“Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and turmoil with it” (Proverbs 15:16).
“Less is more and more is less” is a maxim that we see frequently these days. As life in the 21st Century gets ever busier, more cluttered, and more complex, many of us find ourselves wanting less in our lives rather than more, and wanting to focus on what we have rather than what we don’t have.
“Less is more” is a basic principle anyone can apply and profit from, but for the Christian it has a particular depth of meaning. We can see the underlying principle in Paul’s letter to the Philippians:
“… I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ … Brothers, join in imitating me”(Philippians 3:8, 17).
Paul not only tells us here that he had come to consider everything else besides his relationship with God meaningless, but also he specifically tells us to imitate him in this. Now that does not mean that we have to renounce all worldly possessions, of course. But once we understand and begin to live the principle of not placing undue importance on “things,” we begin to realize we do not need nearly as much as we might assume. Not only that, but for those of us who enjoy plenty in many aspects of our lives, also we begin to see many of our excess possessions as things that could help others.
We are reminded of the words of John the Baptist. When John was asked what people should do to prepare for the Kingdom of God that he announced, he answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same” (Luke 3:11). Once again, it is a principle that is involved. John’s words did not mean that we should not own more than one set of clothing. Paul’s own writings speak of parchments and an extra item of clothing he had stored away for later use (2 Timothy 4:13), but Paul didn’t speak of packing crates of extra clothes, either.
If we take the admonition of Paul seriously and begin to follow the principle of John’s Kingdom preparation advice, we see more and more clearly that so many of us need less than we have. That’s the exact opposite mindset of the prosperity focus that some have chosen to follow, but it is a scriptural approach, nonetheless.
What does “less is more” mean in our lives? Perhaps it means taking the time to go through closets and storage areas once a year, to weed out some of the many extra things we may have gathered, but don’t use, and to donate them to a charity or missionary work. A good rule of thumb is often that if we had forgotten we had something, we probably don’t need it. Unneeded expensive items can often be sold online with very little difficulty and the money given to a good cause, but even an old pair of shoes we never really wear might look very good on the feet of someone who has no shoes at all.
Ultimately, a Christian acceptance of “Less is More” is all about relearning what we really need, sharing from what we don’t need, and thankfully enjoying what we have. But the relearning is key. Only as we begin to realize we can live with less – and perhaps help others in the process – do we come to realize that less is more for everyone.