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The Modern Minimalist Movement Is 'Sparking Joy,' but True Joy Is Found in God

  • 2021 Aug 12

NOTE: Today’s Daily Article is by Mark Legg, staff writer for Denison Forum. He is a recent graduate of Dallas Baptist University and holds a degree in philosophy and biblical studies.

A blue canvas with a single stripe down the middle sold for $43.8 million in 2013. A banana duct-taped to a wall was bought for a whopping $120,000 two years ago.

These art pieces and others like them receive more eyerolls and laughs than appreciation by most (the banana “sculpture” is titled “The Comedian”). Maybe “art” like this is what comes to mind when you think of “minimalism.” Technically, minimalism did start as an art movement in the ’60s, and, though the “art” mentioned above is not considered part of the minimalist modern art movement, their simplicity gets the point across.

Christian philosopher Francis Schaeffer pointed out that art diffuses philosophical ideas into popular culture. In the past decade, a new wave of popular minimalism has trickled down from avant garde art, captivating Millennials and Generation Z.

The cultural invasion of minimalism

Brands have picked up on this trend using a “minimalist aesthetic” in their marketing to reach the younger generation. There are minimally designed styles, groceries, shoes, wall art, and even baby clothes. As an old Gen Z-er, I feel the appeal of these brands. I proudly own a pair of Allbirds shoes. They’re comfortable and clean. (Today’s Daily Article is not sponsored, by the way).

The lifestyle movement of minimalism has been picked up in a Netflix documentary called Minimalism: A Documentary about Important Things. The popular minimalist and productivity YouTuber Matt D’Avella has accumulated over 220 million views.

Some spouses may recall when they came home to an unexpected mountain of clothes on the bedroom floor, which may have required mountaineering equipment to get up and down the other side. Marie Kondo was probably the person responsible for that fateful clothing apocalypse.

The Japanese lifestyle guru became wildly popular for her decluttering method a few years ago. She was named one of TIME’s top 100 most influential people in 2015 and has sold over 4 million copies of her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying up in the US.

"Does it spark joy?"

Why are people hopping onto this train of decluttering their walk-in closets (Marie Kondo), wearing only one pair of pants (hardcore minimalist), or buying from simplistic brands (Millennials)?

Sometimes, it’s to save money. For others, buying from these simplistic brands is about the environment and sustainability. Many simply want to reduce stress and not be tied down to material possessions. And of course, most are probably just following the trends.

Marie Kondo stands out in her success. According to her, the “method” isn’t minimalism because she focuses on “cherishing” what you want to keep. One fascinating aspect of Marie Kondo is her famous mantra about whether an object “sparks joy.” Her method may have been trendy, but it hasn’t yet lost steam. Her reality TV show, Sparking Joy, airs on Netflix at the end of this month.

So, after all this, should believers “simplify, simplify?”

And more specifically, is Marie Kondo’s philosophy biblical?

God's view of material possessions

Instead of focusing on the objects themselves or how they bring us happiness, a biblical understanding of our possessions is about following a kingdom economy and submitting everything to Christ. Here are some principles and topics taught in the Bible:

What does the Bible say about wealth?

The Bible does not disparage the wealthy themselves. However, when the rich young ruler approached Jesus and wanted to follow him, Jesus saw his heart was captivated by money. This prompted Jesus to say, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:24) Wealth can give us a false sense of security and easily becomes a perilous idol (Luke 12:13-21).

Consider that the worldwide individual median income is about $3,000. Most people living in a first-world country should consider themselves wealthy. At the end of the day, whether wealthy or poor, Jesus cares most about our hearts (Luke 21:1-4).

What does the Bible say about generosity?

I’ve received a great deal of generosity in my life. My grandparents, who worked hard and saved frugally, helped pay for my college education. I am immensely grateful for that, and it’s encouraged me to live open-handedly (2 Corinthians 9:6-7).

What does the Bible say about anxiety?

Jesus teaches us not to be anxious about tomorrow because we can rest, knowing he will take care of our needs (Matthew 6:25-34; Philippians 4:6; James 4:13-15).

What does the Bible say about stewardship?

As believers, everything we own is God’s creation. Therefore we are stewards of it. We’re not only stewards of material possessions, but of our time, skills, and spiritual gifts (1 Peter 4:10; Luke 16:11).

What does the Bible say about thankfulness?

If we want to follow minimalist living, use Marie Kondo’s method, or buy from millennial brands, remember to thank God. To be in a place to choose minimal living instead of being forced into it because of poverty is a blessing (1 Timothy 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:18).

True joy is like a fire, not a spark

Getting rid of enough clothes so that we can walk in our “walk-in closets” probably sparks joy. Receiving Amazon packages of new clothes may spark joy. Remembering a memory attached to a sentimental item likely sparks joy. Marie Kondo’s method may spark joy. There’s nothing wrong with any of these sparks of joy, but they’re just that: sparks.

None of these will lead us to everlasting joy or true fulfillment. In contrast to the temporary “spark” that these fleeting moments lend, true joy is an everlasting fire because it rests in God, who does not change.

Philippians 4:4 says to rejoice in the Lord always.

James 1:2 says to count trials as joy.

Romans 12:12 says to rejoice in hope.

Psalm 16:11 says that in God’s presence is fullness of joy, and at his right hand are pleasures forevermore.

When we become weighed down by things of this world, let us pray Psalm 94:19: “When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.”

Enjoy the spark of joy, but let it lead you to the true joy only God offers.

NOTE: For more on joy, see Dr. Jim Denison’s video, “What does the Bible say about joy?

Publication date: August 12, 2021

Photo courtesy: Conner Ching/Unsplash

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