Getting some extra cash can be exhilarating. With extra money comes greater flexibility and the opportunity to buy that new thing you’ve had your eye on.
But as Christ followers, we know that everything we have belongs to God. We also know that earth is not our ultimate home, so how can we filter our future purchasing through a biblical lens? Are we not allowed to buy anything? Here are 4 key questions that can help us have an eternal perspective on our purchases:
1. How often will I use this item?
One of the easiest things to overlook when buying for emotional reasons is how frequently it will be used. A common example is a boat or recreational vehicle that is used on vacation. If you are only going to use it every once in a while, does it really need to be purchased? Jesus warns us about greed and material possessions in Luke 12:15 when he says, “‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.’”
We don’t have to pull our hair out over every purchase, but we need to be mindful about what our money is being spent on. How much money does the item cost and will I use it frequently?
If you realize the item won’t be used frequently, one option is to see if any friends or family have the same item, and ask to borrow it. Most people will respond favorably when asked, especially if done politely and with plenty of time to make a decision. Another option is to see if you can rent the item. Do some research and compare options that can provide the same experience without buying it. As Bill Hybels likes to say, “you can admire it without having to acquire it.”
2. Is this purchase for public use?
On the other hand, the consumeristic culture we live in overtly glorifies collecting “toys” like cars, watches, expensive clothing, and jewelry. When our purchases are made simply to show off to others, they actively thwart discipleship and show an identity idol in our lives. If you find yourself more concerned with what others think of your possessions than what God thinks, it is time for a material makeover.
Willow often talks about the Acts 2 community, which was known for their radical lifestyle choices. Acts 2:44–45 tells us, “All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.” If we view everything as God’s, shouldn’t everything in our care be available to those in need?
3. Will this purchase add value to my life or to the lives of those around me?
We are all guilty of giving in to impulse buys. But it’s time for us to stop giving into the “SOS” (Shiny Object Syndrome). It can be difficult to slow down and consider the purchase from a rational point of view. If we remind ourselves to wait, we can often evaluate the long-term value of our purchases. Next time you feel an emotional desire to purchase something, ask yourself “Do I need this item now?”, “Will this purchase make me more efficient?” and “Will this item create long-term cost savings?” By asking these three questions, you can help identify if it will produce long-term value.
4. What are the upkeep costs for this item?
While not every item is repairable, it’s a good exercise to run new purchases through the filter of resourcefulness. Asking yourself what repair costs may be needed and with what frequency can help reduce future expenses. Possessions needing periodic maintenance are not always unwise, but this is important to factor in when buying.
A car is the perfect example for this scenario. When purchasing a new vehicle, this “asset” rapidly depreciates in value (60 percent in the first 5 years), but you’ll have little to no upkeep costs. If you purchase a car that is too old, however, you may be repairing it too frequently to justify having it at all. A wise alternative may be to find a modest car that would not require constant maintenance.
God gives us tremendous freedom to manage his resources. By using these 4 questions, we can ensure our purchases are done with an eternal perspective.
Written by Financial Stewardship Volunteer Brad Johnson.
Want to get on a better financial path? Willow is constantly offering classes to help you take control of your finances. Make sure to check out Budgeting Made Easy. If you have specific questions about our classes, click here or email us at [email protected].