I’m here to tell you that spending less is not the goal; I’m here to tell you that spending BETTER will revolutionize your life. I mean it. But we can’t even talk about spending until you realize that you don’t own all that stuff and money you’ve managed to pile up. Let’s get to that and we’ll end up dealing with your spending questions along the way. D’accord?
Americans spend money we don’t have, all the time, at every level and, boy howdy, do we suffer the consequences of that spending. So, it makes sense that most personal finance gurus love to focus on spending reduction as top priority when they give you their prescription for financial greatness. Their maxim is simple: ‘financial freedom’ = curbing spending.
Mm… okay. Maybe. Sometimes.
There is truth to this (yes, you are definitely overspending if you’re eating crème fraiche on a FroYo income), but here’s where the Wallet diverges: we aren’t trying to get you to early retirement or freedom through passive income (we have more to say on a life of work elsewhere). We want you to become an impact player in the never-ending and always-advancing Kingdom of God. (No big deal.) In light of this, you will be disappointed by this post if you’re hoping to be told whether or not you’re allowed to buy that motorcycle you’ve had your eye on…
That doesn’t mean we don’t want to talk about spending with you! We do. But first, let’s remind ourselves where we’re coming from:
We are stewards of the money that we have been entrusted with, NOT owners. Just as this changes our relationship to giving money away, it affects how we spend: Because I’m an authorized steward of resources (which are all owned by the Father), I’m free to deploy these Kingdom assets as best as I see fit. If the money were MINE (that is, if I were an owner), I’d be wondering, “Okay, what are God’s minimum requirements? What do I HAVE to do with any part of this money, so that the rest is mine to do with as I please?”
I have seen this play on repeat in the church house as debates persist and well-intentioned Jesus followers ask each other whether the Father requires a pre- or post- tax tithe. This always comes from an ownership mentality. Let’s take a look at Luke 16:10:
Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. 11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12 And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?
He gave you resources to invest because you need to prove out some mettle with something as eternally vapid as money in order to be shown trustworthy with… I dunno… MEN’S SOULS (aka true riches). If this is the case, then money is put into our charge in order to be deployed for the advancing of the Kingdom. The idea that we could please the Father by kicking back a few bucks His way is offensive, at best.
Now how does this impact spending and giving? It adds virtually infinite freedom and accountability to our money. Whereas the owner gives out of his pile and uses the remainder for whatever he wants, with no accountability to anyone but himself, the steward is a manager for the King’s assets. So the fact that you saw it as the best use for 10% of these assets to go into the giving bucket has zero implications for what you think the best use of the next 50% of these assets should be. You’ll be held accountable for all of it – because you don’t own any of it. It could all go into the giving bucket. Or not.
At the same time, all of the resources under your care as a steward belong to the Owner whose storehouses are infinite. So relax a bit! Even if you lose it all with a good heart, the Owner can provide you with more! On the flip side, even if you return to your Master a profit of 50x, it was all His to begin with and it’s all his now! There is huge fun and freedom in that realization!
And now we can get back to the question of spending. Hopefully it’s clear that your job is to put as much thought behind your spending as you do behind your giving – because it’s all just doling out the Owner’s resources. You can faithfully deploy those resources through giving, investing, celebration, rest, education, etc etc etc. You live in a minefield of lies about spending, but shifting your understanding from an ownership mentality to a stewardship mentality will render MANY of those lies helpless against you.