Frugality. Spend any time at all in the blogosphere (particularly in the female arena), and you’ll soon realize that it’s quite the hot topic these days. After all, there are whole, entire websites and blogs devoted to the art of being frugal.* Generally speaking, the term resides soley within the sphere of economics. In other words, it’s about saving money.
There are many reasons to be frugal. For some people, it’s just plain fun. Others do it to be wise stewards of what God has given them. A few are driven out of necessity, and still more pursue frugality in the present for the purpose of having wealth in the future. In fact, even for Americans in general, economist David Rosenberg claims that “frugality is in, extravagance is out.”
Frugality comes in many different forms. Sometimes it’s simply another case of affluenza—how can I get the most stuff at the lowest cost to me? Other times it is a tool to be used to get out of debt. Or perhaps it is to feel security in financial stability (in place of finding that security in Christ). For others, it is truly about living simply in order to be giving generously.
One unfortunate form of frugality is idolatry. Pull back the cloak of frugality, and you’ll see an ugly idol behind it all. Somewhere along the way, it either began as or became an idol that, like a slavemaster, drives its bondsmen to astonishing extremes. (We’ve all heard about the old lady who died seemingly poor, but thousands of dollars were found stuffed in her furniture.) The quest for saving money, for whatever reason, all too quickly becomes an all-consuming end. When really, it should be a means, rather than an end.
But what about stewardship? As Christians, that’s what we’re really called to be exercising. Yet frugality is only a small facet, and sometimes out of necessity it must be excluded if we are to be true stewards in other areas.
And for what are we called to be stewards of? The mysteries of God. And what is required of us as stewards? To be faithful. True, the Bible does talk a lot about money. 1 Timothy 6, in fact, tells us that the love of it is the “root of all evil.” We hear it a lot, but do we really think about it? If I knew loving something was the root, the cause, beginning, or orgin, of all evil—wickedness and depravity, is it really something I want to pursue? I think, instead, it would be something I’d want to stay as far away from as possible!
So let’s take a step back. What love are we really pursuing here? Is it money? More things? Wealth? Security? The good of others? The glory of God?
Let’s consider for a moment living frugally for the good of others and the glory of God. With very few exceptions, we American families have so much more than we could ever need. Yet does an overwhelming desire to be frugal hinder us from being hospitable toward others? Or does the ultimate goal of saving money consume all of our time so that we have none left to give? Consider for a moment how in the Old Testament, God’s people were told that when they reaped their harvest they were not to glean afterward, but to leave the extras for “the poor and the stranger.” What a testimony amongst the lost and fellow believers we could have by doing the same.
Hmm…maybe when there is a super sale, I don’t have to take the entire stock—I can leave some behind for others. Or maybe when the cashier doesn’t understand that my internet coupon really is valid, that I just leave things as they are—for the sake of the glory of God. Or perhaps I know people who need a bit of assistance, and I can either teach them some of what I’ve learned…or maybe just drop a few groceries and toiletries by. At what expense am I being frugal–my family? my home? my friendships? my ministry to others? Being Biblically frugal should aid in these areas, not hinder them.
There may be seasons of our lives where living very frugally is a necessity. There will also be seasons where giving generously is required. More often, we’ll be at points where we should be doing both. Lets carefully examine our hearts—our motives—for being frugal. God may require for some of us to go without being “frugal” for a while so that we may more fully place our trust in Him. Or He may require for some of us to simply be more generous. But regardless, let us not forget the fuller picture here. Being a good steward goes beyond saving money. It should involve not only spending less, but having less. Lest we be quick to judge others, let us remember that there are some who really cannot afford to provide a meal, to buy a gift, or to give financially. And for most of us, learning to live below our means is a good thing, and we should learn how to invest our money wisely, be thrifty, and seek out good deals. It’s just helpful sometimes to take a step back and gain some perspective.
What I’ve written is just a portion of what I’m currently learning. Don’t get me wrong–I’m all about saving money when I can. And I think that doing so is one of the ways I can be a wise steward and a virtuous wife. Just read more of this blog if you don’t believe me. But more importantly, I want to “be all about” glorifying God, even if it means I’m not being what is considered frugal.
*And they’re something I’m thankful for!
In the midst of writing this post, I came across this article by Tim Challies. Much of what he wrote, I had already written. And in fact, most of what I said, he had already said…in remarkably similar ways. But his idea on gleaning was something that I had not originally thought of ; I added that idea after I’d written my other thoughts. Just wanting to give credit where due!
Image courtesy of allposters.com