In his book Radical, David Platt talks about the cap that John Wesley put on his lifestyle by identifying a modest level of expenses that he would live on every year and giving the rest away. You can catch up on this in Part 1. In this post, I want to give 5 reasons why you should consider putting a cap on your lifestyle and 5 practical steps in helping you do so.
REASONS TO CAP
1. It is An Issue of the Heart
People make choices each day that produce either earthy rewards or heavenly rewards. Earthly rewards are ultimately destroyed while heavenly rewards are not. We are either aiming to be rich in this world, or rich in God. The location of the treasure we are storing up in turn tells us where our heart is (Matthew 6:21).
2. There Are Dangers That Accompany Riches
All throughout the Word of God there are warnings that accompany riches and wealth. For example, with it comes difficulty entering the Kingdom of God (Luke 18:5), temptation, snares, harmful desires, ruin and destruction, the love of it is the root of all kinds of evil, and can even lead to an abandonment of the faith (1 Timothy 6:9-10). This is not to say these things happen to all wealthy people (we will get to that below), but articulates the danger when wealth meets fallen man.
3. To Proclaim and Advance The Kingdom of God
In the Great Commission, since all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus, we therefore go. We go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to observe what Jesus has commanded. As we send missionaries out to proclaim the Gospel to other nations, we must remember that this takes money. If we cap our lifestyle and have money to give we can support (or go) and advance the proclamation of the Gospel to all nations. This Gospel goes out by mouth, but is accompanied with hands to help the poor and needy. In 2012 the median household income in American was $51,000 while the Republic of Niger in western Africa noted 93% of its inhabitants living in poverty and 70% of its people living on $1.25 a day. That is $456 a year. Even the little bit we are able to give away can mean much to other nations.
4. Simplicity Produces Happiness
This is one of the clearest truths, but the hardest for people to grasp. People desire to have many things, much money, and it has shown time and time again not only to not produce happiness, but to actually cause more stress and worry. If the desire people have to get rich became a reality, it would still not satisfy, as the love of money is never satisfied (Ecclesiastes 5:10). I do not have the finances to buy a luxury car or to take cruises every year, but what if I were in a position to do so? The possibility of obtaining greater things would always be there, lurking, especially since it would then be a reality. If we keep our lifestyle simple, the temptation for excess will not be there.
5. People That Give are the Happiest People
Proverbs 14:21 states, “Happy is he who is gracious to the poor” (NASB). People who give freely are the happiest people. If you do not believe me, try it and imagine being able to do so often! Take $20 from every paycheck and find someone to spend it on or give it to; pay for a person’s meal or gas, give it to a struggling college student, buy a meal for the homeless, give it to a missionary, etc. Jesus said clearly, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35)
GET TO CAPPIN’
1. Get Out of Debt
“The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender” (Proverbs 22:7). As long as we are slaves to debt we cannot be free to give. Instead we need to give it back to those whom it is due (Proverbs 2:27-28). So the first thing you must do if you wish to cap your lifestyle and give is to pay off your debts. A great place to start is Dave Ramsey’s Complete Guide to Money. I am always skeptical of these money gurus but I took his course at my church and greatly benefited from it. His whole reason for helping you get your finances in order is to eventually get you to a place where you can give it all away. Great Christian guy and great program!
While you pay off your debts, make sure you are still tithing. Tithing is honoring our God who created and owns everything including our money (Psalm 24:1). It affirms our dependence on him and maintains our trust in Him. There is always and will always be something you could spend your tithe money on; a bill, gas, new clothes.etc. Tithing keeps our greed and covetousness in check, it keeps our every increasing desire for more in restraints, and is God’s way of faithfully providing for us (2 Cor. 9:8). God loves a cheerful giver.
3. Budget and Determine What is Excess
Take time to write out all of your expenses (bills, gas money, groceries, medical expenses, cable, etc.) and get a big picture of where all of your money is going. Try to find areas you can cut completely or lower the cost on. Then determine how much it takes per month for you to live on and set that as your budget. Do you need a full cable TV package? NFL package? Do you need a home phone alongside your cell phone? You will probably be surprised at the amount of luxury you could eliminate. Be rich in God, not in the things of the earth.
4. Store up your treasures in heaven
Here is where I want to place my disclaimer. Amid the call to simplicity, sacrifice, and giving, we are not all called to sell everything and become a midwife in the New Birth of indigenous people groups. There is wisdom and enjoyment in the money God has given us. For instance, “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children” (Proverbs 13:22). Grandparents are supposed to leave an inheritance for their grandchildren. Also, hard work leads to increased prosperity (Proverbs 10:4) and our families must be provided for (1 Timothy 5:8). The point is that since it is all God’s money, it is not bad in itself. It turns bad when our earthly treasures drag us down and when it is forgotten that God has entrusted us with that money. There are many out there who make big salaries and are rock solid Christians, yet realize that God has entrusted them with a large amount of it and they must be wise in how they handle it. Praise God for his blessing in your life. There are also many who are living check to check and are not at a place where they can give away anything. In either case, make sure your handling of money is according to God’s word and is heavenly driven. If you are struggling to get by, get rid of the excessive baggage (cable TV, cell phone plan, Excursion, etc.) until you are on your feet. These things, at this point in time, will keep your treasures exclusively earthly. On the other hand, if you are making bank you are able to make a huge impact on the Kingdom of God and must be sure your heart seeks its treasures in heaven. Make sure to read what God says about His money.
I realize that many times this is used as a cop out (or to fill a number on a list), however, its importance is grand. Getting out of debt, giving to the needy, spreading the Gospel, etc., are all things God desires we do. Why not then call out to him to put you in the position to do these things. He is faithful and hears your prayers.