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Am I Trapped by Material Things?

photo credit - www.luxuryhomes.com
photo credit – www.luxuryhomes.com

Materialism is something we have ALL been marinating in all of our lives. We may not even notice it, that is how “normal” it is in our culture – that drive and push to have more, to have the best, to indulge in a luxurious lifestyle and to find contentment in wealth, stuff and luxury. I know that I, for one, had no idea how much materialism affected my walk with Christ, my priorities, my loyalty, my marriage and my family. I don’t have all the answers. I am not perfect. I am still learning and am excited about all that God has to show me. I am really glad we can walk this road together, love one another and support and encourage each other as we learn to become the godly women and wives Jesus calls us to be.

A BUSY OR OVER FILLED SCHEDULE SQUEEZES OUT THE TIME WE HAVE FOR RELATIONSHIPS

One of the reasons we as wives don’t have as much time to lavish on God, our husbands and our children can be that we feel a lot of pressure to work to provide financially for our families. It can seem practically impossible to live on one income these days. And there may be cases where both spouses must work. There may not be an option. I certainly understand that. This is an issue that is between each husband, wife and God. In my own situation, Greg has asked me to continue working part time as a pharmacist. I trust God to lead me through my husband on this.

I would like to give us some things to think about. Sometimes, we feel so financially strapped because of our own choices. Sometimes it is because of our husbands’ choices. In that case, we can choose to be as frugal as we possibly can, and we can pray for God’s wisdom for our husbands. Sometimes, there are situations beyond our control – emergencies, disasters, job loss, health problems, injuries, etc… That can be completely unavoidable.

 

DO WE HAVE PRIORITIES WE CAN LET GO OF THAT ARE NOT HEALTHY? ARE THERE THINGS WE DON’T NEED THAT WE CAN CHOOSE NOT TO HAVE SO THAT WE CAN HAVE MORE TIME FOR RELATIONSHIPS WITH GOD, OUR HUSBANDS, OUR CHILDREN AND OTHERS?

Today, I want to focus on our financial priorities and how we might bring joy and less burden to our husbands financially. There may be priorities we have that we could drop in order to give our families more of our time and in order to decrease the financial pressure on our husbands and ourselves. Here are some areas to prayerfully consider. Please keep in mind, no one answers to me for any of these things. I am not saying that any of these things below are “wrong” or “sinful.” It is just wise sometimes, in my view, to hold every single thing before God and to allow Him to show us anything that He might want to change.

Maybe we could consider cutting back on things like:

  • $3000-10,000+ per year on vacations
  • thousands of dollars per year on restaurants/take out
  • thousands of dollars per year on hair color, haircuts/styling, nails, jewelry and make-up (for us and/or our daughters)
  • having the nicest, newest most luxurious car (maybe we could be content with an older car without having a payment?)
  • tanning beds
  • gym membership (maybe we can walk/run outside or at a county or church fitness center?)
  • the top of the line products if we need to renovate  (maybe something much less expensive would be just fine and we could be content with it – i.e.: laminate counters instead of granite/marble, for instance or a vinyl floor instead of stone)
  • thousands of dollars per year on professional portraits of our children
  • $1000-2000 dollars per year eating out for lunch
  • name brand clothing for ourselves and our children (maybe Wal-Mart, Target, Kohls, consignment stores, yard sales, flea markets, Good Will or hand-me-downs could work)
  • the number of pieces of clothing we and our children have
  • having to be in the absolute wealthiest school district or neighborhood in the city
  • debt – let’s not spend money if we don’t have money! Debt is such a trap! God commands His people over and over not to be in financial debt to others and not to charge interest to the poor. Debt can quickly become our master if we are not careful. Dave Ramsey has some amazing resources for learning to be godly stewards of our finances and to get out of debt.
  • thousands of dollars on Christmas and birthday gifts/parties for ourselves and our children each year
  • hundreds or thousands of dollars per year on home decorations
  • $4000/child per year on daycare (if we are not spending on all of these other luxury items, we may not even need to put our children in daycare because we may be able to live on one income in some circumstances)
  • $1000-4000 per year per child on baseball/karate/dancing/cheerleading/music lessons/etc…

Here are some very sobering thoughts from God’s Word – God’s parameters for us to be content each day are:

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. I Timothy 6:6-11

Being content with what we have is a great way to show respect for our husbands as providers and it is a great way to show respect and thankfulness to God!

PARING DOWN OUR MATERIAL APPETITES

Think about if we cut back on just some of these things in the list above. Not all of them are bad. Some of these things are wonderful. It’s fine to enjoy these kinds of things at times. But, they are not essentials. These things are not a roof over our heads, our electric bill, food or medicine. These are extras. There are some women who make $20-35,000 per year whose entire incomes go to these things above. We have all been marinating in “the American Dream” all of our lives. It is SO EASY to make that into an idol that we cherish more than Christ.

  • Why do we want the things we want? Are we looking for fulfillment in things of this world that truly can never satisfy our souls?
  • What are our motives?
  • What are our ultimate goals in this very short life?
  • Could we be content with less? Or, can we be content with what we have?
  • What does God call us to do with our time and our stuff as disciples of Christ?

If we were willing to cut out some of these luxuries, maybe we wouldn’t even have to work full time or maybe we could even stay home if our husbands are on board with that. Maybe we would have the time we really need to more fully invest in our walk with Christ, in our husbands’ lives, in our marriages, in our children’s lives and in our homes? Or, maybe there are ways we could arrange our work schedule that would allow us to have more time with God, our husbands and our children. Maybe there are activities that need to go that really eat up a lot of time but don’t have much eternal value.

The thing is – relationships take TIME. A relationship with God takes real time. A close relationship with my husband takes time. A close relationship with my children takes time. Time is limited. I only have so many hours in a day. What will my priorities be and how can I best use the time God has given me?

I don’t have the exact answers for every wife. Your decisions are not really my business at all.  No one answers to me. This is totally between each of us, our husbands, our children and the Lord. God has different callings and priorities for each of us and they change at different times in our lives. We will each have to take inventories about these issues every so often and reevaluate and pray over how we are spending our time, resources, abilities and money and seek to change anything God would want us to change.

God has dealt with me about many of these issues – particularly when my hours were drastically cut as a pharmacist from 24 hours/week to 8 hours per week about 3 years ago, and then last year when my 12 hours/week became 3 hours/week. I understand the importance of spending frugally and trying to use our income and time as wisely as possible. Greg and I have always sought not to have debt, but to pay off our credit cards each month and to not spend what we don’t have. Our only debt at this time is our mortgage.

  • What does your husband desire you to do about working and about saving or spending? Are you open to allowing him to guide you in these areas and allowing God to lead you through your husband – even if you don’t agree with him right now?

(If your husband is actively addicted to alcohol/drugs/gambling, is involved in unrepentant infidelity or is mentally unstable, please seek godly, experienced, biblical counsel in person at your church or with a Christian counselor/pastor you can trust.)

I would like us to consider a few more questions:

  • Are there things God is calling me to give up so that I can pursue Him more diligently and/or so that I can devote myself more wholeheartedly to Titus 2:3-5 kinds of things? (This may even include social media, hobbies, tv, a volunteer position, even a ministry)
  • Am I pressuring my husband to earn a lot more money, to work more and to give me lots of nice things? Is that why he is working overtime so much and not home as much? To try to make me happy by providing more money for me to have the stuff I tell him I want all the time?
  • Could my love of material things and luxuries be causing us to miss the things that are most important in life?
  • Do I need to stop looking at HGTV, social media, magazines, commercials and DIY shows that promote materialism? Do these things promote a spirit of discontentment in me that does not honor God? (Many women may be able to read these things and not have a an issue. But, if you see them and notice that you are depressed and feeling discontent about your own life after watching them, then, that may be a problem.)
  • Am I willing to be content with what I have now, or with even less? What might God want to change in my life?
  • Am I allowing myself to deeply desire things that I really don’t need to the point that I am jealous or covetous?
  • Am I focused on comparing my life to the lives of others and I feel like the things I have aren’t “good enough?”
  • Do I allow myself to become bitter over the things I do not have?
  • Do I focus on “using things and loving people, or loving things and using people?”
  • Have I made an idol of a beautiful home, luxuries, nice stuff, expensive vacations, fancy clothes, beauty, stuff for our children or material things? (Do I believe I MUST have these things to be happy?)
  • How does God desire me to honor Him and be a godly steward of all of my time, resources and abilities in the area of spending, finances and stewardship?
  • Is it possible God may want me to scale back my consumption level and my spending? Might He want me to be willing to downsize our lives materially and in our spending?
  • Is there anything material or any activity that God may want me to sell or be willing to give up?
  • Is there something my husband wants us to give more money to (church, a charity, a struggling family member or neighbor) that may be something God may have laid on his heart to do for someone in need? Am I willing to prayerfully consider getting on board and be willing to be generous to those in need as God leads me through my husband?
  • If I want to give more to those in need, but my husband isn’t ready to do that, am I willing to wait on God to work in my husband’s heart and not pressure my husband into something that he is not ready to do, following my husband’s lead?
  • Am I willing to allow God total access to our finances and our possession in the present and in the future? If not, what am I holding back and why? What will it take for me to trust God with this thing?

Keep in mind, it is also possible to make minimalism an idol – where we try to have as few possessions as possible and pride ourselves in that. If your husband doesn’t want to pare down your lifestyle, but you do, be sure to honor him and follow his leadership. Don’t give away his things without his consent. And if he doesn’t want to give up the TV or eating out or vacations (or something else you believe would be best to give up) – that is ok!  You can share what you would like to do, respectfully, but then enjoy those things with him and trust God to work in your husband’s heart and to lead you through your man.

SHARE:

You are welcome to share your answers to any of these questions. Of course, the most important thing is that you spend some time with God and ask yourself these hard questions, allowing God to probe deeply into your soul so that He can do whatever He knows is best in your situation at this point in time.

For a word of caution about not going into legalism with the idea of paring down materially, please check out the comments!

RESOURCES:

The Life Ready Woman by Shaunti Feldhahn

Radical by David Platt

overcoming idolatry

Am I Materialistic? A Peacefulwife VIDEO

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