Many of us tend to live our lives wanting more and more; rarely willing to admit that enough is never enough. We pursue every single form of material pleasure – from new and shiny things to expensive vacations to pretty clothes – in hopes that it will fulfill the emptiness in our hearts, bring us a hint of joy or impress someone while making us feel accomplished. And whether we have the ability to afford it or not, we walk past storefronts or look over the fence at our friend’s lives and long for something new – allowing our “stuff” to define us.
“Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, for my heart rejoiced in all my labor…Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done and on the labor in which I had toiled; and indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind. There was no profit under the sun.” Ecc. 2:9-11.
Oh, how quickly it all fades away. I look back at some of the most expensive purchases that I have made and I don’t even own most of those items anymore. As a couple, Jesse and I have made countless mistakes with our finances. We went into debt early on in our marriage as we purchased shiny thing after shiny thing. We both had our first careers and loved the idea of having money. We took out loans for cars instead of paying cash. We purchased new gaming systems, TV’s, furniture and so much more. At that time, we didn’t consider or care about the consequences, only what was directly in front of us.
As a society, we consider it customary to spend all of our money excessively, even money that we may not have.
We choose debt just to have the next best thing.
But, Christian, scripture warns against any kind of debt.
“Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” Romans 13:8
It’s important to note that, although we are called to be wise and generous with our money, God is not slack in giving us good gifts on this earth. There is absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying those gifts or the wealth that He has given to us.
The importance is not based around how many gifts we have, but instead on how we respond to those gifts.
After much repentance and growth in the area of finances, my husband and I have learned a few important lessons. We are absolutely not perfect in these areas, but we are very intentional about doing our best:
1. We refrain from buying things if we do not already have the money in the bank. We love to use our Southwest Airlines credit card on daily purchases (we haven’t had to pay for one domestic flight since we’ve been married!) but we pay the card off completely by the end of the month before any interest can accrue. Credit cards rack up so quickly and become debt if not paid off.
2. If we want to make a large purchase, we ensure first and foremost that we have already set aside the money that we feel called to tithe and gift. Secondly, we ensure that all bills are already paid in advance (we encourage a few months ahead if possible) and that the money that we have allotted for our Savings fund, Sutton’s college fund, our retirement fund and our investments have all been taken care of for the month.
This leaves no room for error in regards to important payments.
3. We always, always, always go to one another first.
I believe that this is crucial for any married couple. For large purchases, we make 100% sure that we are both completely on the same page before a purchase is made. If for any reason we are not on the same page after reasonable discussion, the purchase does not happen.
(Quick Note: This works well because we choose to have grace with one another. I may not always understand why he wants that TV and he may not always understand why I want that weekend vacation. But as long as it is feasible and steps 1 and 2 are completely taken care of, we give one another healthy freedom.)
3. We have a rule-of-thumb in which we wait 30 days before a large purchase to make sure that we really, really want it.
I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve actually been super grateful that I didn’t buy that [insert a million items here] after waiting for just a few weeks. Coming from the most impulsive person on the planet (me), I strongly believe that impulsivity is a quick path to financial destruction.
4. Budget, budget, budget. Give every dollar a purpose.
Financial Expert Dave Ramsey always says, “Failing to plan is a plan to fail.” There is so much truth to that. Jesse and I are King and Queen of eating out. We spend SO much money on food it’s ridiculous, so when I don’t have everything accounted for in my EveryDollar app (lifesaving!), we end up over-spending. Yet, when I am tracking the amount of money spent, entering it into the app and watching the money that we have left deplete, it makes me much more aware of my expenditures. Even if you have very little money, budgeting for every dollar will teach you self-control and help you to save in areas that you may not have before!
Here are a few questions to ask yourself and pray about this week:
1. Are you faithful in giving your first fruits to the church and to people in need rather than giving your leftovers?
2. Are you spending money on items that perpetuate sin or on items that glorify God?
3. Do you take pride in your belongings?
James 4:6 says, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
We cannot give in to the temptation of being defined by material items. If we believe that the things that we own are ours, or that those things make us superior to others, then it is likely that we are taking pride in those possessions and focusing on the created, not the Creator. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights…” James 1:17.
4. Do you allow your status or your “things” to get in the way of your relationship with friends or family?
This struggle can cause frustration, competition and envy. Material items have the ability to become a stumbling block in our relationships with Christ and with others. Riches have the ability to kill, steal and destroy those relationships and to taint our minds, poisoning the unconditional love that we are called to have.
5. Do you love the things that God has given to you or do you merely enjoy them to His glory?”
This is the most important question of all. If you love your stuff, you will worship the gift rather than the giver Himself.
And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? (Mark 8:36.)
Today, choose to store up your treasures in Heaven. Do not chase trivial pursuits. Worship God instead of money, make disciples, love unconditionally, offer grace and forgiveness freely and give generously, for what you have today may be gone tomorrow.
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