I’m passionate about stewardship. I believe the Lord entrusts each of us with certain talents and treasures to be used for His Glory and His Kingdom.
Niki and I often joke that after being disciples of Jesus, we are secondly disciples of Dave Ramsey. We both write often about budgeting. We love to give. But I still haven’t perfected the balance of when to buy something and when to wait. Buying material things is very much a spiritual matter with lots of gray area.
Some purchases are no-brainers. If your wife is sick, buy her the medicine she needs. If your car is out of gas, put gas in the car, man! These are easy things. Many purchases aren’t just about essentials. There are countless opportunities for us to use our discretion on buying things, because we have more money than we need for meeting just our needs.
I tried to find a good set of questions for helping Christians process through making purchases for our wants, and my somewhat limited search turned up few helpful results. So, I’ve created my own list of questions that I hope aid believers in stewarding well what the Lord has given us.
I am not a perfect money manager for God. But I want to grow in this area.
Questions to ask before purchases
These aren’t perfect questions. They may not all apply in all situations. They need to be refined and there are probably more questions that should be thrown in the mix. But it’s a start, and it’s the framework I’ve been going through when I think about buying things (mostly in the major category, for me $50 or more).
Do I have the money to buy this?
If no, none of the other questions matter. Debt is not be an option.
Do I think I’m entitled to this?
I am not. I am not entitled to anything. If I think that, I am wrong. Ask all other questions to again, do not pass go, do not spend that $200.
Am I trusting this thing to satisfy me?
Because it won’t. It can’t give me more joy than I can find in Jesus. I must realize this before I purchase it, or it will devastate me when it leaves me feeling empty after I purchase it.
Will this cause me to fall into idolatry?
Will it draw me away from God? Will it distract me from him? Will it lead to sin in other areas of my life (e.g. If someone struggles with viewing pornography, unrestricted internet access via a smartphone could be a very unwise purchase).
Is there someone in my life who needs something that I could provide with this money?
Paul isn’t afraid to say Christians are worse than non-believers if they fail to provide for those in their own household. Don’t buy a brand new car if people in your family aren’t being fed. That’s downright sickening.
Will this help me be a better steward of what God has given me?
If your job involves lots of travel, you’re a computer programmer and you only have a desktop computer, it’s probably a good idea, yes, a good stewardship decision, to get a laptop so you can work on the go.
Often, Christians (myself included) can think the spiritual choice is to always forgo something to prove their devotion to Jesus, and then simultaneously judge others who haven’t made the same choice.
That’s pharisaical nonsense. In my mind, it’s the equivalent of the servant who buried his talent and was scolded by his master for not investing it. Invest in yourself, invest in the right tools, and do so wisely. And don’t think that other people’s purchases are between you and them–they are between them and God. Their decision doesn’t not give you the freedom to make the same decision.
Have I prayed about it and do I feel at peace about the decision?
This is tricky. I can nearly always find a message in the cloud from God telling me to buy the latest gadget (“I think that’s an iPad cloud in the distance, sweetie.”) I can twist scripture for the sake of my own desires (Psalm 37:4, baby!) I can pray things like, “God, if you don’t want me to buy a new iPhone, then wet the fleece hoody I’m wearing right now.”
But! I think praying for wisdom, and really praying that whatever you’re considering would be a wise decision that honors the Lord is a prayer God will answer. He loves to give wisdom.
Praying for peace in making a decision is easy. Being obedient when God says “No” or “Wait” is much harder.
What are the residual and hidden costs of this purchase?
I love how Randy Alcorn talks about purchases in The Treasure Principle. Here’s a brief paraphrase. He says buying a new TV doesn’t just cost a few hundred dollars. It also means he’ll probably want some type of cable subscription (or today, Netflix or Amazon Prime for streaming videos). It will likely lead him to spending more time in front of a tube instead of with his family or with the Lord. There’s the cost of time in researching the best TV for the price, getting it home, and getting it mounted on the wall. It’s not just a $300 (or $500 or $1,000) purchase.
There are many hidden and residual costs that we rarely consider. Think about the cost of your time and other expenses that must be considered with this purchase.
Did I intentionally overlook opportunities to give?
I’m trying to pray that if the Lord wants me to give money away instead of spending it on something that he would put opportunities to do that in my path. This isn’t the only question to ask, obviously, but it’s an important one.
Is this an impulse purchase?
Don’t just buy something major without thinking it through. That’s a sure sign of impatience and immaturity. At the very least, sleep on purchases before pulling the trigger.
Have I sought wise counsel?
I don’t buy anything of significance without running it by my wife (even though we each have our own allowances, to be used at our discretion) because she’s smarter than me and asks really good questions about my motivations and why I think I should buy something. She always encourages me to pray about it.
If you aren’t married, ask me and I’ll tell you what to do. No, but honestly, ask a friend who loves the Lord and who you trust to help guide you in your decision. Strength in numbers, everybody.