Chapter 8 of AWE: Why It Matters for Everything We Think, Say, & Do by Paul David Tripp
A Review by Pastor Aaron Adame
A couple of years ago I watched a curious little documentary on Netflix called Minimalism. The show opened immediately with testimonies. Real people confessing that for years of their life, they consumed. They bought goods. They had more clothes than they needed. Multiple cars and houses—homes were larger than they needed. They had all the latest gadgets. They racked up credit card debt. They bought and they bought. They admitted there was a hole in their life that they were trying to fill with stuff.
As I sat and listened to these testimonies, I couldn’t help but think that these same stories sounded much like the stories of Christians before coming to know Christ. Lives that were empty, and they tried to fill it with stuff or relationships or experiences. But then Christ saved them from those empty pursuits.
Just like a Christian testimony, the punch line of the documentary came. After all the confessing and acknowledgment that there was a hole in their hearts that stuff couldn’t fill, one person eventually said (paraphrase), “And that’s when I discovered minimalism.”
And that’s when I put my face in my palms in utter disappointment!
Don’t get me wrong, I fully agree that we live in a materialistic and consumeristic culture, even in the church. I agree with what John Stott called “simple living” for the sake of mission. But all these people did was exchange one selfish ambition for another. They were empty while having full houses and closets and garages. And now they were empty without possessions. Because, as the documentary went on, even minimalism wasn’t enough for these individuals, as it turns out. Because the majority of them turned to eastern spiritualism. New age meditation practices were now the thing. First, they wanted to empty their lives of stuff. Then they were trying to empty their minds of stuff. And, in the end, guess what? They were still…empty!
Turns out, Paul was right when he wrote in Romans 1 that mankind has exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man… Even the spiritual or irreligious person has a sense of emptiness and empty pursuits in materialistic things, and yet they refuse to turn to God. The fact is, outside of God’s grace, none of us turns to God. We need His intervening grace to enable us to see the wonder and awe of who He is, so that we may be set free from the empty pursuit of finding life in created things.
I was reminded of this documentary as I read through this chapter, which I greatly appreciated. In fact, Tripp is discussing something very few Christians want to talk about but is perhaps one of the top three idols in American Christianity. Tripp did make it clear: There is nothing wrong with having stuff. God made this world good and everything in it. And He gave us the ability to create things so that we can enjoy His creation. God gave us the sensory abilities of sight, smell, sound, and touch to enjoy beauty, flavor, and affection. These are great things! The problems come when those means become ends in themselves. People gather possessions but are never satisfied with them—because they are looking for something inherently life-giving from objects that have no life. It’s like scooping water from a stream with a cup that lacks a bottom. We scoop and scoop and scoop, but nothing comes up that can quench the thirst.
I remember when I first became a Christian. I was a broke twenty-year-old without a lot of stuff. However, I did have some things—things I worked really hard to get. But I realized the night I submitted my life to Jesus that I could lose all those things, and then what would my life amount to? What would I find joy and purpose in? But if I had Jesus, I could lose all of those things, and I’d still have Christ!
As Christians, we can enjoy God’s stuff without stuff controlling us. We are truly set free from materialistic pursuits because we are set free from our empty lives when we are filled with the life of Christ by faith. Only God’s grace can do this.
Questions to consider:
John Stott pioneered the concept of simple living for the sake of a world mission. He saw that Christians of his generation were busy buying and not sharing the good news. Have you considered living a simpler lifestyle to give more generously and serve more liberally?
If someone were to assess your lifestyle, would they walk away with the impression that you are in hot pursuit of material things? Would they see your pursuit of Jesus as a higher ambition than consuming and accumulating items in your closet or garage? How would you see yourself regarding those questions?
If you lost everything you owned this week, how would that affect your attitude toward God?