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Learning From One of Histories Great Minimalists

Image: by James Barker FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The following is a guest post by Grayson of A Parched Soul.  Enjoy!

“All the lessons are in the past. All the opportunities are in the future. Don’t miss either.” -Rick Warren

We are notoriously nearsighted when it comes to history. The history of minimalism is no different.

We think it’s a movement with very recent cultural roots, and to some degree this is quite true. But there were those who came before us who set the tone for living with less.

One man in particular stands out as a fascinating figure. His name is John the Baptist.

Regardless of what you think about the Bible, it is the most historically significant book there is. It’s allegories and themes have been picked up by everyone from Shakespeare to President Obama. Of course, there are many reasons why, but one of the reasons is its fascinating characters.

Of all the interesting characters in the Bible, John has always resonated with me in a very profound way. He was a strange figure who wandered through the desert dressed in clothes made of camel hair and eating locusts and wild honey. (Matthew 3:4)

He was a minimalist in his clothing choices but also in his lifestyle.

And it’s the lifestyle part where we stand to learn much from John… unless you are big on eating locusts…

There are 3 things we can learn from John’s minimalist lifestyle:

  1. Minimalism is about more than cleaning your closet: John’s minimalism was about much more than dropping texting or packing up some boxes for Goodwill. It was about stripping himself of possessions, relationships or anything else that kept him from carrying out his mission. John believed he was the messenger fulfilling an Old Testament prophecy (see Malachi 3:1) and that he was clearing the path for Jesus who would soon follow (see Isaiah 40:3). His minimalistic lifestyle, which included eating off the land and wearing camel skin clothing, was an extension of that calling.
  2. Focus on others: He had a laser sharp focus on fulfilling what he believed to be his calling from God. And he did so by relying on little and giving much. John was interested in bringing a message to people he believed people needed to hear. Minimalism was not the endgame for John; it was a major tool in allowing him to help people. We would all do well to focus more on others and what we can do to serve them.
  3. Minimalism won’t be as effective on its own as it could be when paired with a higher cause: John did live a simplistic life. But he lived that way for a reason. That’s an important caveat. If you want to live a minimalistic lifestyle, you need to ask yourself why. Answering that question gives you what you need to sustain life change. It will give you something to hang on to in times of self-doubt.

About the author:
Grayson Pope is a Christ-follower, husband, and father, right in the middle of his story. But mostly he’s just a parched soul in search of God’s Living Water. You can follow Grayson on his blog and Twitter.

Thanks Grayson so much for sharing with us today!  I love point 3 and finding the reason for minimalism in your life.  Minimalism is never a goal, it is only a tool.

11 Comments

  1. Thanks so much for having me today Lorilee!

  2. Wow! While I’ve heard and read those stories of John the Baptist, I never thought of them in terms of minimalism. While I strive to have less stuff, I have never really articulated why. I’m not sure yet what my mission is or where my focus should be, but I feel I’m getting closer to finding out. Great thoughts!

    • Thanks Teresa! I’m glad it got you thinking.

  3. Great post, Grayson. I especially like your emphasis on understand the why behind minimalism. I think a drive towards simplicity and minimalism is good, but without staying grounded in the why it becomes just another form of legalism.

    • Absolutely. It’s easy to make things legalistic. It’s much harder to put a reason behind it. Thanks Loren.

  4. I loved the article. Recently focusing on minimalizing, I have come to realize, that so beyond simplifying being the end result, this is going to support the spiritual road that I am on by getting rid of the distractions and allowing me to choose to always be present. Thank you.

    • Thanks so much Michelle! Being present is a wonderful gift to give to those around you. Have a great weekend!

  5. Grayson,

    I loved this! Your words are filled with truth. I’ve watched my mother live the minimalist lifestyle in the way you described about John the Baptist. Over twelve years ago, my mom and step-dad sold their fancy house in an upscale neighborhood and moved into an 800 square foot house in a rundown mill village so that they could be the hands and feet of Jesus to a very impoverished area in West Georgia. It has been an amazing thing to witness. Time and time again I have seen my mother “relying on little and giving much” as you stated in this post. Your words blessed me today. Thank you!

    • Wow, thanks Amy! Your parents’ story sounds great! That’s so amazing to live with less so that He can be made more.

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