In Faith, Personal Development, Philanthropy on June 17, 2009 at 4:42 pm

Recently, as in the past two months, I’ve really been on what I would call a zen minimalism kick. Zen as in balance. When I began thinking about the packing I would have to do at the end of the school year, I began to wonder if I could take everything back to Puyallup in two trips. I’m not sure if I could, mainly because I lack containers for most of the things I have, and I just stuff my car to the brim. I’ve come to the conclusion that at this point in my life I should be able to fit everything I own into my car.

Why my car? Well, mainly because if I can fit everything I own in one car trip, it greatly increases my range of freedom. No going back for more. No worries about what I’ve left behind. Everything I own, and truly need, is with me and nothing else. But alongside the things I truly need are a bunch of other things. Things that I don’t need, and really shouldn’t even have. Things like the extra printer I have, or my 30 t-shirts, or eight pairs of pants, or eight pairs of shoes, or my whole drawer for things I don’t know what to do with. If I don’t know what to do with it, why do I keep it?

While the Dr. Jekyll in me is dedicated to tearing through my consumerism and returning to a simpler lifestyle, my Mr. Hyde is crazy about gadgets. Specifically Apple gadgets. I’m a student, so it’s not really a question of ‘Do I need a laptop?’ but rather ‘Do I need a MacBook Pro when I MacBook would probably do just fine?’ Since I plan on not having cable when I move into my own place (eventually) I have decided that I will just buy shows from the iTunes store and get them that way. Now, it would be a lot easier and more convenient for me to buy an TV, but should I?

I know the answer to the question ‘Do I need it?’ is clearly no? But, as a Christian, are we called to own only that which we truly need? By purchasing an TV, or a MacBook Pro, or iPhone, or anything superfluous for that matter, instead of tithing, or giving that money to someone who truly needs it, am I disobeying Christ’s wishes for his followers?

Let’s see what the bible actually says about this kind of thing.

We all know the story of the rich man in Luke 18:

A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

19″Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 20You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.'[b]”

21″All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.

22When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

23When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth. 24Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! 25Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

Now, did Jesus tell him to sell everything he had because that is the answer that applies to all of mankind, or was it aimed specifically at the young man because he had a love of money? Does Christ expect everyone of us to live like monks? If so, then most Christians are failing to meet this expectation. How can a Christian live in the modern world if this is what Jesus expects of us?

Even if I were to give up everything I owned and gave the money to the poor, what does this mean about savings? Am I allowed to work and put some into a retirement account? If I did that wouldn’t sound like I was following what Jesus said in Luke 18.  Jesus said to sell everything. That means absolutely everything.

What do you think? Can a Christian live in a modern world with modern things and still be obeying what is written, or are we all expected to give up everything and follow Jesus? Do you know of any bible verses that really deal with this subject head on? Let me know in the comments!

Further reading: Check out this Ask the Readers post over at Zen Habits (My new favorite blog) about fitting everything you own in your car’s trunk. Be sure to check out all of Leo’s, as well as his contributers great posts at Zen Habits.

  1. Great post Jaryd and one that I will have to think on for awhile. My first thoughts are that things are not supposed to take precedent in our lives as Christians. I don’t believe that Christ was telling all Christians throughout time to give everything to the poor but rather to always think of the other man and listen to how the Holy Spirit leads us to help and most importantly to always keep him first in our lives and hearts because he never disappoints. Things can only give us so much happiness and they never last. The thrill of a new gadget wares off quickly but Christ always satisfies.


  2. One more thing hit me about this as I was thinking about it. Christ wants us to be willing to give up all for him if he asks it. He may or may not ever require it but if he does we should be willing to do it. In this case the man in the story was not willing to do that thus showing that things were more important to him than following Christ.

  3. Or perhaps Christ simply tried to make us understand that this form – this body – this life is temporary and that we are more than flesh and bones. THINGS and MONEY are only temporary and the Father will provide for us all things. I agree that Christ saw the love of money in the wealthy man – you can’t get your STUFF in your coffin. Love that which created us. Love that which we are.

  4. Great post…have been thinking about this biblical problem myself recently, and found my way to your blog from the ZenHabits post! I think when looking for guidance in that passage of Luke it helps to look at Jesus’ first words to the man…”Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” The pairing of this statement with Jesus’ instructions to sell your posessions seems to be a broader message teaching us that poessions are not “good” by nature, and we should be willing to sell or give away all of our belongings in realization of this, rather than becoming “very sad” at the prospect of losing our worldly posessions as this man was. It is difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven because they seem so often to place an inordinate value on their posessions, not just because they own the possessions.

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