Spending Money and Guilt: A Christian Conversation

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In that last couple of weeks I have read two books by Christian authors, and the underlying assumption about wealth is completely opposite.  So today I am going to let them go head to head and duke it out.

In this corner weighing in at 160 pages, sporting a green cover with gold print is a 1991 book written by Dexter Yager with Ron Ball …

A Millionaire’s Common Sense Approach to Wealth

And in this corner weighing in at 157 pages, clothed in plain white and green text is a much older 1976 book written by Maxine Hancock (below I have linked the updated 2001 edition)…

Living on Less and Liking it More: How to reduce your spending and increase your living

Photo by Robyn Gallagher

Today let’s see what these two have to say about spending money and guilt.

First, we will allow Mr. Yager to introduce his position:

They say we should feel guilty as Americans because we consume so much of the world’s goods.  (They fail to say that we also produce much of the world’s goods).  These attitudes weaken achievement and the sense of personal motivation, which makes people feel guilty for building something and succeeding.  One of the great principles in life is that if you’ve earned something, it is then a legitimate reward.  You shouldn’t feel guilty for enjoying it (18-19).

So, what do you say, Mrs. Hancock?

While not all believers are being called to take such drastic action to change their life-styles, many are looking for ways to trim the budget, to be more conservative in their spending, and thus either to reduce their personal needs in order to live comfortably on a lower income, leaving them more time and energy for other pursuits compatible with their Christian commitment, or to leave themselves a wider margin of income over needs, from which they can share more bountifully with others (pg 19).

Specifically speaking of guilt, Hancock adds:

Nagging feelings of guilt about physical comforts should be banished if, first of all, the good things we have are not received at the expense of others; and second, if the good things we enjoy are truly within our means and are not just a result of setting ourselves adrift on a sea of credit (pg 29).

Now the referee weighs in:

@ Mr. Yager – consuming and producing are not mutually inclusive.  There is nothing wrong with making money, lots of money.  In fact, if you do your best and live biblical principles you are likely to make a lot of money.  But, simply because one is a earner does not mean they need to consume all they earn.

I remember once having some negative feelings about a Christian couple who had three Lexuses.  When I expressed my concern to someone in the know, they said, “What if I told you they give 90% of what they make?”  I realized then that someone can have many more things than me and be a lot more generous. I don’t think that couple should feel guilty about what they own.  I am also thankful that they have decided that they do not need to spend everything they earn on themselves.

@Hancock – yes, not all are called to such lifestyles.  If you are going to trim and be conservative, do it for the sake of someone else.  Allow your frugality to be a blessing to others.

@Hancock – I do think we need to have boundaries to our spending so we can properly define our spending within our means.

Both Yager and Hancock present legitimate points.  Both can be equally unhealthy if taken to extremes.  Furthermore, the reality is that we are each called to different actions and responsibilities with our financial resources.  There is nothing wrong with enjoying ones wealth, as our wealth is a gift from God.  Nevertheless, as Christians I believe there should be a limitation to our spending.  I believe the more we earn, the more we should give.  I’ll be honest. While I cognitively agree with Yager, I fundamentally relate to Hancock. I feel there is some true wisdom and legitimacy to her words.  In fact, one of my goals with the blog is to help Christians get a handle on their finances, not so they can just spend more on themselves, but so ultimately they can be a benefit to the church and to others.

Now it’s your turn.  Use the comments to share your views.  What are your thoughts?  Who has a better point?

Comments

  1. says

    I believe wholeheartedly in 1 Timothy 6:17, “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.”

    So we are NOT to put our hope or faith in anything but God, but what he gives us, we should not feel guilty about enjoying (assuming we are giving our first fruits to Him… and hopefully striving to consistently increase our giving).

  2. says

    I’ve found in my own personal walk that by reducing what we spend, being more cognitive about our money and becoming more well off has also allowed us to be more generous in our giving. I think there’s a balance that needs to be found though – to make sure that the pursuit of wealth doesn’t become the sole goal since wealth can have a corrupting power.

    If we become too materialistic we can start to see the blessings that God has given us as the end goal (not good) instead of wanting to live right and further his kingdom. We start becoming greedy, hoard, and will do anything to gain new wealth. That’s not where we should be.

    Good discussion!
    .-= Peter´s last blog ..Having A Hard Time With Your Refinance Or Loan Modification Under The Making Homes Affordable Program? Join The Club. =-.

    • Craig says

      @ChristianPF Blogging is definitely more enjoyable when you get to enjoy some meaningful feedback and be of service to God’s kingdom.

  3. Donna says

    Thanks for the great article! It was a subject not always covered in financial books. Even though I have recently been through serious tendon repair surgery and today the loss of my job because my family leave is over, I can say that I will continue to give to the best of my ability to further His kingdom and bless others. This is the least I can do given all that the Lord has blessed me with, including a emergency fund and supportive family and spouse. God bless you for your post. Keep up the good work.

  4. concerned says

    Consumption is out of control in the West, and it has invaded our churches. Many churches have become dispensers of good and services aimed at winning the commitment (or maintaining the loyalty) of those who are “church shopping”. A comment on the guy who owns 3 Lexuses: you miss the point, it’s not about how much you give, but about how much you keep for yourself (widow’s mite, Mk 12). Who gave the guy the means, ability, opportunity, etc. to earn so much money??? Why did God give it to him? One is hard pressed to find biblical justification for purchasing three Lexuses for oneself with so much need in the world (not to mention, what kind of testimony it presents). Wisdom encourages us to live simple (not poverty stricken, just normal) lives and use EVERYTHING that God gives us to make Jesus look good in this broken world. Furthermore, why would one want to invest (waste) significant resources in things that have no eternal value??? I know, I always here the tax deduction justification, but is that real motive behind purchasing three Lexuses??? I always comes back to motive (1) to make Jesus look good, or (2) any other reason. That’s why we’re here guys! Pretty soon He’s coming back and all this stuff, well…

    • says

      @Concerned
      1 Tim. 6:17 does say, “to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment”. That is a curious statement in the midst of Paul’s warning to the rich. To use money for enjoyment seems to be a reason why God give riches.
      In the case of this family, I noticed one spiritual danger in my own heart and that was judging them. Do I have that right? Is there any spiritual value in that action? I’m called to manage my finances and my household, not the household of others.
      There are certainly a lot of people in the Bible with who God was well please who had a lot of earthly possessions.

      • Agree says

        I agree with concerned.
        I do agree with Craig that we should enjoy the blessings of God but you have got the enjoyment bit all wrong. What enjoyment is there in a car? Short lived. The real joy is seeing someone else be blessed. Using our finances to bless someone is enjoyment that has eternal rewards! Don’t be fooled. The rich will not enter heaven. It is the attitide and what we do with it. Do we waste our food? Do we carelessly spend when peakish? Do we think of others and go without for their sake? Really, are any of us living for God with all we have??

        • eric says

          The Lexus people could approach things like I do. My goal when purchasing ANYTHING that is a major expense is to buy the best I can at my income level – best meaning that it is the highest quality. Why? Because in the long run I will usually save more money. The comparison is this: Do I buy the $30 toaster oven at Walmart that will probably break in 2 years, or the $150 one that can only be found in speciality stores but will last me 20 years? I think we have a right to use our money wisely and not waste it, no matter how much money that is. I’m not saying a Lexus is the best car, but it certainly is up there.

          • says

            Eric,
            It is certainly possible that people who buy more expensive cars do so because of the quality. It would be interesting to know if there are other cars that are just as reliable without the extra expense? Would there be any missional value to purchasing a less expensive car with the equal reliability?
            I certainly don’t think the purchase of a Lexus is wrong, but I’d want to be sure to prayerfully consider the decision wisely.

  5. Confused as well says

    I’m confused. Agree said “The real joy is seeing someone else be blessed.” Does that mean I will work and work and work and just give my money away?

    I’m a hardworking person and I earn a lot of money. I give money to church and the needy. I still have money for luxuries. Do I have to be guilty because I can afford to travel? That I can afford a nice car?

    • says

      Here’s how I would answer your question (quoting from the article):
      “There is nothing wrong with enjoying ones wealth, as our wealth is a gift from God. Nevertheless, as Christians I believe there should be a limitation to our spending. “

      • Kent says

        Our wealth is a gift from God? Does that mean that those who don’t have wealth aren’t as favored by God as those who are rich?

        • says

          Kent,
          The fact that wealth is a gift from God does not mean that those who don’t have wealth aren’t favored by God. I’d use a parallel example – good health is a blessing from God, but it doesn’t mean God doesn’t favor those who are sick. In fact God blesses those without wealth in other unique ways.

  6. Ying says

    I am very blessed financially by God. On the one hand I really believe that God will use me and the wealth which he gives to me for good purpose in the future. So I learn how to invest and give to help needy. On the other side I feel that Jesus is the example of how perfectly manage the resources. What we do now is very far from the example. However we should go towards that example. And as a truly believer we will surely go that direction.

    Therefore it is not a question of what percentage we should spend on ourselves and give out. But a question of which direction are you heading for. Will God say: you are more like Jesus ? or Are you more and more away from God/Jesus?

  7. says

    A lot of judgement being thrown out here. I think the most valid point is made by Craig. Being judgmental is some serious sin, and to say the rich will not enter heaven is over the top.

  8. says

    I agree very much with Craig. Telling someone else how much they can spend, and what they can buy is arrogant, and prideful. Pharisees did this. And to say the rich won’t be in heaven is over the top in being judgmental.

    • Kent says

      People who say the rich won’t enter heaven aren’t speaking on their own terms, they are speaking on what they believe Jesus has declared. Don’t call them judgmental, call them misguided- that’s all that they are.

  9. Cassy@AmeriLoanSearch says

    Why somebody would think that spending money is a guilt. What if a certain wait of spending can bring satisfaction to my mind and soul? So it means that I am sinful now? Come on, are you kidding me? Be wise with you any kind of decisions, be smart at your spending and everything is going to be ok. Why would someone judge me? No one has such rights. Prove me wrong of course, but there money can’t be mentioned when it comes to faith.

    • says

      Cassy,
      I think guilt can be a healthy recognition that all we have is not for our own pleasure and self-indulgence. I do think that to live for yourself only without self-control and to live without acknowledging and considering the needs of others is sinful.

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