How do we find balance in a culture of excess?
Where bigger is better?
Bigger houses, bigger cars, bigger bank accounts?
I am far from wealthy. At least by American standards.
But still, I get caught up in the excess sometimes.
Too many clothes.
Too many left-overs that get thrown out, when there are hungry people all around us.
Too many “extra” things.
Excess. Everywhere we look.
To the point that we believe that excess is the norm.
I try to avoid excessive spending, and I am thankful for all that God has blessed me with. But I still often get wants and needs confused, and I don’t say “thank you” for what I have nearly enough.
I like nice things. But I have seen poverty, both here and abroad and sometimes I feel ashamed.
A few weeks ago, we bought a nice used car for my daughter, and it brought these conflicted feelings to the surface.
I thought about how almost no one in the area where we have been on mission trips has a car. And how a lot of people right here at home don’t have a nice family car, much less one for a teenager.
So I struggle with how to reconcile this.
We started our daughter out with an older model car with a dented bumper.
But with another fender bender and the fact that her old car had over 230,000 miles on it, we needed something dependable for her.
One of the greatest pleasures in being a parent is being able to give our children nice things.
We just need to remember that the very best things we can give them is love and to point them to Jesus.
Anything money can buy pales in comparison.
God loves to give us good gifts, although not always in the form of material things. So I think He understands how good it makes us feel to be able to do something nice for our kids.
Matthew 7:9 says, “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?”
Our daughter didn’t ask for a car. She said she didn’t deserve it.
Her humble attitude teaches me a lot. And so I tried to turn it into a teachable moment for both of us.
I reminded her that we don’t deserve any of our many blessings. But God loves to give.
I explained to her that it gives God pleasure to give us gifts, just as it pleases us to give this gift to her.
I told her to just be thankful and to use the car to do things for Jesus at every opportunity.
Along those lines, here are some things to remember to keep wealth in perspective:
1. When possessions become too important to us, it’s a problem.
Anything that takes our eyes off God is an idol. When we depend on things to make us happy instead of being content with the blessings God has provided, it’s hard to be thankful.
And Paul addresses the subject in Philippians 4:12-13, where he says “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through him who gives me strength.”
We are also taught, in 1 Timothy 6:6-10 that “godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”
It’s not a sin to have nice things. But it’s important to stay focused on the One from whom all blessings flow.
And to know that even if we lost everything we have, we can still find contentment in His love.
2. God loves our brothers and sisters living in poverty just as much as He loves us.
There’s no room for pride in what we have. No matter how hard we think we have worked for it, we still would not have it if God had not allowed us to.
We should never believe for a second that He loves those in poverty any less.
That is why we need to share our blessings every chance we get.
And there are some things we miss out on because of excess. Sometimes, we don’t grasp our complete dependence on the Lord because we have a false sense of security based on what we have.
People in poverty better understand what it means to rely on God to meet every need.
And those who live in poverty typically have really grateful hearts. God has used short term mission trips to teach me what a grateful heart looks like.
Look at this sweet little face! So excited for some extra attention and a bottle of bubbles!
3. We should use everything we have been blessed with to the glory of God and use what we have to further His kingdom.
Though the excess in our lives can cause us to stumble, we can turn the tables and use what we have been blessed with to bless others.
When we do this, I think it makes God smile.
When we realize that all we have comes from Him.
That we don’t need to hang onto it with a clenched fist.
That He will always take care of us, regardless.
Then, we can let our blessings from Him flow through us, and share with others in need.
It can be hard to find balance in a culture of excess.
But with God’s help and a grateful heart, all things are possible.