With the obsession with frugal living and readjusting of priorities brought on by the recession, I am reminded of a conversation I had with some girlfriends many years ago. One of these friends was jobless and looking and talking about her income requirements. She spoke as if revealing a great revelation, “I don’t have to have a lot of money…as long as I can afford to get my hair done…and buy new clothes…and…” Her list of must-haves was unending.
In a similar conversation, a female colleague informed me that she could get by with very little to be happy. She just had to get her hair and nails done, keep her gym membership and her tennis league. Every now and again, especially when I am thinking about something I want (and don’t really need) the Lord brings these conversations to mind. Every so often he asks me, “What’s your list? What do you have to have?”
This sometimes seems like a fun game to me as a tick off my top “luxuries”—gourmet coffee, a good book, bubble bath. I pause and rethink—can I be happy without those? I consider. Chocolate? I may joke to my friends that I have a physical need for coffee or Dove chocolates, but I know that those things are not my source. They are not my all in all. They are not my soul’s sufficiency. My soul (mind, will, and emotions) finds rest in God alone.
We are told in 1 Timothy 6:8 “But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that” (NIV). We also recognize according to 1 Timothy 6:6 “…godliness with contentment is great gain” (NIV). You have heard the saying, “Eat less; enjoy more”? Mine is, “Spend less; enjoy more.” Cultivate gratitude. Make note of every blessing.
Some of my friends shared a story with me of how they managed tight finances when they were newly married with several small children (triplets). They desperately wanted to be able to support missionary work, but their finances were just too tight. They decided to give up buying soda and ice cream and use the left over money to give to missionaries. That’s true frugality. Did they feel deprived in giving up their diet Coke and Rocky Road? No, they felt blessed because they were able to spend their money in accordance with their true priorities. That’s the hallmark of true wisdom and frugality—managing your money, so that you can afford to spend where it is important.
Be generous. Be a cheerful giver, in accordance with II Corinthians 9:7 (NIV). This immediately brings to mind my 93-year old grandmother. She buys groceries at a store that gives a penny back on every dollar spent there. That’s not a big return, so most people don’t bother. Well, Grandma saves her receipts, as well as those of every member of her church who purchases groceries there. With her diligence, she got over $500 back! What did she do with her windfall? She gave it to the church.
I pray that you would give us wisdom in the area of finance. Help us to make good decisions and see that our trading is profitable. Gives us hearts of gratitude for our blessings. We acknowledge you Lord, as our source. We know that every good and perfect gift comes from you. Increase our giving that we might be a blessing and share in more of your work. Let our spending and saving and giving be in perfect balance. We pray that we would have your priorities. Reveal to us God, how to be wise stewards and give us the grace to truly enjoy all that we have, never forgetting that you are our treasure (Luke 12:24 NIV).
Questions to Ponder:
1. We are advised in Ecclesiastes 7:18b (NIV) to avoid extremes. Are there any areas of your spending where you go to extremes?
2. Do you often buy things to soothe your emotions?
3. Are you giving as much as you would like to?
4. What are your financial goals?
5. How do you envision God using your money for the advancement of the kingdom of God?
Sandra Wald is an assistant professor of English at Central Methodist University in Fayette, MO. She lives on a farm with her husband in north central Missouri. In her spare time, she enjoys blogging (www.wholesometalk.com), reading, sewing, and baking.