One of the big challenges for me as a believer, living in the world that I do, is trying to figure out how to manage the stuff we own. Words like stewardship, financial planning, wisdom, investment, generosity, living debt-free and justice are all bandied around within the Christian community when the topic of money is raised.
Often, I feel that “wise counsel” about money gives very contradictory advice. Should we “give generously to those who are hungry now, and trust God for the future?”, or should we “invest wisely for the future so as to not be a burden on our children?” Should be live simply, so as to avoid the meaninglessness of possessions; or should be enjoy the things that money can bring and just make sure we give a nod to God in thanks for His good gifts? Buy a big house and use it for ministry? Should I buy new clothes at all or embrace the life of thrift store shopping? Or is the Christian halfway point to commit to only buying things on clearance at Target? Should I listen to Shane Claiborne or Dave Ramsey?
Is anyone else confused?
My mind reels with those kinds of questions. Rich or poor, what does it mean to be “rich towards God” (Luke 12:21)
I have lots of questions about these issues, and thus far very few answers. But early in our marriage, my wise hubby did suggest one principle when it came to managing our belongings, and it has been the start-of-an-answer for me.
His Our rule of thumb when buying something is: if we’re not willing to lend it out, we shouldn’t own it.
This one little rule has helped me keep some perspective in both acquiring and using our belongings: they are for USE. If the car is too fancy to lend out to a friend in need, then then car is too fancy for us. If I’m not willing to lend out the dress, to offer our guest room, to say yes to a request to borrow the camping gear or to host a meeting for malodorous people – then I need to rethink the dress, the guest room, the camping gear, the sofa. People always need to trump possessions.
True- we try to be discerning. We don’t lend our car to unlicensed drivers. And sometimes things get returned damaged or with piece missing (anyone seen the straps for our thermarests?) But that’s okay: those possessions gave us an opportunity to love people, and so they did their work admirably.
It’s our simple attempt to apply Matthew 6:42 – “Do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”
I still have a lot of questions, but it’s a start.
photo credit: reluctant femme.com