Why We Do What We Do…Part II: Overspending

“Each of you should use whatever gifts you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10

Does God really care if I buy an extra pair of shoes, a movie, some video games, or that magazine? Doesn’t God have bigger problems then how I spend my money? Isn’t that a bit extreme? After reading Luke 12:35-48 (I’d highly recommend checking it out) I’m convinced it is not too extreme and everything we do is important. Our Master is returning and we’re busy goofing off. He has entrusted us with material and spiritual gifts and He is watching us right now to see if we are using them faithfully. It bears no significance that our name is on the paycheck; it all belongs to Him. (1 Cor. 10:26) Consider this; Jesus is standing in front of you with a wad of cash, assuring you can do whatever you want with it. I don’t know about you, but my first response probably wouldn’t be running to Outback Steakhouse, buying a new T.V., or taking a trip to Disneyland. I’m guessing I would be motivated and obligated to use it for the hungry and needy. I couldn’t say for sure that’s what I’d do, but I have my dreams.

The reality is, every Friday (or whatever the pay day is), we are presented with that very same opportunity! Yes, we have bills to pay and things we need for our survival, but how much of that is truly spent wisely? If Jesus looked through your checkbook register, would you be embarassed? I know I would be. Let’s spend a moment clearing out our spiritual garden again, digging up the roots to our spending habits.

Root #1: I Lust with My Eyes

“For everything in the world-the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life-comes not from the Father but from the world.” 1 John 2:16

It’s impossible to make an unwise purchase without the sin of lust being involved. We didn’t buy that 80″ big screen television because we had no choice. We saw it with our eyes, we wanted it, we lusted after it, so we bought it! If we want to be good stewards of our finances, we must rectify our eyes of lust, and ask God to give us new eyes; kingdom eyes. Does that mean buying items for entertainment is sin? Only you and God know what is sin for you and your finances (James 4:17 again). If He has convicted you of a certain spending issue, and you ignore it, you are sinning. What’s a sin for me may not be a sin for you; it is up to me and you to listen to the Holy Spirit’s conviction and obey. Maybe you could try praying before making such a purchase, and see what God has to say.

Root #2: I am Discontent

“The fear of the Lord leads to life: Then one rests content.” Proverbs 19:23 (Emphasis mine)

A spirit of discontentment will most assuredly lead to over-spending. If we  found our contenment in God, we would be less tempted to buy junk we don’t really need. Jesus warns us, “Life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” (Luke 12:15) Paul instructs us to be content in godliness, rather than accumulation of things. (1 Tim. 6:6) We need to ask ourselves: are we content with what we have or are we constantly looking to have more? (1 Tim. 6:8)

Root #3: I am an Idolator

“Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolator, worshiping the things of this world.” Colossians 3:5 (NLT)

“Greed causes fighting; trusting in the Lord leads to prosperity.” Proverbs 28:25

Ouch! All I have to do is be greedy (selfish) and I am labeled as an idolator! How many times throughout a given day am I more concerned with my rights then the rights of those around me? Selfish ambition is greed. The deep desire for self leads us into all sorts of ugliness, one of which is over-spending. I want what I want and I want it now! I have the money, so why not? Once again we need to consider the source of our desire. Are we making wise choices or selfish choices? I have a friend who almost never makes new purchases for her children. She always uses hand-me-downs from families and friends yet her kids have some pretty cool toys. Many of them were used and they work just as well. We may look at used things as being beneath us or not good enough for us; this is another source of pride, selfishness, and greed. Once again I implore you to seek God’s counsel before making any purchase.

If you’re looking to increase the kingdom of God, and use your finances to glorify Him, consider the above roots and whether they have held a place in your spiritual garden. Seek new ways to be a blessing to someone else, rather then feeding your own desires. One of the best ways to get kingdom focused is to focus on the needs of those around you,  keeping in mind the nice things you have are not going to eternity with you.

(For more information on frugality, see America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right On The Money or Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half with America’s Cheapest Family by Steve and Annette Economides: America’s Cheapest Family. You can also see their bio and info on facebook.)

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Demolished Expectations

I have a nasty habit of having expectations as high as a skyscraper. Usually they crumble with as much force as a scheduled demolition. This time I asked God to lower my expectations, if not demolish them completely.  I wanted to be proactive,”Lord, please help me to have a grateful heart.”

Mother’s day arrived, and I remembered my prayer. Yet I still found myself oddly expectant of something great. Unfortunately for me, God hadn’t forgetten my prayer.  Deep down, despite my prayer, I expected to come home from church to a beautiful bursting bouquet and an expensive electronic device I hinted at wanting the day before.

Near the end of the Sunday class, my phone began to vibrate. I saw my husband calling and had the immediate sense it wasn’t going to be good. He never called me when he knew I was in church. As soon as the class let out I called him back.

“What’s wrong?” I asked immediately.

“I’m broken down on the side of the road with a flat tire, and the cheapest one I’ve been able to find is almost $300. Apparently I have a ‘rare’ rim size.”

I felt disappointment drench me like a broken dam.

God allowed me plenty of time throughout the Mother’s Day message to ruminate over my shattered expectations. He reminded me I had asked for divine intervention on this issue. I was beginning to think I should have been more specific. “One dozen roses instead of two, Lord, thanks.” With new resolve, however, I decided to be ok with whatever waited for me, choosing to be thankful for my husbands safety and ability to get what he needed for his truck.

After the service ended, Samantha and I were walking to the car when she erupted in tears. After 30 minutes of hysteria she finally told me what was wrong which further exasperated me. She was mad because there was a toy she didnt get to play with in Sunday School. Really?! By the time I got home, I was nothing short of ticked off. First the flat tire, now this. My pout-fest rivaled that of a 2 year old. When I walked in the door I found 2 roses in a vase and a chocolate cake covered in strawberries.

At first I thought it was sweet my husband spent a couple bucks on flowers despite our recent financial burden, but then I noticed the checkbook. He had obviously found a used tire much cheaper than anticipated. I glanced back at the flowers and felt anger brewing rapidly. What made it even worse was knowing full well (thanks to the Holy Spirit) my attitude was wrong. He had that much money to work with, and I got two little roses! Not to mention the decadent chocolate cake; don’t get me started! He knows my struggles with an eating disorder, yet he still purchases tempting food as a gift! Doesn’t he know me at all?!

He handed me a piece of paper freshly printed. It had pictures of him with Samantha, and some other meaningful memories. It also said something about me being a superwoman. He had made me a card. I was even upset about that.

I sat on the couch and sulked while Samantha continued her cry-fest in her room. Eventually everything calmed down, and, sensing my disappointment, my husband insisted on taking me to a restaurant so I didn’t have to cook. With all the attitude I could muster I agreed.

The meal was one of the best I have ever had. I was immediately pleased. I guess it’s rare that I eat something so delicious I feel overwhelmed with gratitude. This time, though, I know the Holy Spirit was working. I ate my meal in absolute bliss and noticed my husband. It was at that moment God chose to show me my ungrateful, selfish attitude. I apologized to Chris, and expressed my thanks for how hard he tried to make my day special. I admitted I had been a…well, I admitted I was less than a superwoman.

Later that afternoon a migraine set in, capping off the day with an exclamation point. I had completely forgotten about my sensitivity to red wine which I had drank with my dinner. (I might drink a glass of wine once every few months, making the irony even more poignant.) This morning I still have this migraine, but I am oddly aware of God’s presence in the chaos of yesterday.

Everything that happened was a direct result of God answering my prayer to adjust my expectations. He didn’t just adjust them, he annihilated them. Even more ironic, he used me as the tool; revealing heart issues that needed correcting and offering me an opportunity for repentance.

“To Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be the glory.” Ephesians 3:20