I want to deviate from my normal format for this 'Jesus on Minimalism' post. I read a stunning quote on No Sidebar: Chasing Slow. Erin Loechner says, "Without grace, minimalism is another metric for perfection." I've committed to read the books I've been putting off before buying more but I've made a note to pick up this book ASAP.
Without grace, minimalism is just another metric for perfection. A few days ago, when we were talking about Jesus' criticisms of the religious elite with their legalistic, duty-bound mindset, I pointed out how many times in the Bible Jesus says, "I require mercy not sacrifice."
We chase degrees of higher perfection through lawfulness, holiness, duty—and there's nothing wrong with trying to be a good person. But pharisaical religiosity devoid of compassion, when we're only practicing our morality to be seen, that's what Jesus rebuked time and time again. White-washed tombs, he called them, so clean on the outside yet so dead on the inside.
It just occurred to me that I use the word 'religiosity' a lot. Do you know what I mean by that? Like, excessively and publicly religious, like religious to the point of making people around you uncomfortable and your enjoyment of their discomfort. I mean like, moral superiority in overdrive.
"I desire mercy, not sacrifice" is Jesus' way of saying, "Without grace, minimalism is another metric for perfection." Be careful not to use minimalism as another way of elevating yourself over others, calling attention to your religiosity in contrast with what you'd consider to be vanity on someone else's part.
The Bible says it's God's kindness that leads us to repentance—not God's chastisement, finger-pointing, and condemnation. Sure, Jesus declared certain actions as sinful and wrong and worthy of punishment, but Jesus never pronounced judgment on the sinner. He himself said, "If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world" (John 12:27).
In the end, minimalism can be just another duty to uphold with religious fervor or minimalism can be a means of living open-handedly, generously, compassionately, with an outward focus. Without grace, without mercy, without kindness, without the "heart stuff," minimalism is another way to compare yourself to others. Or another metric by which you harshly judge yourself.
This was Jesus' criticism of religion. Public religious practice without grace is just a big ol' pissing contest. Look at me, I'm so much better than you. Look! Look at me when I raise my hands and shout Bible words at people. I'm awesome. God prefers me over you. I'm winning my way to heaven. You make me feel icky, go away. But keep looking at me. But go away. Also donate money to my ministry. Now go away. You disgust me.