Over the next few months I’ll be taking you through a book called “Living Well Spending Less” by Ruth Soukup. This is a nice take on a universal theme that gets covered by so many self help books these days. What’s nice about this book is that it includes a Christian perspective that makes it somewhat different from other books on the topic.
I’ll basically take you through the book chapter by chapter. The book is broken into two parts:
- Living Well; and
- Spending Less.
In a way, you can treat this as a virtual study group.
Part One: Living Well
Secret #1: The Good Life Is Not What We Think It Is
Matthew 6:19-21 New International Version (NIV)
19 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
From a very young age we are conditioned to equate possessions with happiness. We often think that a Good Life is dependent on what we have. The new car, new phone, home, dress, tv, gadget, job…if I can just get the right stuff, my life will be complete?
You’ve been dreaming of your new home and kitting it out with nice new furniture. What happens when you get it? Often it’s just a never ending treadmill. Then the new tv, new sofa, new dinner table, new vacuum cleaner, homewares, curtains? You can spend all your time and energy creating the perfect house you’d always dreamed of and yet your life still seems far from perfect. You still feel unfulfilled, unsatisfied, discontent, still craving more.
More Is Never Enough
The idea that more stuff will make you happy is constantly being re-enforced at every turn in our consumer driven society. Commercials, billboards, magazine spreads keep tempting us:
If your house looks like this, you’ll be satisfied;
If you drive this car, you’ll be successful.
If you use this makeup, you’ll be beautiful.
if you wear these clothes you’ll be enviable.
If you eat this food you’ll be skinny.
This will be the thing that fills you up.
The messages are endless.
We want more and more thinking that it will provide the Good Life but it never does. The whispers are a lie. The Good Life is not what we think it is.
Money and possessions on their own are not necessarily harmful or destructive. However the pursuit of them can be. Over and over, the Bible warns against this phenomenon:
“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” Luke 12:15 (NIV)
5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5 (NIV)
13 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Luke 16:13 (NIV)
These warning aren’t just for the rich. The warnings applies to all of us.
It is not the wealth or the stuff that kills us; it is the wanting, the longing, the desire for wealth, possessions, power and status that can take over our hearts and mind, leaving room for little else.
Regardless of the never quite enough message society wants to give us, a life consumed by always wanting more is not the Good Life.
In Search of the Good Life
Sometimes you have no choice but to re-evaluate and stop. You can seek a different sort of life for yourself, partner and loved ones. A life that isn’t defined by what you have but who you are. You can begin a quest for the Good Life.
Not Just about the Money
Discovering the Good Life is not just about learning to spend less but about changing the desire of our heart. Shifting our priorities from wanting and hoping for the best of everything in this world…to deeply longing to store up a different kind of treasure.
This is a call to go down a different path:
11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called… not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.18 …do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way you will lay up treasure for yourself as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that you may take hold of the life that is truly life. 1 Timothy 6:11-12, 17-19 (NIV), paraphrased.
This is the Good Life.
You may not fully realise it but you are a child of a patient, loving and forgiving Father. You are called to serve him and only him, and you are whether or not you believe it saved by an amazing, infallible, completely undeserved grace that doesn’t care how big your house is, what you drive or what you wear.
Praying For Change
It’s difficult living in a world screaming at you to consume. You will have to continually pray to God to change your heart, to lead you where he would have you go and to take away the desires of this world. Keep praying that prayer. It can be a terrifying prayer as often we love the things of this world.
Ultimately though hopefully you can feel the deep dissatisfaction in your heart of pursuing the wrong things. You can have so much but still feel so empty. The consumption of more stuff just doesn’t fulfil you and in fact leaves you feeling empty instead.
You read this blog and many more like it but the reality is that true change will only come through prayer:
- 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Mark 11:24 (NIV)
- 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)
The Bible is clear, if we pray for God to change our heart, God will answer.
The Good Life, Defined
As life goes on, you can seek a different kind of wealth, a richness that comes from fullness in Christ. You can pursue the Good Life defined so beautifully in 1 Timothy. You can pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Do not be arrogant or put your hope in wealth but put your hope in God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Do good, be rich in good deeds and be generous and willing to share. In this way you can lay up treasure for yourself for the coming age, so that you may take hold of the life that is truly life.
This really is the Good Life. A life rich in faith, family, friends and creativity. It is life full of the richness that God has to offer, a life spent building treasures in heaven rather than here on earth. It is a life of discipline, hard work and self-reflection.
It may not be easy or comfortable but it is always full in abundance and completely secure in Christ.
Is this the life you want to live?
Challenge: Define Your Good Life
- How do you think society’s emphasis on wealth, success and possessions affects you?
- Do you find yourself frequently longing for better and nicer things?
- Are your life goals and aspirations based on society’s definition of success?
Identify any changes you need to make in your heart’s desires and motivations.
Write them down and commit to spend time each day to pray for transformation. God will change your heart; all you have to do is ask.
Note: All of the above contains large excerpts from Ruth Soukup’s book “Living Well Spending Less“.