“How do they do it?” asked my husband, Dan. He tossed his keys down and slumped into his old, forest green recliner, a relic from his bachelor days that he’d insisted we keep when we got married. “They must have inherited money. Honestly, do you think they make more than we do?”
I sighed. We’d just gotten home from a party at a friend’s house. We have this conversation, or versions of it, all the time.
I guess it all started when we got involved in our church’s young marrieds group. The people were very nice—and extremely successful. Although we were all in our early thirties, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw one couple’s lakeside home. They had all the toys—a boat and a jet ski in the boathouse (nearly as big as our house at the time) and a premium-packaged Tahoe in the three-car garage.
Once Dan and I started spending time with our new, affluent friends, our life didn’t seem all that great anymore. Our modest, three-bedroom ranch felt cramped. Our used Honda looked cheap. I cringed when I looked at that old recliner and the rest of our hand-me-down furniture, which prior to visiting “Trump Tower Lakeside” had been tolerable (strictly functional, but tolerable). Our old TV with giant rabbit ears just couldn’t compare with Tom and Kris’s state-of-the-art entertainment system.
So every time the topic came up, we spent a good hour or so arguing. “Just because nearly everyone in our class shows off how rich they are doesn’t mean we ought to run out and buy something we can’t afford,” I snapped at Dan.
“I make good money, Lauren,” Dan shot back. “We could get financed for a new home, you know, if that’s what we wanted.”
And so we did. Six months later, we moved from our affordable home to a new community near the lake with a gorgeous view from the front porch of our Georgian colonial. It wasn’t more than our friends had; it was just more than we’d ever had. It was bigger than our parents’ homes.
We agreed we wouldn’t take a vacation that summer. But we can’t take one next summer either because we’re so behind on our payments. We do more than a little finagling to get the checkbook to balance most months. We’re finally fitting in with our friends’ lifestyles. I just hope we can keep the pace.
Would Jesus drive a BMW?
That question has floated around in the Christian community and even in an environmentalist ad campaign. Regardless of what you think about Jesus’ supposed motor vehicle of choice, the root issue is this: “What should Christians do with their money?” No doubt, money—either the lack of it or its abundance—conditions our lifestyle choices. The temptation is to think that we’re not successful until we have a large home, drive a nice car, put our kids in the best private schools and take exciting vacations to Aruba. Sadly, many of us are willing to risk our future well-being and financial freedom in order to be happy today, at any price.
The Bible says the world clamors and “runs” after all it can grab in this life (see Luke 12:29–30). Women who are committed to Jesus have to make counter-cultural choices in their lifestyles. Emulating Jesus’ lifestyle does not necessarily mean pursuing poverty (as if by it one is inherently more spiritual). It means internally identifying with the overarching themes of his life. Consider the themes of Jesus’ life:
- Outrageous generosity
- Impenetrable joy
These characteristics, not dollar signs, are the primary distinctions between Jesus’ lifestyle versus the way the world lives.
Deciding you’re not going to live like the rest of the world—even if you can afford it—is that much more difficult when you realize that Jesus is talking about a change of heart. Trading in a new BMW for a used Honda is much easier than taking a realistic look behind what is driving your lifestyle choices. Your attitude toward money, not what’s in your garage, is one of the quickest external indicators of your inward commitment.
“[In our media-saturated culture,] people can see, in agonizing detail, all the expensive things they will never possess. This may make what a typical person possesses seem insufficient, even if the person is one of the tens of millions of Americans living, by the standards of history, in unprecedented comfort and freedom.”
“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.’”