The Bible talks a good deal about money and materialism. Money and materials are not bad things as long as we realize that God owns everything (Deut. 10:14, Psalm 24:1), including our money, and we are to be faithful stewards of the things he has given us (everything). There is much mention of being generous to the poor (Prov. 14:21, 31) and of course this requires that people have money to give. It is usually associated with hard work (Prov 10:4) and comes little by little, not in haste (Prov. 13:11). On the other hand, it will not provide security (Prov. 11:7) and excess of it can aid in forgetting or even denying God (Prov. 30:7-9). Again, money is not evil in itself but wealth can easily become a barrier to advancing or even entering the Kingdom of God. Where there is much wealth there is the tendency for one to put their hope in the uncertainty of it, as opposed to God who richly provides us with all things to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17).
In David Platt’s book Radical, he tells the story of how John Wesley put a cap on his lifestyle by identifying a modest level of expenses that he would live on every year.
“The first year his income surpassed that level by a small amount, and he gave that excess away. The next year his income increased, but he kept his standard of living the same, so he had more to give away. This continued year after year. At one point Wesley was making the equivalent of about $160,000 a year in today’s terms, but he was living as if he were making $20,000 a year. As a result, he had the equivalent of more than $140,000 to give away that year” (p. 128).
What if we chose to put a cap on our lifestyle? What if we identified a modest level of expenses that we would live on each year and gave the rest away? Let’s say you make $50,000 a year. Are there adjustments you could make that would allow you to live a $40,000 lifestyle with $10,000 available to advance the Kingdom of God to some of the neediest parts of the world? What luxuries could you do without (think hard about this one and your list will be more than short)?
In Indonesia it takes a mere $400 to build a home. Some of us will use the same amount in purchasing an iPhone, and iPad, setting up a sports multimedia bundle package at home, shopping for new shoes, new clothes, etc. We are to take the message of the Gospel of Christ to all nations, yet this Gospel also has hands that extend to our brothers and sisters worldwide who are “poorly clothed and lacking in daily food” (James 2:15). Our faith should produce these works (v. 17). John Calvin states,
God “has enjoined upon us frugality and temperance, and has forbidden, that any one should go to excess, taking advantage of his abundance. Let those, then, that have riches, whether they have been left by inheritance, or procured by industry and efforts, consider that their abundance was not intended to be laid out in intemperance or excess, but in relieving the necessities of the brethren.
Think about and pray about putting a cap on your lifestyle. In the next post I will list reasons why we should do this and some steps to aid us in doing so.