Let me say first that we are not impoverished. I’ve seen poverty; it doesn’t look like my life. We have enough money to pay the bills and purchase food. We have enough money to give our children a weekly allowance and buy the occasional pizza. So, no, we’re not destitute. Also, I realize that many people live in much direr straights than ours, and I am not making light of that.
These days, we have to say ‘no’
much more often than we say ‘yes.’
Maybe I should put it like this: At this ‘season’ of our lives, we don’t have extra money. We don’t pay for any television service; we can’t go to the beach or get pedicures, and we earnestly pray that our cars keep running because major repairs would be a real problem. When it comes to things that cost money, we have to say ‘no’ much more often than we say ‘yes.’
This hasn’t always been the case for us. As God led us into the circumstances that created this situation, I began to look for what we might learn through this sort-of trial. (It’s not a real trial in the Biblical sense…more like a period of testing.) So far, I’ve discovered three things.
Faith and Wealth Are Often Inversely Proportional
Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? -James 2:5
It’s easier for poor people to trust God. When you have money, you need to work really hard to stay dependent on Jesus rather than depending on your finances. When you don’t have money, you’ve no choice but to trust Him for your daily needs, which increases your faith. It’s uncommon sense: being poor makes you rich.
Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us today our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). Like the Hebrew people in the wilderness gathered just enough manna for that day, He models praying for just enough to meet one’s needs on this day. It’s hard to pray those words with authenticity when you could buy a loaf of bread using your pocket change.
Less money ⇒ more faith.
More money ⇒ less faith.
So riches and faith are often inversely proportional. Yes, there are incredibly faithful wealthy people. I’m just saying that it’s much harder for them to remain in that state of dependence on God. For me, this lack of wealth has given me so many opportunities to trust Him and therefore, to glorify Him as He met our needs every time!
(There’s an implicit reference here to Matthew 5:3, where Jesus says the poor in spirit inherit the kingdom of heaven. I don’t have the space to dig into it here, but go for it, if you’re interested.)
Self-Discipline in One Area Affects Other Areas
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” -Matthew 16:24
I’ve never been very good at telling myself ‘no.’ Indulgences such as another piece of chocolate or a new pair of shoes or ten more minutes in a novel are natural to me. (I don’t think I’m alone in this.) And fasting? Just the thought of it makes my stomach growl. But in the last two years, I’ve said no to Starbucks, to movie dates, to new clothes, to nice furniture, to weekend getaways, etc. Having done all that, I find it easier to turn off the TV, to choose a special offering over ice cream, and yes, I’ve even fasted—twice!
Because I have been compelled to discipline my spending habits, spiritual disciplines have become more accessible. I’m as surprised by this as anyone.
Contentment Doesn’t Depend on Circumstances
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. –Philippians 4:12-13
There is much in American
life that I don’t need.
Have you ever noticed this before?!? Paul’s power statement that athletes tattoo on their arms and body builders quote in their gyms…it’s actually about contentment! (Context is supremely important.) In the last two years, I have learned that there is much I don’t need. I am not hurt by saying ‘no’ to this or that fun purchase. I’ve actually become more content as I bought less stuff and spent less on entertainment.
If someone handed me a new couch or a trip to the beach, I wouldn’t refuse them. After all, I’m not trying to be ascetic, nor am I testing out a vow of poverty. The simple fact is, I no longer feel like I need those things to be satisfied with my life…or even to be comfortable.
Don’t pat me on the back just yet. I’m still working on all this, and God challenges my pride/humility ratio daily when it comes to finances. I really have a hard time saying, “We can’t afford that.” I feel like I’ve learned enough, however, to pass some of it on to you. I pray that you are encouraged and challenged.
Becoming more content with less money: 3 Lessons from My Empty Wallet (click to tweet)
For further study: I Timothy 6:3-10, 17-19. Increased faithfulness doesn’t guarantee increased finances. Also Matthew 6:19-21.
What has God taught you about wealth, finances, money, etc.? What verses did He use? How did your life change as a result? We would all like to hear about you, so leave a comment below!