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A book I recently read on priorities for Christian men talked about "the rat race". We in the West are caught on a treadmill of chasing after wealth, and it hurts us in many ways. Relationships are damaged as our families are neglected because we're putting in extra hours at work. Our integrity is compromised as we do little things to squeeze out a few extra bucks. We'll falsify a record, or cut a corner here and there. Maybe we'll lie to someone, or stomp on someone in our effort to climb the ladder of promotion.
As a result I've been pondering the issue of wealth and possessions. We see in the Word that wealth can be a blessing and a curse. Jesus noted how hard it can be for a rich person to enter Heaven, but at the same time we see several examples of Godly rich people in the Word. In fact, their wealth was a sign of God's blessing. I think the lesson we can learn is wealth in itself is not wicked, but it can become an idol like many other things if not put in its proper place. Put another way, how much do we want it, and what are we willing to do to get it? There are lines we can cross in the wanting and the getting, at which point it becomes sin.
The book had an excellent idea to keep wealth in its place. Picture this. When you see someone get a financial windfall, why do they feel they must spend it? A new car will be bought when the old one is fine. A larger house will be bought when the old one is fine. More clothes when you already can't close the closet door. The old saying "the more you have the more you spend" isn't a law, so why do we make it one?
The author advocated discussing with your spouse a standard of living goal. Nothing extravagant, and nothing spartan. Ask, just what do we need in the way of cars, a house, education for the family, etc. Once you feel the Lord has shown you what He has for your family, go for those goals, remaining faithful in your giving along the way. When you reach them, cap your standard of living. From there you spend the required funds for maintenance and replacement of those possessions, and all other money you make goes to the Lord. Yes, all.
You won't be driven anymore for more more more because you won't keep it once you reach the goal. You'll be more inclined to let God make it happen in His time, and you'll see blessings of other types as you spend more time with the family.
I imagine this will happen in stages as events occur over the course of a life. Once the mortage is paid that payment can go to the Lord (less a chunk set aside for maintenance). As the kids graduate and leave you won't need as large a house, and funds are freed up as you move into a smaller place. You'll probably be making a profit on the sale. Where does it go? The large car can be sold in favor of the smaller one, and the funds no longer needed to feed the family can be devoted to the charity God directs you to.
I think you'll agree that the potential amount of money that can be donated to the Lord's causes by people living this way is huge.
-- Anonymous, March 30, 2002