I heard a story recently that involved one of my favorite literary heroes, Sherlock Holmes.
Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson decided to go on a camping trip to the country. After a good meal and a quite a few bottles of wine, they settled down for the night and went to sleep. Later in the middle of the night, Holmes awoke and nudged his partner.
“Watson, look up at the sky. Tell me what you see.”
Watson replied, “I see millions and millions of stars Holmes.”
“What does that tell you?” Holmes asked.
Watson pondered for a minute. “Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three. Theologically, I can see that the universe is infinitely massive and we are small and insignificant. Meteorology, I suspect that we will have a clear and beautiful day tomorrow. What does it tell you?”
Holmes was silent for a minute, then spoke. “Watson, you idiot. Somebody has stolen our tent!”
I feel like this story works on multiple levels. The most used example is that we always miss the obvious, and while this is true, I think it speaks in other ways. Namely, we’re able to see so much more when stuff isn’t in the way.
The other night I listened to a message talking about the dangers of putting your faith in stuff and not Christ. It was a timely thing because every day I am becoming more and more aware of how consumerism is robbing so many of us of true joy and contentment.
There’s a big movement going on right now where people are pushing towards minimalism. There are numerous websites and blogs devoted to the idea, and while these aren’t bad, I feel like they’re missing the point.
Less stuff isn’t going to make your more happy, much like more stuff isn’t going to make you more happy. My old college pastor Will McKay said, “It’s not what you own that defines you, it’s who owns you.” The movie Fight Club, which talks a lot about how consumerism is destroying the modern man, makes very good observations along these lines (before taking it to a conclusion that isn’t God-honoring, or legal).
What are we putting our faith in to satisfy us? New things? More stuff? A new relationship or job? Donald Miller said that “The story you tell is defined by what you want. If you’re not happy with the story your life is telling, maybe it’s because you want the wrong things.”
The minimalist movement is great, and it’s something I’m trying to do, but that’s not the point of the exercise. What if we took the idea of minimalism and applied it our spiritual lives? What if we worked to eliminate the things we found ourselves depending on before God? I’ve been working on this as of late, and it has been a humbling experience because I’ve realized how little I made God my first option. God doesn’t deserve to be the last resort. He needs to be the first and only option. If we depend on God first, it doesn’t matter how much or little we have, when we have God we are lacking in nothing! 2 Peter 1:3 says God has given us everything we need for living a godly life.
At the end of his message, Will (who I mentioned above) gave some pointers on how to learn to be content, and I thought they were worth sharing.
- Try a spending fast.
- Give things away.
- Learn to be humble by borrowing and sharing things.
- If you need something, ask God to provide it before immediately going to buy it.
- Focus on quality of life instead of quantity. Have more in-person conversations, try more new things, focus on building your core friendships and relationships, and turn off the phone while you’re doing it.
- Make wise purchases. Get things that will last.
- Focus on what God has blessed you with instead of what you wish you had.
- If you’re single, stop trying to rush things. God has you single right now for a purpose. Ask Him to use you where you are. You have more freedom than someone who isn’t single!
- Don’t judge yourself by the group of people you want to impress. Instead, judge yourself by the people you want to invest in. How can I live my life in a way that can show them the Gospel?
- Always remember that with Christ you are lacking nothing. Everything else is just extra blessings!
These are all great things to think on, and I believe if we work on putting God first over our stuff then we’d all be much more content in our lives and our relationships. When we have God as our primary focus He will help us through anything. Paul summed it up perfectly when he said in Philippians 4:11-13: 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.
Random side note: If you want to see a really cool apartment design that runs with the idea of minimalism, check this out. Really cool. http://huckberry.com/blog/posts/a-transformative-space