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A life devoted to things is a dead life, a stump; a God-shaped life is a flourishing tree. - Proverbs 11:28 (MSG)
So my husband may or may not be known for being frugal. Now, his frugality has served us all well over the years, but every once in a while, it gives us a little something to laugh about.
A couple of years ago, he was looking for a device he could wear on his wrist that would notify him when his phone was ringing since he can’t always hear it at his workplace. As you can imagine, he didn’t really want to invest in any of the expensive brands that most people want, like Fitbit or Apple Watch. He found something online for less than $30—what a bargain! Once it arrived, he spent several hours figuring out how to get the display into English. We were all pretty skeptical of his purchase and gave him a hard time. I even started calling it his “Fakebit,” just to have a little fun with him.
Fast forward a month and, well... I ended up asking him to order one for me too! Turns out, it worked really well, the app was easy to use, and you couldn’t beat the price! And now, most of the people in our household have one, as well as several of our friends. I went ahead and said, “You told me so” to my husband just to get it out of the way.
See, the value in things is not in how much they cost, but in how useful they are. It was cheap, but it worked and served its intended purpose well! It perfectly met our specific need. What would have been the good in paying 10 times as much for something to meet the exact same need?
Most of the things we want, we don’t really need. And when we do need something, do we use our money wisely? When we were first married, he was still frugal, but I was used to being generous and giving money when opportunities arrived. We had to work through that, and we have balanced each other out over the years. I have grown to learn that accepting his frugality allows us to use our money for the needs of others that God puts in front of us—money that wouldn’t otherwise have been available (because I would have given it to the first thing that came along). God has blessed us by giving us opportunities to wisely bless others.
Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless. - Ecclesiastes 5:10 (NIV)
A few weeks ago, we ended up watching some Veggie Tales videos with the kids. (Although this sounds normal, our youngest is 16, so it was more about reminiscing than keeping them occupied). After the necessary “Silly Songs Countdown,” we watched Madame Blueberry, which was always one of my favorites when the kids were little.
The story is basically about a lady blueberry who lives in a treehouse and wants ALL THE THINGS! Now, I realize that a story about a blueberry living in a treehouse doesn’t sound like a story we could learn anything from, but stay with me. She wants things she doesn’t have, just because her friends have them. (Sound relevant yet?) Things really go downhill for her when they open a new “Stuffmart” near her house. She ends up buying so much stuff that her house flies out of the tree.
But during her travels to Stuffmart, she comes across a family who doesn’t have a lot of stuff, but they have what they need. They even sing a song about it—a song that has a tremendous amount of wisdom, even though it’s sung by talking cartoon vegetables:
I thank God for this day, for the sun in the sky,
for my mom and my dad, for my piece of apple pie!
For our home on the ground, for His love that’s all around.
That’s why I say thanks every day.
Because a thankful heart is a happy heart,
I’m glad for what I have.
That’s an easy way to start.
For the love that He shares, 'cause He listens to my prayers.
That’s why I say thanks every day.
The danger in spending too much time pondering all that we don’t have is that we forget to be grateful for all that we do have. You could have so much stuff that your house can’t hold it, and you will still not be satisfied, because no amount of money or things will ever satisfy the longing in your heart.
Solomon, who the Bible tells us was rich beyond our wildest dreams, came to the conclusion that it was all meaningless because it didn’t satisfy. God made a lot of great things for us to enjoy. He also made a lot of smart people who invented even more things for us to enjoy. We just have to keep them in their proper place. As Scott Nickell has told us more than once, "When a good thing becomes an ultimate thing, it becomes a destructive thing."
If you are interested in learning more about budgeting and using your money wisely, check out southland.church/groups. Our fall directory will open soon with Financial Peace University groups.Share Tweet
Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. - 1 Timothy 6:6-7 (NLT)
The gilded columns were just a small part of the amazing architecture. The sunlight beaming in through the stained glass windows was warm and inviting. Every wall was covered in artwork that could rightfully be in any of the best museums. Visitors were taking pictures as they stared in amazement at the impressive structure. But no one seemed to notice the purpose of the building.
The windows had bars, but no glass thankfully, as it let the smallest breeze in the extremely hot room. We sat, packed in tightly, on rough handmade wooden benches, and our feet rested on the loose dirt that made up the floor. It wasn’t much to look at, but the Spirit of the Lord was there.
The first description is of a famous cathedral I visited in Spain. As I walked into the cathedral, I had to pass numerous beggars on the stairs. I couldn’t help but notice the contrast between their tattered clothes and the lavish and expensive decorations all around. At the expense of being cliche, “What would Jesus do?” Where would He have spent His time and resources if He were there?
The second description is of a humble church I had the privilege of working with on my first trip to Haiti. During that church service, I had no idea what anyone was saying, but I saw faith and hope in the face of adversity. I saw tears of pain and joy as they humbly cried out to the Lord. I saw unmatched gratitude for every bite of food and the Lord’s new mercies every morning. The people in this community had almost nothing in terms of physical possessions, but they had Jesus.
I realized that all the things I had weren’t making my life easier—they were making it harder to focus on Jesus. They were distracting me and cluttering up my life. We have to be able to put things in their proper place.
In Matthew 19:24 (ESV), when Jesus said, “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God,” He wasn’t saying that you shouldn’t have anything. He was saying that the more you have, the harder it is to see clearly. The harder it is to depend on Jesus and not yourself or your things, because you and your things will let you down every time.
Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity. - 1 John 2:15-17 (MSG)
In 2018, financial firm TD Ameritrade released data stating that 29% of divorced Baby Boomers and 41% of divorced GenX-ers said the main cause of their divorce was disagreements over money. A recent study also found that arguing over money was the No. 1 predictor of divorce.
A 2019 article in Business Insider listed the top 12 reasons couples fight over money. These included things such as mismatched priorities, debt, financial infidelity (secret spending or saving), living beyond their means, impulse buying, and even spending too much on the wedding!
God has given us principles that cover all of those topics, and they are applicable to married and single people alike. God speaks against debt, deceit, and our priorities over and over again in His Word because He knows those things can lead us astray, and because they have the potential to destroy our relationships. The problem isn’t just the money itself. The problem is when it takes over our hearts.
Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:21 (NIV), For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. He knows our hearts can’t have two masters. And you may have noticed—money is a terrible master. When we put things like money and material possessions in the wrong place, we can forget that this world is not our home, that the things of this world are not what we are working for, that God’s plan for us isn't only about us, and that God’s heart for His creation is our real goal.
When we misalign these priorities, we start to think that our success, achievements, and possessions define us. They don’t. And even if you think they do now, no one is loading up your stuff in a moving truck to follow the hearse at your funeral.
God’s heart for you is…. God’s heart. He loves you and knows that true contentment and peace can only be found by following His heart. Our hearts, feelings, and desires will lie to us and lead us down the wrong path that only leads to more discontentment.
And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? - Mark 8:36 (NLT)
Do we live like we believe the words of Jesus?
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” This quote is from the journal of Jim Elliott, famed missionary who died at the hands of those he was trying to reach in Ecuador in 1956. Elliott and the other missionaries who died alongside him lived as if they actually believed the words of Jesus in Mark 8:36.
In Matthew 6:19-21 (NLT), Jesus gives us some perspective when He says, “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” Elliott and those with him had placed their treasures and their hearts in Heaven.
Towards the end of my great-aunt’s life, she was experiencing dementia, and after she died, we found all kinds of interesting notes. My favorite was in an old metal Sucrets box filled with paper clips. Let’s just say she was issuing a warning to any who dared to take one of her paper clips. Are there things in your life that you are treating with this kind of disproportionate concern?
Do you focus on how your kids look and what kind of clothes they wear, or do you focus on if they are learning to look like Jesus? Do you worry about driving the latest and greatest vehicle, or do you let the Holy Spirit drive your priorities?
There is nothing wrong with having nice clothes or a nice car, but make sure it is not at the expense of your heart. Not only can these things be taken away at any moment, you can’t take them with you! All the nice things in the world will get you exactly nowhere in the end if you don’t have a heart that seeks the Lord above all else.