Is It Wrong?

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!

Why I Don’t Like Dave Ramsey

I guess it’s not really fair to say I don’t like Dave Ramsey. I really don’t know anything about him, as a person. But I’m not a big fan of his program, so I guess what I really don’t like is Financial Peace University.

Don’t get me wrong, I think being debt free is a great thing. I’m not debt free, although I hope to be some day. I’m not drowning in credit card debt, either, though. I like to think that I have responsible debt, things like a mortgage, and the remainder of a student loan (fine, and a car loan, but that’s a recent development, and hopefully will be paid off ahead of schedule, and with only .62% interest!). So the debt snowball and debt-free lifestyle make sense to me, even if I don’t think it’s always practical in the real world.

What I can’t stand, though, is his approach to savings. It’s one thing to have some money saved up for an emergency, which, in general, I try to do; it’s another thing altogether to save up three month’s worth of expenses, and then a year’s worth of expenses, and then even more than that, just in case something catastrophic happens.

I get that bad things happen, that people have accidents, disabilities, lose jobs. But I also think it’s completely unbiblical to save up for the “just in case.” As a matter of fact, Matthew 6 spends a lot of time on just this topic. First:

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21

Saving up is all fine and good, but nothing lasts forever, and let’s be honest, there could come a time when our money is useless. Confederate currency used as wallpaper, anyone? Sure, that’s a worst case scenario, but I think that excessive saving gives a false sense of security, that nothing bad can happen to you if you have enough money in the bank, and that’s simply not true.

And how about the worry regarding the “what-ifs” of the future, the fixation on the bad things that *could* happen, that causes people to want to save obsessively? Matthew 6 addresses that, too:

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.  Matthew 6:25-34

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for being a good steward, for not spending money you don’t have, for being responsible with what you’re given (because God also calls us to do all that!). But I don’t think that worrying about having enough money “just in case” is how God calls us to live. There’s a lack of faith in that lifestyle.

Money Doesn’t Grow On Trees

I think someone needs to share this truth with Bunny.

On Sunday, as it was the last day of “regular” Sunday school for the year, before summer Sunday school starts, Turkey and Bunny came home not only with their regular lesson papers (including a cut-out of the Tree of Life mentioned in Revelation), but with leftover stickers from random lessons used over the last year.  They were very excited about this–what child doesn’t love stickers?

Turkey is rather particular about where he puts his stickers (shocking!), but Bunny will slap hers down anywhere, without stopping to see if they match a particular page, or if they’re supposed to be placed in a certain spot.  So, she took some of her random stickers and plastered them all over the Tree of Life.

This is not a fruit-bearing tree.  No, instead, she placed stickers of nickels all over it.  I know she knows what a nickel is, but she obviously missed the irony of what she had done.

The irony was not lost on me, however, and I laughed out loud when I saw her “money tree!”