I remember the first time I went to Europe. My grandparents, who had been there before, stressed the fact that we should only bring one small suitcase per person. I was skeptical because I had always been a two suitcase kinda girl. Since they insisted, though, we each took only one suitcase. Once I got there, I was soooo glad that I followed their advice. There was so much walking and sightseeing, that more luggage would have been impossible to manage. And we had all the clothes we needed.
Since that trip, I have always found one bag to be sufficient. I really don’t need a ton of stuff. The lighter I pack, the more mobile I am.
I think of the directions that Jesus gave his disciples when he sent them out two by two to “heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons.” And they were to do these things freely, as they had received freely. Jesus went on to give them packing instructions. The disciples were to travel light:
“Acquire no gold nor silver nor copper for your belts, no bag for your journey, nor two tunics nor sandals nor a staff, for the laborer deserves his food.”
This isn’t just minimalism, this is radical minimalism. Jesus sends the disciples out with only the clothes on their backs.
I find it interesting that he instructs the disciples not to accumulate things along the way. As humans, we have the tendency to accumulate things. Jesus explicitly told the disciples not to. Yet, many Christians collect and accumulate and hoard goods in massive amounts. There are probably many reasons for this, but couple of reasons come to mind:
If one is good, two is better. For some reason, we have been trained to believe that more is better. Sometimes this holds true: it’s better to have more love in your heart, more faith, more patience. But we often apply this same reasoning to things, where more is not necessarily better.
It’s something that will be useful later. That may be true, but Jesus did not say to avoid accumulating things unless they were useful. Surely, a second pair of sandals would have been useful considering that they were traveling by foot. Likewise, a second shirt would have been useful (and probably more hygienic) for an itinerant preacher.
We confuse possessions with provision. When I read about Jesus’ instructions to the disciples, I cringe. I think to myself: How could he send them out with no provisions? But that’s not the case, it it? He is not sending out without provision. God provides for us (Matthew 6: 25-34). Jesus had already explained that. Jesus was not sending the disciples to serve without provision. God would provide for them. He did, however, send them without possessions. There’s a big difference.
I think that Jesus’ warning about accumulation of goods is still valid. We may not be itinerant ministers, but God does have a purpose for each of us. Like the disciples, we should travel light.