Frugality and Contentment are Clues

What can you do to be a wise steward of the resources God has given you? Sometimes good suggestions for practical living come from many sources. I have my Medicare supplemental insurance with Physician’s Mutual. A recent newsletter article offers some good tips for wise living. It included thoughts about frugality, contentment, and lifestyle choices. A link to the article is provided at the end of this post.

One Example of Hasty Behavior

Often in life, the easiest solution is to replace something that is old or broken. But that is also often the costliest solution. True, it takes time to repair something, if you have the tools and skills to do so. If not, having someone do the repairs can also be a frugal solution. The cost to replace just about anything is often far greater than just solving the current problem. That is why Dave Ramsey often says you should do careful homework when buying a car. Quite often, the best solution isn’t to replace your current car, but to keep it maintained and have it repaired when necessary.

The Broken Grass Catcher

I have a good Toro lawnmower. It generally starts on the first pull and it does a nice job. A friend has maintained it for me, so it has a sharp blade, clean filters, and fresh oil. Recently, however, the grass catcher frame welds broke. The catcher still worked, but putting it on and taking it off to empty the grass clippings was a clumsy task. I searched online to look for a replacement bag.

Repaired Toro grass catcher frame

I was stunned. The replacement was going to cost at least $65. As I thought about this, it seemed to me that repairing the broken weld was the best option. Unfortunately, I am not a welder so I don’t own welding equipment. Thankfully, I know at least one man who welds as a part of his employment, so I asked him if he could recommend a place where I could get a quick spot weld to fix the bag’s frame. He was generous and said he would do the weld. Not only did he reweld the part, he made the weld better than the original weld and then he repainted the frame. Total cost was $0. This makes it possible for us to continue to use a very good lawn mower and dedicate the savings to other more important things. This took more time, but it was a model I have followed time-after-time. New isn’t always necessary or wise.

So what are the underlying wealth behaviors? How should we view and handle wealth? One way is the wealthy Swedish farmer model. Another is the “Jack Benny” model.

Wealth Behaviors

Jack Benny used his “vault” as part of his comedy on television

Several words describe the way we can handle, oversee, and utilize wealth:

  1. Miser comes to mind. The miser hoards wealth and won’t share it My grandfather tells the story of a wealthy neighbor who was a farmer in Sweden. The farmer and his family were well-fed and prosperous, but they never offered even a slice of bread to my grandfather when he was a boy. No one wants to admit they are miserly, but many are. At the core, this is hating a brother in need. 1 John 3:17-18 (ESV) says, “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”
  2. Greedy. More never satisfies. These are never satisfied with what they already have. They are the ones who want bigger barns to store their increasing wealth that never satisfies. As the barns increase, the desire for more and the next barn increases. They are often gluttons. Greed is really an insidious cancer. Psalm 10:3 says: “For the wicked boasts of the desires of his soul, and the one greedy for gain curses and renounces the Lord.” In other words, greed points to a heart issue that is directly opposed to God’s purposes and heart.
  3. Cheapskate. This is the stingy person. Jack Benny’s show used humor to portray him as very tight with money. Cheapskates do anything to avoid spending a buck. But there is no real purpose behind their stingy lifestyle. During a television skit with Lucille Ball, Jack once said he didn’t plan to take money out of his vault, but he liked to go in and fondle it. The scriptures are quick to point out the error of this thinking as well.
  4. Frugal, but with a purpose. These carefully manage their wealth, whether great or small, so that they can do something now or later that has more value than satisfying short-term wants. They save some of their seeds for future sowing or sharing. Jesus communicated this when he spoke to a man he loved: “And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’” Mark 10:21
  5. Generous. Some realize they don’t own what they possess. They have temporary custody. As a result, they look for ways to make a difference in the lives of others. God is a model of wealth and generosity, so it should come as no surprise that God wants us to model his heart and actions. “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.” 1 Timothy 6:17-19

Which of the five typify your thinking and your life? Don’t be hasty in your answer. Think about your last twelve months of choices and opportunities. Can you really support your initial reaction with actions and behaviors that support your conclusion? Perhaps you are just waiting for “a time when I have more to give.” But even this reveals a great deal about our hearts and what we really love.

If I had more, I would be generous.

Different sources come to different conclusions. Many studies, however, have concluded that the wealthy tend to be less generous as a percentage of their discretionary income. We can’t know the motivations behind giving and generosity. In my work helping those who mismanage their wealth, it is clear that giving is often a low priority. This includes those who are “poor” and those who have more. It saddens me when I read things like the following. Lest you think this is a jab at the poor, the middle-class giving saddens me as well.

“The rich aren’t the most generous. Middle-class Americans give a far bigger share of their discretionary income to charities than the rich. Households that earn $50,000 to $75,000 give an average of 7.6 percent of their discretionary income to charity, compared with an average of 4.2 percent for people who make $100,000 or more.” The Chronicle of Philanthropy, August 19, 2012 ARTICLE

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