It’s still a new year and I love taking a look at these disciplines to try and be closer to God. I find that every year I say that I am going to be closer to God but don’t really feel like I make progress in that direction. Last week we took a look at prayer and meditation. I felt like that was an easy place to start, as many Christians equate those practices with getting closer to God. This week, we are going to take a look at something that might be counter intuitive. This week we will look at the spiritual discipline of frugality.
I know what you’re thinking. “Great! He’s gonna write about how my money needs to go to the Church and everything.” While this can certainly be a part of this conversation, it is not exactly what I mean. So what does it mean to be frugal? Frugality is simply being sparing with your resources. This word typically applies to money or food. Often you might hear, “We live a frugal lifestyle.” Chances are these people live in a manner where they are not spending much money because they either do not have much to spend or they are trying to do better financially. Is that what it means to be frugal as a spiritual discipline?
“In God’s world, for those who are in earnest, there is no failure. No work truly done, no word earnest spoken, no sacrifice freely made, was ever made in vain.”
— Frederick Robertson
As I keep saying, a spiritual discipline is an action we do to become more like Christ, that we need God’s help to do. I think that frugality because a spiritual discipline when we do not need to practice it, but choose to do it so you have more to give for God’s service. The ways this might work out in our modern lives is that maybe we don’t get the most up-to-date smartphone, maybe we don’t have every streaming service under the sun, maybe we don’t have the car that settles you with a large payment and choose to go for one you can pay in cash for or take a smaller payment. The point is to take a look at the way your life runs and cut back where you can. God comes in when you are cutting beyond where it is comfortable; trusting Him to provide for you while you take care of His creation. This could even be setting up rules for yourself so you know where the line is. If I consume more than this, I cannot do more to show the love of God to others.
“For our personal spirituality, we look at our personal lives and consider whether we are frugal, whether we really have and use only what we need. There is a wonderful gift in being able to strive to have and use only what we need.”
— Philip Lawrence
I had a conversation with someone about practicing frugality as a spiritual discipline. She said to me, “So like, I should get a flip phone rather than a smart phone?” Her comment was how much money this would save her since she would no longer need a payment plan for her phone plus the monthly fee for data. I responded, “Why have a phone at all and save yourself the entire bill?” I found that her family lives across the country and without her phone she would not be able to stay in contact with them. I said to her, “Could not not still drop the phone and maintain contact through letters?” I understand the need to stay in contact with family, but this is the point where God comes into the practice of frugality. I told her that if her focus is truly on cutting back so much that she could serve how she wants, you have to look at frugality in this way. Where would it hurt to cut back? Can I do it and still be able to live for God? What is holding me back from making these cuts?
“Love always involves responsibility, and love always involves sacrifice. And we do not really love Christ unless we are prepared to face His task and to take up His Cross.”
— William Barclay
Do not misunderstand me. This is a hard practice to do and I am certainly no expert. As a matter of fact, I’m not sure of any way that I do practice frugality spiritually. I am typing this on a laptop that I want to replace because the keyboard is a little weird and I’m tired of messing with it. I would love to be able to be more frugal, but it is hard. I usually argue back and forth with myself that I have responsibilities that would not allow me to cut this deep, but maybe this is where I need to have more faith. Frugality is hard, but it is a thing that we can do to show our devotion to God. In this practice we forsake our own desires in order to live for God and do as He would have us do.
“A ruler questioned Him saying, ‘Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments. Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not bear false witness, honor your father and mother.’ And he said, ‘All these things I have kept from my youth.’ When Jesus heard this, He said to him, ‘One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
— Luke 18:18-22, NASB