Don’t let frugality steal your generosity
Frugality is perhaps one of the most prevalent characteristics found in college students, young seminarians, and millennials. Ever since the financial crisis of 2008, rising prices for college tuition as well as growing concern for market validity have given millennials ample incentives to become frugal. Of course, we would affirm that frugality is a good…
Frugality is perhaps one of the most prevalent characteristics found in college students, young seminarians, and millennials. Ever since the financial crisis of 2008, rising prices for college tuition as well as growing concern for market validity have given millennials ample incentives to become frugal.
Of course, we would affirm that frugality is a good conviction to obtain. Websites and Facebook pages are devoted to finding the cheapest grocery stores, online technology deals, low-priced restaurant dining, and even the occasional free miscellaneous items. College students and seminarians alike scour online retailers for the cheapest deals on both school supplies and academic textbooks.
Christians should positively affirm these valiant pursuits of frugality made not only by millennials, but also by other fiscally minded believers who seek to save money. The Bible regularly calls on Christians to be good stewards and wise with money (Matt 25:14-30; 1 Pet 4:10). The Bible also readily affirms that the wise man will save and store up his wages for the future (Prov 21:20). These verses clearly illustrate the importance that the Bible places on intentionally saving money.
Don’t dismiss generosity
Yet, we can become too focused on saving money just for the sake of financial security. In the pursuit of this goal, we frequently dismiss other Christian virtues, such as lavish generosity, along the way.
“We value money to the extent that we withhold generosity from others.”
If we are honest with ourselves, we value money to the extent that we withhold generosity from others. For instance, have you ever gone out to eat at a restaurant and knowingly not tipped your server sufficiently? You might convince yourself that the food or the service wasn’t good enough to warrant such generosity. But if you were completely honest, you would have to admit that something kept you from generous tipping—something other than mere frugality. Perhaps you pass by a street musician or sidewalk performer and try to ignore them. Again, you might convince yourself that the musician wasn’t worth the money or the performer was a fraud, but in all honesty, you just wanted to selfishly hold onto your money.
An obedience issue
The frugal Christian’s inability to obey biblical commands of generously parting with money for the sake of another is a sobering and frequent reality. For some reason, when practical situations arise concerning money being given over to another, frugal believers often become reluctant and uncomfortable.
The realization of this natural reaction in ourselves should come as no surprise to the morally conscious Christian. The Bible warns us to beware of money. Though it is necessary, money can quickly become an object of lust, envy, and desire (1 Tim 6:10). If for nothing else, we Christians must always be cautious about the priority and security that we place in our money.
Even though the Bible clearly instructs Christians to be wary of the love for money, the frugal Christian’s desire to be thrifty often goes beyond mere ambition of saving money. Is it possible that we allow our desire for saving money to overtake our calling to be charitable and giving to people?
Is thriftiness really masking greed?
Sometimes even unknowingly, we allow selfishness, pride, and greed to mask themselves as thriftiness both in our minds and in our actions. Too frequently I’m afraid, believers are guilty of subconsciously allowing this to occur. Unfortunately, mistaking frugality for greed is common for Christians who try to save money at the expense of others, instead of being generous out of obedience to God. Let’s not forget that the Bible is just as clear about Christian charity and generosity as it is about frugality and stewardship (Matt 10:42; 2 Cor 9:7, 13).
“Sometimes even unknowingly, we allow selfishness, pride, and greed to mask themselves as thriftiness both in our minds and in our actions.”
When we don’t tip well, when we withhold or decrease our financial giving to the Lord, or when we monetarily short-change our friends, we’re demonstrating what is really in our hearts—greed, selfishness, and a lust for money. At its core frugality is the discipline of not wasting money frivolously. Generosity, on the other hand, is choosing to wisely use one’s funds for the betterment of others. This is the command that Christians are called to follow. Scripture clearly instructs us to be benevolent to others and in so doing to appropriately demonstrate Christ’s love.
When we withhold money from those who either deserve or could be greatly blessed by it, we are practically portraying trust in our money rather than on God’s commands and provisions. Believer, let us always seek to be frugal, but never at the expense of God’s instruction for generosity (Heb 13:5).
If our lives are truly greater to the Lord than that of a sparrow (Matt 6:26), then can we not trust that the Lord will provide for those who are faithful in generous giving? Let’s resolve to be faithful stewards of all that the Lord has blessed us with, while at the same time giving generously as we are called.
Jeremiah Greever is the senior pastor of First Baptist Church of St. John in St. Louis Missouri, and is currently working on his Master of Divinity at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also serves as a research intern in the office of the president for Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. You can follow him on Twitter @JeremiahGreever.