Frugal or Faithful?


If you’re involved in grocery shopping for your family, you’ve probably noticed the price increases in food over the last few years. Inflation has had worldwide impact on prices, and in America, average lifestyle costs have increased 100 percent since 1990. The response to rising costs is varied depending on income but overall the majority of people in the U.S. are now more careful with their money than they were a few years ago.

Thrift has always been considered a major element in the protestant work ethic, but though the economic crunch may lead a person to become more frugal, it doesn’t mean they’re necessarily more faithful. Thrift, unchecked by biblical principles, can lead to hoarding, which Jesus condemns in Luke 12:13-21.

Lean times provide opportunities to examine our attitudes toward wealth and how we spend money. So, how should we mitigate the tension between wealth and waste or extravagance and need? Thrift in itself is not the answer, and self-imposed poverty is not a virtue. Selfishness and greed often lead people to be careful with their money because they’re trusting it for future security or they’re seeking to maintain a particular image. Thrift for the sake of thrift is being miserly.

Jesus’ not only taught against hoarding, he also warned of wealth as a life goal (see John 6:27) and advised against waste (see John 6:12). He even condemned the Pharisees for dedicating their wealth to religious causes while neglecting family needs. In other words, the way to properly manage resources is Jesus. Following his example provides a great deal of clarity on financial issues and brings great joy and blessing to life.

Our Lord’s example isn’t so much one of thrift as it is of simplicity. In Richard Foster’s book on spiritual disciplines, he describes simplicity as living a “with-God life.” Granted, such a life will not look the same for every person but certain things will always be present. For one, gratitude for what God has given and an ability to enjoy it without worry. A “with-God” life has an eternal perspective, understanding that laying up treasure in heaven means investing in people.

A frugal person may be a tightwad but a faithful person will always be generous. Susan Mettes in Christianity Today said, “Jesus taught us to be dismissive of the worth of money. He can use any amount and could be as thrifty as feeding 5,000 with five loaves and two fish or as extravagant as accepting a gift of perfume that costs a year’s wage.”

So, are you frugal or faithful? If the present economy has caused you to neglect generosity, made you anxious for the future, or injured your self-esteem, you need to change focus. Focus on Jesus. Study how he lived and what he taught about wealth. Following in his steps will lead to a simple life that is faithful, generous, and greatly blessed.

A frugal person may be a tightwad but a faithful person will always be generous.