A Wall Street Journal article (5-13-88) entitled “The Gimme Generation” made the following statements:
There was a time when most of us bought things because we needed them.
[T]here were . . . temptations, but people resisted them.
Then we got richer, and we began to buy things because we wanted them. We still told ourselves we needed them, but the truth was we often didn’t.
Now we may have reached the apogee of consumerism. [Note: “apogee” means the highest point.]
The article concluded by stating “[B]umper stickers say, ‘I Shop, Therefore I Am.’ Nowadays, this is only half a joke.”
A somewhat similar perspective is provided by A. L. Williams, the founder of an insurance company bearing his name. On pages 6-7 of his pamphlet entitled Common Sense, he made the following statements about spending money:
If you are like most people, you spend money on things that you don’t really need.
[A]long with setting priorities comes one tough rule of life; you can’t have everything.
The statements in The Wall Street Journal and by A. L. Williams both indicate that many people are not controlling their spending.
Furthermore, spending usually doesn’t provide long-term satisfaction. Another article in The Wall Street Journal (6-18-06) states, “[M]ost people constantly strive to raise their standard of living. They are forever aiming for the better car, the bigger house or the larger paycheck, only to become quickly dissatisfied once they get what they want.”
Perhaps, you should ask yourself if you are spending your money according to God’s will. In a newsletter entitled Money Matters, Larry Burkett, who was a prominent Christian writer and lecturer on family financial matters, cited the following statements by Dr. Charles Ryrie:
How we use our money demonstrates the reality of our love for God. In some ways it proves our love more conclusively than depth of knowledge, length of prayers, or prominence of service. These things can be feigned, but the use of our possessions shows us up for what we actually are.
A good place to start in determining how your money should be spent is by making sure that your financial contributions to help carry out Christian ministries are in accordance with what the Bible teaches. I Corinthians 16:2 instructs us that giving should be regular (“on the first day of the week”) and proportionate (“as he may prosper”).
[Note: When we quote Scripture in this article, we use the wording in the New King James Version of the Bible.]
Several scriptures, including Malachi 3:10, indicate that a tithe — which means “a tenth” — is the minimum that God wants us to give to His ministries. [For a more thorough discussion of financial contributions, particularly tithing, see our article entitled “Why Tithe?”]
On page 440 of his book entitled The Complete Guide to Managing Your Money, Larry Burkett offered the following comments with regard to tithing:
Tithing is an important principle for a Christian because it demonstrates a commitment to God in the most visible area of our lives: the area of money. . . . One part of your long-term plan should be to reduce your monthly expenses so that you can give God His portion too. . . . God will honor the commitment of your heart. He doesn’t care about the money nearly as much as He cares about your heart’s attitude.
After you have made a decision regarding your financial contributions, the next step is to decide on the criteria you will use in making other spending decisions. Ron Blue, another prominent Christian writer and lecturer on family financial matters, on page 20 of his book entitled Master Your Money, stated that one implication of believing God is really the owner of all that we possess is that “Every spending decision is a spiritual decision. . . . As a steward, I have a great deal of latitude, but I am still responsible to the Owner. Some day I will give an accounting of how I used His property.” In other words, God allows us considerable freedom as managers of the financial resources that He has given to us, but we are responsible to Him for how we use those resources.
When attempting to decide if an expenditure is appropriate, determine if any scriptures in the Bible raise a legitimate doubt. Two basic criteria should be helpful in this regard.
- Determine if the expenditure that you are considering is motivated by the love of things. I John 2:15 cautions us, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” While it is not a sin to have things, the scripture indicates that it is a sin to love them.
- Decide if the expenditure is likely to affect your spiritual growth or your ability to glorify God. The apostle Paul said in I Corinthians 6:12, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” A modern example might be ownership of a boat that may induce a Christian to go regularly to a lake on Sundays to use the boat and, therefore, cause the Christian to be less faithful in attending church.
In making a decision about an expenditure, it is also important to consider the needs and wants of the other members of your family, especially your spouse. I Timothy 5:8 states, “[I]f anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
In addition, if an expenditure would put you in debt, it would be wise to think about what the Bible says about borrowing. [For a biblical perspective regarding borrowing, see our article entitled “OK To Use Credit?”]
Last, but certainly not least, ask God to give you wisdom about making spending decisions, particularly those that will involve a relatively large dollar amount. James 1:5 tells us, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” Ron Blue stated on page 119 of his previously cited book, “God is pleased to give you creative ways to reduce your expenses when you come to Him humbly asking for His guidance and wisdom.”