Monday, August 17, 2009

Enough to Get By

Depending whose opinion you buy, we are in the middle of climbing out of an world economy that has failed miserably or possibly was on the brink of global collapse. Regardless what you believe on that front, nearly every citizen in this country has had to reconsider their finances. In essence, it boils down to two questions. "How much are am I making," and "Do I have enough to get by?" The first question is simple: it's talking about income. Some of us have jobs where we work for an employer, others work under the table, and some of us are being supported and are dependant on others. Add up all your incomes and you're set - that is how much you're making.

But the second question, though meager in word count, is a very loaded question. Enough to get by? Do I need cable? Internet? How much food do I really eat? How many children do you want? Child expenses? Is this house too big? How about this apartment instead? Utilities? How much do I invest in movies and entertainment? How often do I eat out? Do I need two vehicles? Car insurance? Student loans? Clothing? Medical insurance? Pets? Transportation? Tithes, donations and charities?

These are only a small sample of questions that we answer, conscience or not, on a regular basis. And these questions determine how much we need to make in order to get by. To get an idea about how much we differ on these things, I posted the question, "How much do we need to make in order to get by?" The people who responded did not have any children and some live with another person (i.e. husband, wife, roommate) or lived alone or lived with their parents. Yearly salaries ranged from $6000 to $20000.

Although I recognize that a $14000 different isn't that much, especially when you factor in insurances and rent, but the idea that people have differing opinions on what is enough to get by should be staring you in the face... Here is my two cents, as Christ Followers, what we could be doing to lowering our monthly costs and the reasons behind them.

1) Excess. As Americans, we live in a culture of excess. Most citizens of other countries live on less than $2 a day. For kicks, let's say that is a gross exaggeration and it's really $10/day - that's still only $2600/year. ($2/day is $520/year). Across the street where I am typing this I see a house with 3 cars parked in front of it. We regularly attend $9 movie showings (and still by the DVD). We think its our right to eat out a least once a week for at least one meal. Bottom line: we have way too much to dip our hands into and we want to take a piece of all of it. When we get a raise or increase in our income, we don't consider living the same lifestyle - we indulge according. It's well stated that most of us say we could live comfortably if we made double our income. What's the demographics of that? It doesn't matter. The woman living in the city who makes $15000 would be comfortable with $30000. The CEO living in their summer beach house right now who makes $125000 would be comfortable with $250k. Staggering.

No longer conform yourselves to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will know what God's will is - is good, pleasing and perfect will.

2) Contentment. Not only are we seeking what is new and exciting, but we seemingly aren't very thankful for what we have right now. Do we need to purchase more clothes or can we wear that shirt that we haven't worn in months? Do we really need to upgrade our laptop to OSX (Mac) or Windows 7? Get a new DVD player? The spoiled mentality not only coerces us into thinking we need something new, but it makes us unsatisfied with the old. Honestly, I like my wardrobe, my old and small dining room table, my ridiculously slow laptop that's running XP and my paint-peeled Saturn. Why? Because it allows me to go where I need to go and do what I need to do. Is the best? Of course not, but I'm still thankful and blessed that I have what I do, because I recognize that many don't have that - and they aren't tribal peoples in Africa, they're just around the corner from where I live. God will never leave his loved ones without the means to get to where we are supposed to be. Matthew 6:19-34

Criticize it, embrace it, or question it: it's up to you. But I want to hear your voice in all this. In order to understand how to be a good steward of what has been given to us, we can only be refined by thoughts that are not our own. Whatever your take is on this, feel free to comment. Until then, I pray that we will continue to search out what it means to use money the way it was properly meant to be used - and not just during recessions, but for the rest of our lives, regardless the economical weather.

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