What’s one snack or other food you regularly craved as a kid? For me it was Buitoni Instant Pizza. (Sorry, this was the only image I could find — on a Facebook fan site, no less.) Well, any pizza. And any given bag of Doritos (before they ruined them with all those ridiculous “flavors”).
You’ve got your own your own comfort food that you enjoy. Maybe too much, even. Or maybe it was something you ate so constantly that you finally got sick of it.
Regardless, let’s apply this idea to what’s often a much bigger craving—our finances and possessions. For example, think about a significant purchase you made on an impulse or because you felt pressured to—and then wished you hadn’t. What took place between the time you bought it and when you regretted buying it?
Now, think of a time you didn’t have the money for what you wanted but were able to get by without it. What did God teach you during that time?
One more question: How easy or difficult is it for you to talk openly about money or your possessions? Why do you think that is?
I’m going to ask you to take your Bible reading offline today (or rather, just open a new tab and look). These passages come from a variety of angles, so as you read, also think about how these passages relate to one another. Here we go:
• Psalm 24:1
• Psalm 37:16-19, 25-26
• Proverbs 30:7-9
• Ecclesiastes 5:10-20
• Matthew 6:19-34
• Philippians 4:6-14
• 1 Timothy 6:5-10, 17-19
• James 4:13-17
What phrases or ideas jumped out to you? Taken together, what do these passages tell you about the things God gives us?
Here’s another question: Practically speaking, in what ways do you find yourself relying on money or “stuff” instead of on God? Be specific. How is your relationship with God affected by it?
Ronald Walborn and Frank Chan, in their booklet Stewardship and the Kingdom of God, hit the nail on the head when they said this about our attitudes toward our finances: “The crisis we face is not primarily a struggle of stewardship. It is a crisis of discipleship. Certainly, stewardship flows out of this broader category of discipleship, but the central issue is the totality of what it means to be a follower of Jesus in the twenty-first century.” John Calvin said it even more simply: “Stewardship is everything we do after we say, ‘I believe.’ ”
So let’s think about how consider being happier with what God has already given us. In his book Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster provides a bunch of ideas on how to adopt an attitude of simplicity. And it’s not just about the money. Here’s a paraphrased version of it; check it out:
1. Buy things for their usefulness rather than their status.
2. Reject anything that’s producing an addiction in you.
3. Develop a habit of giving things away (especially if they fall into categories 1 and 2).
4. Refuse to be propagandized by “the latest conveniences.”
5. Learn to enjoy things without owning them.
6. Develop a deeper appreciation for creation.
7. View “buy now, pay later” schemes with healthy skepticism.
8. Obey Jesus’ instructions about plain, honest speech.
9. Reject anything that contributes to the oppression of others.
10. Shun anything that distracts you from seeking first the kingdom of God.*
Which of these principles are speaking to you the loudest right now? What would you add to this list? How might practicing these things help you to better enjoy what God has given you? What would it look like for you to put these principles into practice? And what (or who) could help you to start making that a reality?
If you’ve got your wallets or purse available, I’d like you to reach in and take a dollar or other bill out of it. Now, think about the dollar bill you’re holding. It’s really just a piece of paper, isn’t it? And yet this world—and we, too, quite often—attaches so much value to it and the things it can purchase, that it overshadows everything else in our lives. Think about how our possessions affect the way others see us. Now think about how we let our possessions affect the way we see ourselves. Now think about how we let possessions affect the way we see God.
Ask God to help break you of your dependence on material things. Think again about how you’ve become dependent on stuff and how the dollar bill you hold represents that. Ask God’s forgiveness for how we’ve let the things He’s given us—or the things we want—come between us and Him. Ask Him to help you make the changes you need to make, to receive every good thing He wants us to have.
Also remember that change doesn’t usually happen overnight and that we may still have to pay for some of the decisions we’ve made in the past. But also remember that as we’re faithful, God is even more faithful to us. Ask God to remind you daily that He’ll carry us past those mistakes and closer to Him and all the truly good things He has in store for us.
* adapted from Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth by Richard J. Foster. Copyright © 1978 by Richard J. Foster. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.