faith, see Thomas R. Schreiner, Run to Win the Prize: Perseverance in the New Testament (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010). 

If I’m tempted to deny Jesus in the face of persecution, the Spirit prompts me to remember that “whoever denies me before men, I will also deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 10:33). When I am tempted to refuse to forgive, the Spirit prompts me to consider that “if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt. 6:15).

This needn’t create a lack of assurance.

The Apostle Paul, after all, knew with complete certainty that he was saved; he had seen the Lord Jesus and heard his voice telling him so (Acts 9:1-19). Nonetheless, Paul wrote to the tempted Corinthians, about himself: “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:27).

The gravity of hell before us doesn’t rob us of assurance but actually propels us toward it because it creates repentance. Repentance, and confession of sin, is the means by which our consciences are cleansed (1 John 1:9).

More important than the warnings are the promises.

God knows, in the short term and in the eternal term, what it takes to give us the peace, wholeness, and life that we crave. If the immediate is all you see, you are going to be unable to see the joy that comes with, for example, being able to hold your dementia-ridden spouse’s hand knowing you never violated your marriage covenant.

It is not easy to see the kind of joy that comes with ending a “small” but good life as opposed to having a powerful but miserable one. You don’t know what’s best for you. You don’t even know what you really want. Sometimes what we want is hell.

Your Father knows what’s best for you, and he’ll train your affections until you want it too.

And even greater than temporal blessing, which is often difficult to see through finite sinful eyes, is the “assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). Part of this is because it’s simply impossible for us to comprehend such glory right now (1 Cor. 2:9).

Also, we learn to hope for what we don’t yet perceive because God knows that produces the patience that yields the character we’ll need to rule as kings and queens over his creation (Rom. 8:18-231 Peter 1:4-92 Peter 1:5-11). This emerging patience is a sign that we are becoming “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:5), right along with our Lord Jesus.

Finally, we’re able to see why our promise is delayed when we see ourselves in the context of the whole church, that number no man can number streaming through the millennia “awesome as an army with banners” (Song of Sol. 6:10).

Clinging to the promises of God, again, isn’t primarily an intellectual activity.

It is first and foremost a receiving of glory, a glory that is perceived by more than just the cognitive capacity. The prophet Isaiah was “undone” by the light of the glory of God’s presence (Isaiah 6:1-6). The Apostle John tells us the glory Isaiah saw was Jesus of Nazareth (John 12:41).

When we hear the gospel preached and when we worship through Jesus together, the glory of God breaks through (2 Cor. 4:6).

Some people recoil at that light; some people run to it (John 3:19-21).

Sometimes the most effective thing you can do to combat temptation is to leave your “accountability group” for a while and sense a foretaste of the New Jerusalem with your local congregation, singing hymns and songs, eating bread and drinking wine, and hearing the voice of Jesus through the preached word.

As you do so, remember you’re part of a trans-national, trans-generational, trans-ethnic body of the redeemed. Those singing with you in heaven right now have already been through your struggles. That cloud of witnesses gathers around you, spurring you on in hope. Those around you are likewise groaning for the same redemption you long for.

And, before all of you stands Jesus—who was tempted, tested, tortured, and yet is, finally, triumphant.

As you perceive his invisible glory, you begin to see what seems incredible in the wilderness. You will find that you’ll be able to say, as did writer Flannery O’Connor: “I believe love to be efficacious in the loooong run.”(Letter from Flannery O’Connor to Betty Hester, cited in Brad Gooch, Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor, New York: Little, Brown, and Company, 2009, 337, from Flannery O’Connor, Collected Works, New York: Library of America, 1988, 948).

Excerpted from Russell Moore’s book, Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ.

10 Ways to Be a Godly Example for Your Children

  • Karen WhitingCrosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • 2019, 22 July

10 Ways to Be a Godly Example for Your Children

Little eyes watch everything you do, so be sure to model great behavior. That means being intentional about attitudes and conduct you most desire to develop in your youngsters. Be purposeful in your actions and words because your children want to be like you. A study of Australian children and Bushman children found that imitating parental behavior is universal. Another study showed a correlation of developing healthy relationships with families where the father maintains a quality relationship with the mother.

Choose what outcomes you desire most in your child’s behavior. Then consider how to intentionally model the conduct and do it with enthusiasm. Focus on the ones most important and then add others gradually.

1. Show Kindness

My father did more than state, “There is never too much kindness in the world.” He showed kindness to everyone he encountered. He greeted them, asked how they were doing, listened, and offered to help when he saw a need. At home, he treated all of us with consideration.

You can model kindness by speaking softly, opening doors for others, letting someone go ahead in line, and performing acts of kindness for neighbors such as sharing produce from your garden or making them a special treat.

Kindness includes good manners and being polite to one another. Provide opportunities to practice good behavior. Eating together affords great moments to say please, thank you, and compliment the chef and helpers. It’s also a time to share about the day and speak kindly to one another as well as to serve favorites to celebrate an accomplishment or uplift a family member’s spirits. Doing something thoughtful shows consideration and fosters acts of kindness.

2. Respect Others

At the start of my marriage, I chose to be respectful of my husband and family. When a family member spoke an unkind word about another member, I reminded them that I love that person and mentioned one of his or her positive actions or attributes. Appreciating others and their efforts as well as showing approval of their good points cultivates respect.

Valuing a person includes respect for their belongings. Be sure to ask to use a family member’s possessions, such as asking to read your spouse’s book when they finish it or when playing with your child ask to hold or use one of their toys. Even folding laundry carefully shows respect and concern for how he or she looks.

Respect extends to caring for God’s creation. Pick up litter, plant flowers, and enjoy nature walks. Recycle and reuse items when possible. That demonstrates a concern for the earth and life.

3. Model Emotional Responsibility

If we want our children to be calm and self-controlled, we need to control anger without outbursts or negative behavior. This includes on the road when cut off by a disrespectful driver. Be sure to pause before speaking or reacting. When parents are emotionally responsible, they create a safe zone at home where children learn to resolve problems and feel free to speak up and share their feelings.

Be real. Express that you feel frustrated or angry and then show how you calm yourself. You might pause and take a few deep breathes, count to ten aloud, or find something positive about the cause of the negative emotions. In reacting to your children’s misbehavior, remain calm. Quietly point out items left out that need to be put away. State the consequence of the negative actions and rewards for positive ones. Then follow through.

Remember the power of being authentic and apologizing, too. Use words to express that you are sorry when you said something hurtful or ignored your child. Words have the power to bring pain or joy. Express your positive emotions with cheerful words about the day and praise for loved ones.

4. Use Wholesome Language

Civility seems rare in society at times, but it can be the norm in your home if you watch your own language. Ephesians 4:32 that reminds us to only let wholesome words come out of our mouths. I grew up in the restaurant business and I remember that my grandfather did not let people swear in the bar area. That stayed with me and I never added any swear words or unwholesome ones to my vocabulary.

I try to balance any constructive criticism with praise to model balance in speech. Complimenting family members is great as long as it is honest and not false flattery. Be real in sharing that you love someone’s smile or enjoyed something they said. Praise loved ones for effort and not only accomplishments.

Fiction author Patrick Rothfuss stated in Name the Wind, “Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts.” Choose your words with love for the listener and speak to bring out the best in one another.

5. Model Social Interaction

We need to model how to interact and communicate in social settings. My cousin’s daughter at age four amazed me when she opened the door with a smile and welcoming greeting. She showed me to a place to sit and asked if she could get me something to drink. Her hospitality started with her parents who always act with grace and a welcoming spirit.

Show through action how to answer the phone or door, how to greet people when out, and how to speak to workers and people who serve you. Show how you choose what to wear before leaving the house. Let your children notice how you listen and respond to others when in social settings. Children are more at ease when they are prepared and understand how to behave around other people. Invite people into your home and enlist your children to welcome the visitors once they have seen you greeting guests.

Schedule play dates and plan some activities your children enjoy, to make the social interaction go smoothly. Let them see you greet their friends and engage them in conversation. Encourage them to follow your example by chatting about the friend’s talents and admirable attributes before the arrival.

6. Care for Your Home

Show that you care about your home. Keep it organized. Clean up after yourself when you grab a snack. Take time as you arrive home to put away your things. Come alongside your children to help them learn to clean up after they play or eat a snack. Make room for toys and clothes so everything has a place where it belongs.


During our children’s early years, we set aside Saturday mornings as time to clean and care for our home. The same afternoons we spent having fun together. It showed we cared about the home but also cared about being together in both work and play. We divided chores and repairs. Everyone joined in. It nurtured a sense of team spirit and cooperation. That also gives children a sense of belonging and pride in caring for the home.

Together your family makes your home a haven, a place to relax, entertain and feel accepted.

7. Value Education

Be a lifelong learner so your children with value education. Take them to museums and performances. Read at home and have bookcases to add their books. Read the manuals to new appliances and gadgets to show that’s how to understand and best make use of the items. Any intellectual pursuit reflects lifelong learning from solving puzzles to developing a new skill. It encourages curiosity, enriches our lives, improves our memories, and helps us adapt to changes. Education becomes a core value for your children as they follow your example.

Engage in conversation around books family members read, and subjects family members are study. Share something new learned at work or volunteering to show that any place offers opportunities to learn.

Lifelong learning also extends to growing in faith. Family devotions combined with children seeing parents reading the Bible and attending group studies inspires children to follow that example and pursue developing their faith throughout their lives.

8. Have an Adventurous Spirit

Many parents complain their children won’t try new foods or hesitate to join activities. Step back and consider how you model an adventurous spirit. At a restaurant mention that you plan to try something new and make a show of enjoying it. Try new activities or learn a new hobby and share it with your children.

My youngest son balked at speaking in front of his class. I mentioned that speaking is one of the most courageous actions a person can do and that holding a prop might help him feel more confident. He took the challenge and conquered his fears. That’s what we want for our children.

Spark a sense of courage with venturing into the great outdoors. Investigate bugs, plants, trees, and rocks or other aspects of nature. Have fun with puddles after the rain, look at the night sky and imagine the vastness of the universe.

9. Share Talents through Volunteering

We all have talents and abilities. Model the joy of sharing talents by volunteering and helping others. I learned so much from a neighbor who had a degree in horticulture who shared her talent with me and helped me with my yard. In turn I baked goodies from produce grown since I love to cook and bake. We both learned from one another.

I always joined in to help somewhere at church and my children’s activities. Now I see my grown children helping out in their communities and churches. They are also great at helping me when I need an extra hand. They learned, as we helped one another, that family is all about giving of our time and talent and reaching out to help others.

Recently my youngest grandchild followed me around and wanted to help with everything I did. He cooked and cleaned up with me. I had done the same with my grandmas. We model traditions and skills through working side by side.

10. Make Healthy Lifestyle Choices

study conducted by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute concluded that there’s a direct correlation between parent’s level of physical activity and the activity level of their preschool children. We need to model physical wellness and a healthy lifestyle.

Eating well, exercising, and other habits that improve our bodies models encourages a healthy lifestyle for our children. Preschool children should meet at least the minimum of sixty minutes of moderate to vigorous activity daily. Alas, when parents live a sedentary life with high sweets and fatty foods that’s what their children choose. When parents choose a balanced diet and include daily exercise in their routine, then so do their children.

Children notice what’s in the pantry, how you groom yourself, spend your time, and even when you see a doctor. Your healthy habits will motivate them to live well and develop healthful behaviors.

Conclusion

Observational Learning is a natural part of a child’s day. They notice what adults do and make similar choices. Make sure you model the best behaviors for your family. You’ll improve your own behaviors while fostering good habits in your children and you’ll strengthen family bonds. It’s a win-win choice.


Karen Whiting is an author of 25 books and an international speaker. She’s a mother of five and a grandmother. Her book 52 Devotions for Busy Families makes it easy to develop faith in the home. Connect with her on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/shironosov