“We should travel light and live simply. Our enemy is not possessions but excess.”
“Out of the freedom from worry that God’s generosity provides comes an impulse toward simplicity rather than accumulation.”
I have sometimes wondered how I’d feel if our home was opened up for thorough investigation and our bank statements were scrutinised in minute detail. What conclusion, I wonder, would be reached about our values and priorities in the way we spend our money?
Early on in our marriage Alison and I were flying home from a weekend break in Switzerland when we decided to write down what our lives would look like if we were serious about our values. High on our list was our concern for the environment but we hadn’t really converted this into action! So we put together a list of aims including; stopping flying for holidays, reducing our meat consumption, and growing our own fruit and veg, for example.
I have argued in previous blogs that moving towards a simpler and more generous life-style would result in a more fulfilling and less stressful existence.
In order to do this we will need to look closely at our core values and see whether we are living them out in practice or just in theory.
I would suggest that there are two key biblical principles that should apply to how we approach our finances:
- Seek first God’s kingdom; then everything else needed will be supplied. For every decision we make, let’s always be asking whether God’s agenda and priorities are being taken into account. If we do that, the promise is that our material needs will be taken care of.
- Love for God and for neighbour. These are called the ‘greatest’ commandments. Let’s allow love to shape all our values, beliefs and practices.
A number of general principles would seem to flow directly from these scriptures:
- People before things
- Prioritising spiritual values (such as love, gratitude, generosity and faith) above the material
- Looking outwards instead of inwards
- Time before money
Ordering our priorities
It’s quite easy for us to spend according to habit and impulse rather than deliberately in line with our convictions.
When our energy and resources flow consistently in the same direction as our values then the contents of our homes, the cars we drive, the clothes we wear and how we spend our leisure time, for example, will all clearly reflect those values.
So what are the values that shape our spending? Here are some of the issues you may want to consider. It’s not an exhaustive list so you may want to add some of your own!
- Loving the locality
We can only love our ‘neighbour’ when we become deeply connected to the place where we happen to live; our worship, our shopping, our service, our giving and our friendships become focused on our local community.
This will influence how we spend both time and money on travel, hospitality, community involvement and political engagement to name just a few things.
- Loving our global neighbours
This is a really tricky area to put into practice but we live in a global village. We could start with our most common or substantial purchases and try to find out a few basic facts: does the retailer treat the suppliers ethically by paying a fair price?; is there known to be child or slave labour in the supply chain (especially for clothes, food and electronics)?; is the product or its components sustainably sourced (for example with wood products are they FSC certified)?.
Check out Alison’s blog “I have a dream…” for some more ideas.
- Loving the planet
An obvious corollary to loving God is to love his handiwork. If we have a love for the natural world this will inevitably translate into us looking closely at such items as travel, energy use, recycling, food and waste.
- Stretching our faith
People often look back at the end of their lives and regret not taking more risks; instead they settled for the safe and comfortable.
How can we live our lives to give God room to increase our faith and hence our experience and understanding of God? What might this mean for things like savings, pensions and our giving?
- Living within our means
What is our policy about building up balances on credit cards or incurring debt by other means? The Bible certainly discourages debt. But there is a large difference between, say, incurring debt to mend a boiler in January and incurring debt to purchase a plasma TV.
How about exercising patience and saving up for ‘treats’!
- Learning to enjoy without owning
Legal title to a thing shouldn’t increase the enjoyment. Can we learn to share, rent or borrow? How about enjoying the free stuff: parks, libraries, art galleries, the sea, sky, sun, birds and so on?
Check out Alison’s blog on ‘10 Questions to ask before going Shopping’ for more ideas.
- Purchasing for usefulness rather than status
We can sometimes save considerable sums of money if we spend money on our homes, cars, clothes, furniture, holidays and much besides based on practicality rather than prestige, on usefulness rather than status.
People should be impressed by our lives rather than by our purchases!
- Living simply and beautifully
Making our homes and lives look beautiful can be a source of immense pleasure and satisfaction. How can we combine the principles of moderation and simplicity with a love of beauty as expressed in clothes, art, furnishings, garden design and such like?
- Prioritising the outdoors
There are numerous benefits associated with spending time outside in a natural environment. As well as it being great fun, there are physical, psychological, educational, environmental and spiritual benefits amongst others for getting outside as often as possible.
We believe that connecting with creation is indispensible for a healthy and fulfilling life-see our blog on 8 reasons to go wild…
- Living more healthily
Loving our neighbour ‘as ourselves’ presupposes looking after our own health. Are we spending time and money on things that are giving us energy and making us feel more alive? Or are we ending our days and weeks feeling drained and washed up? Are there things for us to give up (junk food or screen time for example) or for us to take up (cycling or healthier meals perhaps)?
Why not spend a few moments going through this list with a friend or partner?
How would our spending patterns change if we consistently lived out our most cherished values?
The extent we experience fulfilment in life is closely related to aligning values and lifestyle.
One would hope that our bank balance should also show a marked improvement!