Wednesday, August 20, 2014

contentment in living paycheck to paycheck

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 I don't get why "living paycheck to paycheck" is such a terrible thing.

Seriously, why is that? That's how we live and we're perfectly content. And that's the total truth.

I mean, I guess I can understand that people who don't have extra tend to be stressed over "what if something happens?" I do get that. But that's what savings is for (not credit cards!). So I guess I should clarify there. When I say that Ben and I live paycheck to paycheck, it means we don't have excess, but we do still put money into savings. We're also not worried about the "what ifs" because we trust the Lord to provide because 1. He says He will and 2. He always has (and we've been in some pretty hard financial situations).

And I should also clarify by what I mean when I say "excess." When I do the budget each month, after money is allotted to tithing, savings, mortgage, car insurance, electric, gas, water, trash, sewage, cell phone, internet, groceries, and gas for the car (those are all of our expenses each month, pulled right off my bi-weekly budget for the world to see), there is a very small amount of money left over. This generally goes to a new-to-us pair of shoes for the kid whose feet can't squeeze into his current pair or a new pack of white t-shirts for Ben. Nothing fancy. Simply what is required, needed.

But to keep it real, you should know that we do generally eat lunch out a few Saturdays a month. And by "eat out" I mean something a little nicer than fast food but certainly no PF Chang's.

The truth is that contentment despite our frugal lifestyle didn't happen over night. It took time and a lot of hard lessons from the Lord to change my heart in this area. If you haven't read them before, I suggest reading how God changed my view of stuff and how to live within your means.

But you know what the Lord has taught me through living such a plain lifestyle?: How to budget. How to meal plan. How to grocery shop. How to use exactly the amount of food I have in my kitchen and how to have nothing left over. How to make food from scratch. How to eat real food. How to fix things that break rather than throwing them out. How to better schedule my time. How to give up what little I have so that my children can have better. How to go without. How to check my heart. How to find contentment in things that are not material.

So here's how I see it. Why does living paycheck to paycheck have to be so bad?
Why can't living paycheck to paycheck be a means by which we learn:

discipline, 
frugality,
industriousness, 
service, 
sacrifice, 
selflessness, 
minimalism, 
simplicity? 

Ultimately, those are the attributes I want to learn and know and live by in all areas of my life. That is the life I am called to in Christ. That's not to say we can't have lots of money and be Christians. Goodness no! Job was quite well off and Solomon was seriously wealthy. Both incredible men of God.

I guess my point here is that we can learn so much in this one area of life that can be applied to all areas. These characteristics are good for far more than just finances. That's why not having it all and not wanting it all is a good thing.

Because for me (as far as finances go) and I know for a lot of us, since we're surrounded by materialism and consumerism, if we're going to be totally honest here, going without is way better for my heart than having all the things.

Rick Warren talks about how he and his wife reverse tithe. As in, they tithe 90% (or actually I think more at this point) and live on just 10% of his income. And he takes no paycheck from his church. But he didn't start doing that when he got famous and his books became best sellers. He and his wife, from very early on in their marriage, decided to add a little more to the amount they tithed each year. Sometimes they added 2 or 3%, sometimes it was only half a percent. But each year it increased. He firmly believes that the Lord blessed him with the financial success he has right now because he showed faithfulness to God with a little. He's been blessed with financial success but he doesn't keep it for himself. He gives most of it away. And he still drives the same old car and wears a watch from Walmart (true story).

How many of us can say that if that item we handcraft and sell online or that ebook we wrote or if whatever other financial endeavor we are apart of became an overnight success, we would give the majority of our income and continue to live on simply what we require? I don't know that I would.

Would I like for us to have more money? Sometimes I think, "uh duh I want more money!!" and sometimes I realize that more money is not the answer. My fear is that if we had more money, if we had excess, it would become disposable income and I would use it on things that we don't necessarily need: more clothes and toys for the kids, more meals eaten out, a pair of shoes I saw and had to have but then rarely wear, a new tablet even though the one I have works just fine, a newer and nicer and bigger car and the list is truly endless. In that sense I know we would be tempted to become gluttonous. We'd feed ourselves with more than we actually need. Because you can be a glutton with things too.

Ultimately, I want to live a life that is the antithesis of extravagant. I want simple. Because you know what, it's not about me and what I want. Certainly my flesh wants and craves all the things. But my heart, the new heart that has been given me by the Holy Spirit, desires to be like Christ. You know, the God and Creator of the universe who came to earth and put on flesh. The man who had no place to lay his head. He served his own followers by washing their feet. He died for His enemies- the ultimate picture of service and sacrifice. Jesus was a man of simplicity, discipline, service and selflessness. Lord make me like Him and if that means living with less than I want, then so be it and I'm happy to do so.

And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me. Mark 10:21

more of the how to live within your means series here.