After you’ve grabbed the reins of your finances, you’ll likely need to do some careful maneuvering to avoid the ever-present temptations of materialism and consumerism. The Bible offers some strong warnings about their potential for damage.
Jesus himself said, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own” (Luke12:15).
The apostle Paul put it this way:
But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. (1 Timothy 6:9–10)
The siren call of consumerism can be hard to resist, especially if you’re surrounded by those who embrace a more-is-better mentality. But in a season of fresh starts, you can adopt a new response to the urge to accumulate—so you can resist the temptations that bombard you. Here are a few tips to help you start.
1. PRACTICE ASKING WHY
Before making a purchase—whether large or small (but especially large!)—examine your motives. Ask yourself, “Why am I buying this thing or spending this money?” Don’t let yourself get away with an easy answer, either. Keep digging with more questions:
• Is this a need or a want?
• Do I have ulterior or self-serving motives for purchasing this?
• Am I just trying to keep pace with other people?
• Am I trying to influence the way other people think of me?
• Is this in line with my goals for the new year?
• What would happen (good or bad) if I didn’t make this purchase right now?
If you find your motives for making certain purchases have more to do with how you’re perceived by your peers, for example, and have less to do with genuine needs, then now is the time to do something about it.
2. REMOVE YOURSELF FROM HYPERCOMPETITIVE ENVIRONMENTS THAT ARE OBSESSED WITH STATUS
In many social circles, status is measured by the quality of your landscaping, the vehicle you drive, the sports camps and travel leagues your kids participate in, and other criteria as shallow as the credit card slot in your wallet. One-upmanship is the game, and whoever has the biggest, newest, most prestigious, or hardest to find [fill in the blank] is the winner.
The pressure to conform, compete, and spend your way to acceptance in such circles can be intense. Your best course of action might be to simply walk away, if possible. Explain your decision to friends and family who will support you. Distance yourself from those who thrive on status-based competitiveness. Politely decline social invitations that are beyond your financial comfort level.
In short, if you believe certain settings are harmful to your financial well-being, make some changes. It may take some radical decision making on your part, but remember: this is the season for transformation.
3. START A TREND OF FRUGALITY
Embrace God-honoring financial stewardship. Refuse to feel any shame for driving a ten-year-old car or not enrolling your seven-year-old in the most elite soccer league. Surround yourself with people who have similar financial perspectives. You may find a number of people who are ready to jump off the consumer carousel with you. They’re just waiting for someone to lead the way.
This blog post has been adapted from Unlock the Bible's Secrets, a special-edition magazine that is now available on store shelves.