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Minimalism or Frugality Can Be Idols, Too

I have had times when I idolized things, luxury, and comfort. I wanted a really beautiful home where everything was perfect and looked like it came out of HGTV. And I have also been tempted to idolize minimalism/frugality in recent years. It’s funny how easily we can make almost anything more important than it should be in our hearts and minds.

I have to guard my heart and mind and make sure Jesus is on the throne. Not anything else. Not lots of lovely things. Not getting rid of everything. Nothing can come above the Lord in my heart. Nothing can get before my love for Him and my love for others and His Spirit filling me and empowering me to walk in holiness. In everything in the Christian walk, there must be proper balance and Christ must be at the center of it all.

It may sound weird that minimalism and wanting to getΒ rid of stuff could be sinful. Here are some ways I could take minimalism too far…

I could:

  • Obsess so much about giving stuff away and selling things that it is all I care about – no matter if it upsets my husband and children or not.
  • Find my security and identity in having as few possessions as possible.
  • Judge others for “owning too much” in my view and for materialism.
  • Get angry with my family if they want to keep things that are not sinful to keep.
  • Be prideful and self-righteous about how few possessions I own and how “good” and “generous” I am.
  • Try to impose my personal convictions on everyone in my family even if they are not ready to take such a big step.
  • Become the “stuff Nazi” and condemn other people for having possessions as if things, in and of themselves, are evil.
  • Be bitter and resentful at my husband or family if I can’t give away or sell most of our things.
  • Focus only on this one thing and ignore all of the other things scripture commands for me to do as a believer – like loving the Lord wholeheartedly and loving others deeply.
  • Become resentful or upset about receiving gifts from other people who are expressing their love to me.
  • Make getting rid of things more important than loving Christ and loving and respecting my husband and family.
  • Disrespectfully and un-lovingly get rid of things that are important to my husband and older children without their permission.
  • Push my husband to do things that he is not yet ready to do and refuse to follow his leadership unless he agrees with me rather than waiting on the Lord to work powerfully in his heart.
  • Demand to sell the house and downsize greatly when that is not something my husband believes the Lord desires us to do yet.
  • Be discontent if I have to have more things than I want to have in my home.

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Phil. 4:11-13

If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,Β but do not have love, I gain nothing. 1 Cor. 13:3

RELATED:

Do I Love the Things of This World Too Much?

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What has the Lord shown you about this issue? How have you learned to be content in plenty or in need?

20 thoughts on “Minimalism or Frugality Can Be Idols, Too

  1. April
    I’m so sorry about your family’s trials. I am praying that the Lord would give you all healing, rest and peace.

    Thank you for sharing your heart on this topic. Once again I am humbled through your transparency and willingness to share your struggles with things that we often think of not bad things unless they are ruling our hearts. I too often struggle with maintaining balance in my life. I have allowed keeping my house clean and free of clutter take over my thoughts to the point of becoming sad if I don’t get the time I think I need to declutter and organize. I obsess over having everything perfect whenever a guest is coming over.

    However, praise Jesus that I have grown spiritually in this area thanks to the Holy Spirit convicting my conscience and reminding me that my house should only be as clean as it needs to be and that I need to maintain a calm and gentle spirit even when it is not as clean as I would like it. My mind should be focused on Christ and my family not on a spotless home. The joke was actually on me when I thought living in a larger home would help us keep it cleaner. Boy was a wrong! It is just more to keep clean and organized.

    I am truly blessed to have all that I do and I seek to use it to bless others through entertainment or giving away possessions. This also can be a great way to teach our children about giving and blessing others. It is still a challenge for me to find a good balance in what I allow my children to purchase and teaching them to give and bless. I am continuing to pray that the Lord will guide me and extend much needed grace to not judge them for their wanting to spend their own money. If anyone has experience with how to handle this I would love to hear about it. My children seem to be focused on earning money just to turn around and spend it. So far my husband hasn’t said much but it is something we need to discuss.

    Praising God that He allows all things to keep our hearts close to Him. Everything in our life is a gift and an opportunity to grow closer to Jesus.

    Many blessings to you!
    Emily

    1. Emily,
      Thanks for praying for us. Everyone is doing really well. And I got to take a long nap yesterday which was quite a gift. πŸ™‚

      Balance is very difficult. We are good at extremes that are unhealthy. Or, I am! But balance requires the power of the Holy Spirit. That is something I can’t do in my own power. It is so helpful to see our motives and to be able to repent whenever our motives are not love for God and love for others.

      So thankful that God is helping you to grow in love. That is awesome! And thanks for sharing that wisdom about that a larger house is just more work, not necessarily easier to keep organized. πŸ™‚

      Praying for God’s wisdom for us all that we might act in His wisdom and love as we seek to be godly examples and to teach our children proper balance.

      Much love to you, as well, my precious sister!

  2. Oh my! I never thought of it like that. I’ve wanted to get rid of stuff for a long time and my husband has said no. And I mentally dug my heals in and walked off with a pouted lip. I shouldn’t complain, we have a 6 car garage that is more than adequate for storage. I just allow too many things upstairs in the house. I need to quit complaining and change my perspective. Thanks April!

    1. Anon M,

      Some of my most disrespectful moments where when I wanted to purge a lot of Greg’s things or our children’s things, and Greg didn’t agree. So much contention over this issue in the past.

      Thankfully, God can empower us to see with His eyes and to see what is our responsibility and what things are not our responsibility so that we can let go of those things and hold them loosely and allow Him to work in those things in His timing. I’m very grateful God can empower us to be content in plenty or in want. Even if it is not what we would personally desire at the moment. He is more than enough in all situations!

      Much love!

  3. Good post April. My husband LOVES his stuff. Yesterday a friend who had just moved (downsized) said her house looks like a warehouse because she hasn’t figured out where everything goes, and with my husband right there I said “We have lived here more than 10 years and it STILL looks like a warehouse. Don loves stuf.” Because Don is what you have called a “commando” husband I have accepted it and gave up on the idea of a tidy house long ago, not that I was keeping it all that tidy before he was around. But good reminder to be respectful of his choices about stuff.

    1. Ellen Porter,

      It is really easy for me to decide that my whole family must abide by my preferences for tidiness and the amount of stuff I think we should each have. But – I sure did make everyone miserable for a long time with that mentality. Greg actually told me a number of years ago NOT to clean up so much because I was stressing everyone out. Now, he has started to ask me to clean up a bit more. And the kids are helping me now, too. Even Greg has been helping me get things straightened up. Our son is in high school now, and he is beginning to be okay with giving some things away. I know, in time, our daughter will be ready to do that, too.

      I know I would be upset if someone gave away a bunch of my things without my consent. This is a wonderful way we can show honor and respect to our men and to our older children. Challenging sometimes, but a blessing to our families. πŸ™‚

      Thanks so much for sharing!

  4. I wonder about the danger of idolatry related to ideas like sustainable living, permaculture, prepping, etc. They are closely related to the ideas discussed in this post. Not that those things in themselves are wrong at least at first. I`m quite interested in things like biblical farming, sustainable living, etc. Insomuch as the meaning made of it is doing agriculture God`s way with respect to how He`s made it all to work, and being able to be self sufficient in the sense of providing and raising one`s own food and not being dependent on the grid and local supply chains and grocery stores. Certainly its not wrong to hearken back to our original design as garden dwellers, husbandmen, and vinedressers in the garden or to farm in ways that don`t strip mine the soil or require poisonous chemicals, or to be prepared for possible disaster. But there are still dangers that appeal to the flesh and can pretty quickly derail us. Am I doing it because I care about God`s design and intentions and want to honor Him, or just because I am seeking that which works for me and gives me the life I want.

    Frugality, minimalism, prepping, permaculture, etc, can all have some common roots. One of them that`s obvious to me is the desire to be our own god. (pride of life). Out of that root would flow the desire to control . Another issue is that these ideas can run pretty close subtle parallelsl to new age thinking, humanstic thinking, nature worship which are all forms of religion in the sense that one pursues a methodology or idealogy in the pursuit of peace, happiness and security. Because they all have some degree of truth to them, they all work and produce results to some degree, greater or lesser. Its problem is the same old one: these things are pursued apart from God excluding a relationship with Him. We pursue the thing, not the one who created it. He comes to His own and His own receives Him not. The tenants of the vineyard are happy to enjoy the benefits of the vineyard but don`t want to acknowledge the Owner nor render to Him what is due HIm. That idea that if I can get enough of a pile that I have control, or enough control of my pile regardless of its size so that I don`t have to trust, depend or fear is part of fallen life. Examples are found in both the old testament example of the bowl of manna that was illegally hoarded and developed maggots despite God saying “gather enough for only one day“ , as well as the NT example of the fellow who wanted to tear down his barns and build bigger ones to hold his surplus, are interesting examples. One had a little, one had a lot but in the end the issue was their heart`s relationship with God and misplaced trust. Getting the balance where control and ownership are concerned so that one can be safely inside God`s boundaries is a tough one!

    1. SevenTimes,

      These things can be good things. But yes, our motives are what matters. If we are driven by fear – that is a problem. Or if we are not trusting God, but trusting self, that is a problem.

      Another thing to consider, is – where does God want us to be? Is He calling us to seclusion and isolation or is He calling us to go out into the masses of lost people to share the Gospel? Where does God want our family? That has to be our first question.

      I was thinking about that farmer, too. The one who tore down his barns and built bigger ones, pridefully thinking he was then secure and set for life.

      Thank you so much for sharing. Yes, there is a delicate balance. And we can be blind to our motives sometimes. May the Lord help us see any fear, pride, idolatry, control, unbelief, disobedience, or any other sin and may we walk in obedience, faith, trust, and the power of His Spirit. Rightly discerning His will and where He wants us each day for His kingdom’s purposes.

      Much love!

  5. April, no problemo, glad to share in iron sharpening iron. The question you posed about isolation and seclusion is an interesting one; are there some who God would call to live a secluded life and if so what would be the purpose? And what if you realize that you may have indeed pursued something that has put you somewhere that might NOT be where God wants you to be?

    1. SevenTimes,

      I think there can be seasons where God may call us to isolation and seclusion. I think of Paul when he was first converted and how he spent 3 years in the desert praying, studying the Old Testament, and learning from God the theology of Christianity. I think of Jesus spending 40 days in the wilderness to be tested by Satan. Or Elijah when he was hiding from Jezebel and God provided for him by the brook.

      But our primary purposes as Christians is to glorify God and to make disciples of all nations.

      If we realize we are somewhere the Lord does not want us to be, we can repent and ask Him to lead us to the place where He does want us to be. πŸ™‚

      Much love!

  6. O my goodness, April, I am so sorry I only just read the purple print at the bottom. I hope your child`s arm is doing better and the medical trials you`ve been enduring are being healed.

    1. SevenTimes,

      Our daughter will have a cast on until the end of June. Thankfully, it really hasn’t slowed her down. She continues to have a big smile and wonderful attitude.
      I am doing MUCH better this week! Got an EKG yesterday and my heart rate is healthy. Just no more cold/allergy meds for me, it looks like. My other issues that had flared up are doing much better, as well. Thank you so much. πŸ™‚

  7. Thanks for this April! It was convicting, especially the points about pushing my husband to get rid of stuff that he wants to keep. At times I have been tempted to throw things out behind his back “for the good of the household”, thinking that he wouldn’t notice anyway. So this was a good heart check and reminder that it’s possible to disrespect my husband by my actions, even when he’s not looking.

    An off topic question, if I may…
    I notice in all your photos and videos you wear your hair out, which looks lovely and feminine. I know my husband loves it when I wear my hair out, but it is so impractical and annoying to me (it’s very curly) that this usually only happens once a week or less. When I wear my hair down, I find it is always getting in my mouth, eyes, etc. Or a baby is pulling it. Or it gets caught in things. I am a fairly active person. But I would love to please my husband more this way.
    Do you find it annoying to wear your hair down, but you do it anyway? Or are you just used to it now, so it feels natural? Do you have any practical tips?

    1. seriouslyserving,

      One of the times my husband felt most disrespected in our entire marriage was a time when I ruthlessly cleaned out his garage because he wouldn’t (I asked him in a really controlling, disrespectful way) and the AC people were coming the next day. I got rid of things I felt were trash and organized his stuff. It looked WAY better to me! And you could walk through the garage to the closet under the steps. But I did a lot of damage to my marriage that day. I have never gone about things that way again. I make sure to ask respectfully for what I would like and I don’t pressure him. If he wants to get rid of things, awesome. If he doesn’t, that’s okay, too. For all I know, God may be prompting him to keep certain things for reasons I know nothing about.

      I don’t have babies anymore, so that makes it easier. But yes, I wear my hair down almost all the time now. I used to always wear it in ponytails. But when I realized he likes it down, I started wearing it down more. He really doesn’t care if I wear a ponytail sometimes. But I save that for times when I feel like I really need my hair up. It doesn’t bother me down too much. Yes, it does sometimes get in my mouth or eyes. And sometimes, when it was longer a year or so ago, it got caught in the car door a lot! If it bothered me a lot, I may wear it up more.

      You could always wear it up for doing things during the day and maybe take it down for when he comes home if you know that would be a blessing to him.

      Much love!

        1. seriouslyserving,

          You may not have to do it all the time around him, but just sometimes. He may enjoy it. πŸ™‚ You may find it doesn’t bother you as much after you have done it for awhile. My hair actually bothers me more now when I wear it up! Ha!

  8. April I can’t believe how timely this post is as recently I have gotten back into decluttering, minimising and buying in bulk (zero waste). I had been interested in minimalism in a big way around 5yrs ago and then would relax abit with it but as I said recently I got into it again and really questioned if I were making it into an idol. I do believe that God wants us to stay away from materialism and consumerism in the sense of pursuing it but then we can get out of balance and pursue things like minimalism and sustainability etc. These are things I am interested in and feel they fit God’s design but can quickly become my focus. When listening to vlogs on minimalism (even Christian ones) I get concerned how they atribute overcoming anxiety and stress and finding peace and happiness from minimalism rather than Christ then I wonder what message we are sending as Christians. Just sharing as this is a temptation for me and maybe for other Christians getting involved in this movement.

    1. Megan,

      I agree, I do believe that we need to avoid materialism. It is easy to make luxury, wealth, and things into idols. But it is also really easy to make controlling how much stuff we have and minimalism into idols, too. If we are depending on getting rid of things or only having so many things for our sense of security, peace, and joy – that is a problem. Our security, peace, and joy has to be in Jesus. When He is on the throne of our lives, then He can help us make wise decisions about other things and empower us to have healthy balance.

      Yes, this is a temptation for me when I read about minimalism, too. I’m so glad you brought it up!

  9. Hi April, Good to see this post. I had been noticing in my life and also my son’s how we sometimes can turn bargain hunting into idolatry. Like only feeling ‘right’ if you pay x amount for something, or only feeling the freedom to buy something if it’s from a thrift store or garage sale. Also being a ‘cheapskate’ like not paying more than 20 dollars for a pair of jeans or buying something necessary. It all seems like worshipping the saving of money, just as bad as worshipping money(?) like following rules in your head from fear instead of prayerfully facing one purchase at a time.

    1. Notdoneyet,

      Obviously, finding deals on things can be a very good thing. Being frugal and minimalistic can be very pleasing to the Lord. But it is possible to make finding deals or following a strict set of guidelines the most important thing, instead of simply following the Lord and being a godly steward. We can make almost anything into an idol!

      “I never pay more than $5 for a piece of clothing. I’m so godly.” – for example.

      The thing that matters most is our motive and our heart.

      Much love in Christ!

Thanks for joining the discussion! Let's keep it classy and respectful. I'm so glad we can walk this road together.

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