Most of us would agree that simplicity is a good thing. Even if we aren’t familiar with minimalism, we are all aware that culling our lives down to what matters most will only improve our mood and the quality of our lives. For Christians, this culling down also helps us to focus more on God, and following the path God has for each of us.
And yet– there are lies that we believe; lies that keep us from simplifying and focusing on what matters most. Often these lies contribute to our bad habits. As Paul writes:
I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.Romans 7:15
Below are some lies that tend to keep us in our bad habits relating to excess:
We think people will like us if we have fancier stuff.
There is an official phrase for this lie, coined by sociologist/economist Thorstein Veblen: “conspicuous consumption.” Basically, we believe that if we consume expensive things, we will gain social status, power, and likability.
Our consumer society perpetuates this lie by highlighting celebrities with huge mansions, designer clothes, and multiple cars– making us think that this excessive lifestyle is what we should be aspiring to.
Ironically, it’s scientifically proven that buying fancy stuff can actually make us less liked. Excessive spending and fancy things can, in reality, repel others. So if you are indulging in conspicuous consumption in order to be liked, you are probably becoming less liked– and turning people off.
Christians, and Christian minimalists, know that buying fancy stuff to get people to like us is not the life God wants for us. Friends can come and go– especially if a friendship happens to be based around buying expensive things. But Jesus loves us unconditionally.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.Romans 8:38-39
We think we need to buy and consume expensive stuff to be loved by others. But Jesus loves us, no matter what. Jesus’ love is the ultimate love. We can rest easy knowing that Jesus loves us, unconditionally– no Tesla required.
We think that when we buy something new, we have to buy more stuff to go with it.
This lie sounds made up, yet we all have fallen for it. It’s officially called the Diderot Effect. When we buy something new, we think we must continue to buy more things to go along with the new possession.
Imagine: you just bought a new shirt that has brown in the pattern. After you buy it, you realize that you don’t actually own brown shoes. In fact, all your shoes are black, and will clearly clash with this new shirt.
So you buy a pair of brown shoes. You then realize that all of your belts are black, and will also clash with the new shirt. So, you buy a brown belt.
After buying the belt, you notice that you don’t have a brown jacket to go with the shirt when it’s cold outside and you need an extra layer. So you buy a jacket that matches.
And on and on it goes. One purchase doesn’t seem like a big deal– but because of the Diderot Effect, it can mean a spiraling of buying and consuming more and more. And then we find ourselves with way more stuff than we need, or even want.
But Jesus has a different lifestyle in mind:
Jesus said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!Luke 12:22-24
Jesus reminds us that we don’t have to give in to this lie, this consumption spiral. God’s got us covered, and we can live more simply, like the ravens.
We think losses are to be avoided at all costs.
It’s not a secret that as human beings, we dislike any type of loss. In fact, we try to avoid loss whenever possible, because we often equate loss with pain– even though sometimes letting go is a good thing. Not surprisingly, the lie that we should avoid loss at all costs is called “loss aversion.”
This lie holds us back from simplifying. Loss aversion is the reason it’s so hard to let go of material possessions and bad habits– even when they are obstacles and we don’t need them anymore.
Believe it or not, “We are more upset about losing $10 than we are happy about finding $10. Roughly speaking, losses hurt about twice as much as gains make you feel good.”
Loss aversion is probably the hardest lie on the list to overcome because it is very much connected to our emotions. Surrendering and letting go is emotional. And when something can get difficult emotionally, we tend to just avoid it.
But Christian minimalists know that surrender and letting go is important to our walk with Christ. We can not be who God is calling us to be when we are holding tightly on to things, habits, and commitments that are not serving us well anymore. Paul writes:
Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.Philippians 3:7-8
Paul reminds us that, with Jesus at the center of our lives, we are able to let go of the stuff that is keeping us from a fully realized relationship with God. The surrender and the loss are worth it, because of the ultimate gain in Christ.
Tell the Lies to Take a Hike
We don’t have to look for approval from others, keep buying more stuff, or avoid losses. We can look to God and know that God loves us unconditionally, provides for us, and helps us to get rid of things that are holding us back from the life Jesus wants for us.
Jesus is inviting us to let go of these lies and live into the fullness of Christ (John 1:16). Which of these lies is Jesus inviting you to let go of today?