If you follow popular culture, some of the trending ideas from the past couple years include things like tiny houses, deep decluttering and minimalism. TV personalities and authors like Marie Kondo (a famous organizational guru) have instructed millions of folks on how to get rid of accessories, clothing, decor, and anything else in their home that doesn’t “spark joy.” Generally speaking, the movement, we think, is a positive one. An excess of material goods very rarely leads to holiness.
Having less isn’t necessarily so that we can have a smaller carbon footprint. It’s not simply to save a few bucks or to keep us from tripping over our many belongings. A “capsule wardrobe” or a simple aesthetic doesn’t automatically lead to holiness or Heaven. As Christians, our motivation for a simpler lifestyle has a more profound scope and is rooted in our Faith and biblical principles.
So, how do we Catholics take this useful trend and apply it in our personal and spiritual lives?
What Christians are called to, what Jesus is asking of us, is something the late Fr. Thomas Dubay called “gospel poverty.” Yes! Poverty! We are called to a simple life where we put the important things first. If we love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (which is much easier said than done), then all the other stuff will take care of itself. Living gospel poverty does not mean that we have to live in destitution or live without the essentials in life. It is a biblical way of life, taking only what we need and give generously to the poor.
Sounds nice, but how does one go about doing this?
Get That Ball Rolling!
In order to get you thinking about living gospel poverty (or the “sparing-sharing lifestyle” as it’s sometimes called), we have taken some questions from Fr. Dubay’s Happy Are You Poor: The Simple Life and Spiritual Freedom.
- Do I live simply and avoid unnecessary expenses?
- Do I collect unneeded things or hoard possessions?
- Am I a slave to fashion? Do I dress so as to impress others? (outside of just dressing professionally if I am called to in my daily life)
- Do I really need all the clothes that I have?
- Do I eat too much? Do I eat because I am bored? Do I take second helpings simply because I like the way something tastes and not because I’m still hungry?
- Do I keep two or three identical items when I really only need one?
- Do I spend money on trinkets or unnecessary conveniences?
- When I think of my own needs, do I also consider the needs of the poor?
- Do I spend an inordinate amount of money on cosmetics or beauty products?
- How necessary is smoking or drinking for me?
- Do I spend a lot of my time thinking of the things of earth rather than the things of Heaven?
These questions are simply to get you thinking—not indictments! They are meant to prick our consciences and help us to enter into a frame of mind where we can honestly assess our lifestyle, belongings, and habits to see if there are improvements that can be made. If you are feeling compelled to continue exploring a simpler life, there are resources to help you!
We *HIGHLY* recommend Happy Are You Poor as we mentioned above. We warn you, though, don’t read it unless you want your life to change! We read it recently and it put a fire in us that we haven’t felt in a long time. If you feel like your life is lacking something, if you want to give more generously to Jesus and live a more authentically Catholic Christian life, then read this book. Seriously, it will challenge you and inspire you in all the best ways!
Whether you are a layperson, religious, or priest, living gospel poverty is not a suggestion. “But if any one has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” (1 John 3:17). It plays a key role in living an authentically Christian life. In our first world culture, it may be difficult to do, but the rewards are Heavenly!