I recently came across an interesting discussion on the MOPS forum: Is it wrong for a Christian to spend $300, (or some other large amount), on a handbag? The point wasn’t so much the handbag–you could easily insert designer clothes, sunglasses, shoes, or even something completely unrelated to apparel and accessories, (and often even more expensive), such as a fancy car or a vacation, or even going out to dinner regularly. The real point was, should a Christian designate any extra funds that could be applied to what some would consider lavish purchases toward mission work instead?
I thought this was a very interesting conversation. And for an individual, I don’t think there is any one right answer. Of course, Christian liberty says that we *can* spend the money on such things, but should we?
I think motivation is key here. Why do you want the handbag, (or other item)? Is it because you feel like you need a designer label to be “somebody?” Is it to show off your wealth? To make others feel jealous, or even bad that they can’t have such a thing? Obviously, if these reasons are the motivating factors in your purchase, you should probably rethink it.
But what if you simply like the handbag? Yes, you can just as easily like a $30 bag, but that reasoning works both ways–what if the bag that is your favorite, and will best do the things you need it to do, is the $300 one? What if you want to spend a lot of money on something that you plan on using for a long time? A quality handbag, for example, if properly cared for, can last for 10+ years. And if that’s the only bag you purchase in those 10 years, instead of buying a new cheap bag every year, (because the cheap ones do tend to fall apart), then the money spent is the same.
Another important factor is money. It seems like just about everything boils down to money eventually. Can you afford the handbag? Can you afford it, and still continue to give to church as you usually do? If you’re planning on taking money designated for offerings, and spending that on a bag instead, obvious mistake. But if you can afford the handbag in addition to your regular offerings, and maybe even in addition to other charitable giving, then it’s up to you.
So, in the end, it’s really up to the buyer, and it really has to do with personal convictions. Some people can’t spend money on themselves, even small amounts, knowing about the need that exists in the rest of the world. And that’s fine, as long as they don’t force those convictions on others who doesn’t hold them. If your conscience would be troubled by spending that much money on yourself, or spending in what you consider a frivolous fashion, then by all means, donate the money elsewhere.
On the other hand, if you feel no such convictions, if you’re happy with the giving that you do, and you can afford the handbag without any affront to your conscience, then by all means, purchase it. At the very least, you’re helping out the economy. As long as you’re not using your purchase to brag about the money you do have, or make others feel bad about what they don’t have, or what their convictions are, then why not? We have free will to make these kind of choices, and I don’t think that God is sitting around judging people based on the cost of their accessories.
And yes, for those who are interested, I would like to own a nice (read: expensive) handbag someday, and if the day comes that I can afford it, I’m certainly not going to feel guilty about it!