Financial well-being July 6, 2017 By
Recently at a weekend out-of-town sporting event for our grandson, my husband and I had nine long hours between games. We were a little too far away to go home and come back. Instead, he made the suggestion to go into town to shop and scout things out.
Just for clarity, I am NOT a hard-core shopper. I am a purposeful shopper – I purchase what I’m looking for, then escape quickly to the car, and head home. For me to go shop and “scout things out” is like dragging my fingernails across an old-school chalkboard. I was not in the right frame of mind and definitely not excited.
We went to the typical shopping destinations with all of the latest and greatest things where we did make some useful purchases. We also made it to antique stores, six to be exact.
I am not ecstatic about shopping in today’s popular and modern stores, but I REALLY do not like shopping in antique stores. My husband, however, is quite the opposite. He could spend days upon days in antique stores looking at all of the treasures from long-gone days that remind him of his childhood. He loves the smell of “old” while I am more of a “new” smell kind of shopper.
Enlightenment by Surprise
As it turned out, I had an enlightening moment from that day. It’s amazing how the simple-yet-profound lessons are right there in front of us and we don’t always see them at first.
In one of the antique stores, I was in total shock at how a more than 100-year-old reconditioned chair could cost $4,800, and how someone would be willing to buy it. I wondered how much that chair cost when it was brand new.
In my mind, I rambled back in time wondering if the original owner purchased that chair out of necessity, or because it was the newest, brightest, and best thing going at the time. Was it to impress and entertain friends in the parlor or just a chair for the children to sit on while doing their studies by candlelight?
Ultimately, I contemplated if the original owner thought that life would be “perfect” once they had this new chair as I have often thought when I desperately wanted something. I wondered if they had worked long hours, saved, planned and sacrificed to purchase the chair since there were no credit cards back then. Would they finally be content or were they on to the “next great thing?”
Needs vs. Wants
No matter what century we find ourselves living in, the question is still the same. When we purchase something, is it something we really need, or is it something we have decided we want but convince ourselves we really need?
Today, we are the most marketed to society in the history of the world. Peer pressure and materialism are rampant. Discontentment leads us to look for more, and then we always want more no matter how much money or stuff we already have.
To put it into perspective, think about it this way: will the things we purchase today be something 100 years from now that will be worth thousands of dollars, or buried deep in the local trash site? Is it something worth trading our time, effort, peace of mind, and hard-earned dollars to have? Most of the time the answer is a resounding NO!
So often, we look past the rational part of the purchase just to be able to experience feelings of excitement or even temporary satisfaction. I know this feeling first-hand because that is exactly what happened to me for so many years. Truthfully, I still fight that battle every single day in so many different ways.
Hard-earned Dollars Well Spent
One thing that I have learned and still think of constantly is that by spending those hard-earned dollars on things that provide only immediate satisfaction, I am actually not able to reach the longer-term financial goals that my husband and I have committed to.
I’ll be honest; would I love to have a brand new car with the wonderful new car smell? Of course I would! Instead, I take my very used but paid for car to the car wash, and have them spray the new car smell inside. I am thankful it is finally clean, and it smells great, too.
Would I love to have the most beautiful Chip and Joanna “Fixer Upper” home this side of Waco, Texas that would make us the envy of anyone that sees it? You bet I would –I’m not going to lie! Instead, I am learning to be thankful for the freedom and ability to reach our goals that our recently downsized home provides us.
I actually think the bigger question for me is this: do I want to have the time and freedom to spend with my family and friends realizing the rewards of faithfully handling the money God has entrusted to me, or would I rather have the next great thing? I would whole-heartedly answer YES to the richly blessed ultimate freedom only God can offer.
It all comes down to CONTENTMENT which is possible only when we realize there will always be “the next great thing” in a society that relentlessly motivates us to think we have to have “it” - whatever the “it” thing might be that day. Contentment is something we all yearn for in our lives even if we don’t actually realize we lack it.
According to Dave Ramsey and Rachel Cruze in their bestselling book, Smart Money Smart Kids, “Some families are looking for contentment in their income and possessions, but they’ll never find it there. Contentment happens on the inside, and when you have it, it’s there no matter how much money you make or how much stuff you have. A content person may not have the best of everything, but instead they make the best of everything.”
Finding True Contentment
The dictionary defines contentment as “the state of being happy and satisfied.” I believe, however, that true and lasting contentment is much more than being happy and satisfied. Think on this for a minute - true contentment comes from a grateful and humble heart recognizing that God owns it all.
Even though the Apostle Paul wrote two thousand years ago what he learned about true contentment, it still speaks powerfully to us today. In Philippians 4:11(b)-13 (NIV) Paul writes “…for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”
Now that is true contentment for each of us to know and experience - for all eternity.