An Attempt at Minimalism

People struggle with different things connected to their relationship with God and to me it is interesting that someone else’s struggle might not be mine, and visa versa.  If I am honest with myself, one of my particular struggles in my relationship with God is my desire for stuff, and not just stuff, but nice stuff.  Yes, my name is Justin and I am a materialist. 

However, materialism is not just a desire for stuff, although that is generally how the term is used.  Materialism is the belief that all that matters is the here and now; that the only things that are real are those things that we can experience through our senses.  Now, certainly this is a belief that is contrary to Christianity for ‘faith is the evidence of things unseen’ and we long for something that will last forever as opposed to those things that are temporary.   Still, though Christians often profess that we believe in the unseen, all too often, our lives are characterized by the accumulation of stuff, which points to what we really believe about what is real and true.

A couple of weeks ago I had an epiphany.  I realized that my car, which was completely paid off, was worth the same as how much I owe on my wife’s newer car.  I began to think about the summer with gas prices inevitably going up.  I considered that I would be out of town for weeks with youth trips, thus not needing a car.  I pondered the amount of money spent on insurance.  I looked at the maintenance that my car needed, which was roughly around $2000.  Then, all of a sudden it hit me.  I could sell my car, pay off my wife’s car, and save a heck of a lot of money per month by sharing a car.  It was a brilliant plan.  I felt like Dave Ramsey. 

The problem with this plan is that it is not conventional.  The idea of sharing one with your spouse is uncommon, outside of a situation where public transportation is heavily relied upon or for whatever reason one simply cannot afford two vehicles.  Neither is the case for us.   However, the major problem with this plan is that it forces us to rethink how we view so many things in life, specifically entitlement and freedom.  Concerning entitlement, where I come from, most kids get a car when they are 16 or so and they have their own car until the day they die.  It is an assumption that every person needs their own car, despite the fact that for quite some time most families only had one car.  Concerning freedom, the reason that we must have our own car is because all of us have our own lives, agenda, and activities, and having your own car facilitates our freedom.  However, this possession also supports the rampant individualism present in our culture, not to mention what it does to gas prices. 

I then began to ask myself, and then my wife, ‘can we make this work?’  After all, my wife and I work across the street from one another only three miles from our home, we have no kids, and we have flexibility in our schedules.   Though we know that sharing a car would require a great deal of sacrifice, we came to the conclusion that we should give it a try, with the assumption being that if this didn’t work, we could just go and get a car. 

I write this not to say look at how great I am, because I plan on being forthright about how difficult it will be and know that sometime down the road, we will probably get another car.  I also do not profess to be doing this for the purpose of saving all the money and giving to the poor, although I do believe that this will allow us all the more to be responsible stewards of our income, which does have a spiritual component.   I write this not necessarily to encourage others to do the exact same thing, because this is not a command from scripture and I realize that most people’s lives will not allow for this.  The reason that I write this is because I do think that as believers we should challenge our own basic assumptions of what our culture tells us we require as human beings.  To not simply acquire stuff because we can, but to ask ourselves if we should.  I honestly believe that much of our lives are spent enslaving ourselves to work in order to acquire things we don’t need.  To quote Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt’s character) from Fight Club, “The things you own end up owning you.”  I don’t claim to be above it, but still believe we should challenge it.  

 

jj 

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