There are a number of books about minimalism on the market. Many were written by bloggers and contain great information on how to lead a minimalist lifestyle. Few however have tried to express minimalism as Joshua Becker has done: from the perspective of Christianity.
Living With Less: An Unexpected Key to Happiness is the new book published by renowned blogger and fellow minimalist Joshua Becker. Since his journey into minimalism began in 2008 he has started the blog “becoming minimalist”, gained almost 15,000 subscribers, and is now publishing his third book.
In his book, Joshua seeks to reach a hitherto underserved market with the message of minimalism: Christian teens and young adults. Being a Christian young adult myself this book appealed to me as a useful way to introduce young people to minimalism and explore Jesus’ own teachings on possessions.
While I realize not everyone reading this review holds to the same religious views that Joshua or I do, it does not change the fact that the message contained within Living With Less is still the same message of minimalism. This book is written to Christians primarily, and is not designed to convert anyone to a different religious outlook.
The book is divided into four parts, consisting of 2-3 chapters each. Each part goes over a different story, from the story of Jesus, to Joshua’s story, to the reader’s story, and finally to where the reader’s story intersects with Jesus’. Each chapter is relatively short, with the total page count of the book coming to 62 pages in its print form. Technically speaking, it is well written and very easy to read. Joshua is a very personable writer and uses examples and personal stories to great effect throughout the book.
The first part details what Jesus’ taught concerning possessions and what the most common views the church takes on his teachings. Joshua points out that many times we look forward to Christ’s promise of eternal life in heaven, but forget that he has given us commandments to help us live our daily lives here on earth. Joshua goes over such passages of Scripture as Luke 18: 18-23, which is the story of the rich young ruler who asked how he could get to heaven, and Luke 3:11, an admonition to help those less fortunate than ourselves.
Part Two, “My Story”, is a brief description of how Joshua discovered minimalism and how it has changed his life. Readers of his blog will be familiar with this story, but he also points out that his story (and everyone else’s) is unique. His form or method of minimalism has worked for him and his family, but he encourages his readers to find a level of minimalism which is comfortable for them and fits their lifestyle.
The third portion of the book includes perhaps the most effective and informative chapters. It explores the benefits that pursuing minimalism can hold. These include not only the physical or practical benefits such as more money, less debt, more room in your house, but the spiritual benefits as well. As you remove the excess things from your life you open up new opportunities to grow in your Christian faith, becoming more like Jesus and displaying his kindness, generosity, and self-control. The third portion of the book also addresses some of the misconceptions that people new to the concept of minimalism may have.
The final part is where the intersection of the reader’s story and Jesus’ takes place. Joshua explains that Jesus has given an invitation to each and every person to not only spend the afterlife with Him, but this life as well! Jesus taught that life could be lived abundantly here on earth, as well as in heaven. By following the teachings of Christ we accept that invitation and can begin to focus on things that really matter. Minimalism as Joshua lives it is an extension of the teachings of Christ.
As nothing in this world is perfect, I do have one criticism of the book. The format of Living With Less is perhaps not suited to study by a small group or youth group. There are few discussion points or sections that engage the reader, which can leave some of the best portions hidden and easily (though not intentionally) overlooked. Perhaps the book was not written with a small group format in mind, but it seems as though this would be the most effective way of reaching Christian teens with this message.
Overall, the book is well written and its short chapters and appeal to young adults and teenagers make it a good book for a youth or small group (despite the aforementioned format problems). The topics and ideas presented in the book are a great way to broach the subject of minimalism to young people. Even if minimalism doesn’t hold any particular appeal to a reader, the book will still foster discussion and debate over the concepts of material possessions, wealth, and how to live life abundantly.
Living life abundantly, isn’t that what we would all like to do? To quote the final sentence of the book, “Because that’s what Jesus has been offering all along…” That is why Jesus came among us: to give us abundant life to be lived out not only in heaven, but in all fullness and joy here on earth as well.