Archives For August 2009

       Owning a car is vital in many parts of the U.S. In rural areas, public transportation is vastly non-existent. But needing a car to get around doesn’t mean you need a BMW, Mercedes-Benz, or Jaguar. A car is really only worth it’s transportation value. Once you can measure your car’s worth based on that factor alone, you can learn to be content with your car.

If You Own a Car, You’re Rich

       Nearly everyone old enough to drive in the U.S. owns a car, so it might not seem like you’re rich just because you have a vehicle in your driveway. But car ownership worldwide is not so prevalent. There were an estimated 806 million passenger vehicles worldwide in 2007, which means about 16% of people old enough to drive own a car.

       So if you own a car, even a really ugly one, you’re richer than 84% of the people in the world. Many people will never even dream of owning a car because it’s so far outside their realm of possibility.

Does Your Car Meet Your Needs?

       The key to being content with anything in your life is to ask yourself if it meets your needs. If your house meets your needs, then it’s big enough. If your food keeps you nourished and full, then you have enough food. If your car gets you where you need to go, then it’s good enough for you.

       Almost everyone in the U.S. has their needs met. Even the 37 million or so people the government classifies as poor are much better off than the rest of the world. Except for the very, very poorest of the poor Americans, they all have food, clothing, shelter, warmth, and medical care – not to mention the luxuries of a car, television, air conditioning, cell phones, computers, and other things that might not be completely necessary for life.

       If your car doesn’t meet your needs, then your dissatisfaction is not discontentment. But it’s hardly ever true for Americans that we have something that doesn’t really meet our needs. Our discontentment usually stems from a deeper problem.

Why Aren’t You Happy with Your Car?

       Is it because someone else has a nicer car than you? Or because there’s a better car available? Does that really matter? If your car meets your needs, then it doesn’t matter if someone else thinks it looks nice. And buying anything in an effort to impress other people is a losing proposition. Not only are you wasting your money in an attempt to buy flattery, but you’re also basing your self worth on the opinions of others.

       Materialism – finding our value in our Stuff – is the real reason most Americans aren’t happy with what they have. We feel like more Stuff or better Stuff will make us more fulfilled and happy. But your life does not consist in the abundance or quality of your possessions. Life is much more than Stuff, and you’ll never find true happiness in Things. How many people really believe they are happy because they have a fancy car? Seriously, if there’s anyone out there who believes that, please let me know. Then tell me what will happen if you lose that car or it gets totaled when you accidentally wreck it.

       Realize that a nicer car won’t make you any happier. A car that meets your needs is all you really need. Anything beyond that is just extra.

Base Your Happiness on the Only Thing That Really Matters

       There is only one foundation for true happiness that will last through life and death. Nothing you can do in this life can secure happiness for you or help you find contentment in anything. It’s only through the power of Christ that you can overcome the temptations and deceit of riches in this world. Christ has overcome the World and Satan, and through Him you can overcome them, too!

       For the person who is content in Christ, any car will do if it meets their needs. There’s never a concern about comparing your possessions to anyone else’s because you know they don’t really matter. Nothing in this life matters compared to knowing Jesus. Through Him, you can have the power to be content in any situation – whether hungry or full, homeless or sheltered, or driving an old beater or a brand-new sports car. The power of Christ – the knowledge that you have conquered life and death through Him – overwhelms the good or bad of any situation you’ll ever face in this life.

       It’s really only through Jesus that you can find true contentment in this life. Sure, you might be able to learn to find happiness beyond Stuff, but your happiness can only last until you die or until some situation comes along that pushes you beyond the limits of your strength. Somewhere along the line you’ll encounter trials that you cannot overcome. You’ll deal with situations that break your emotions and tear your happiness away. And it’s in those situations that a Christian can still find overwhelming joy and happiness because they’ve built their foundation on Jesus.

       If you missed the earlier parts of this series, you can find them here:

       In this last article on the lies of the prosperity gospel, we’re going to look at the idea of giving to get blessings. This belief is widely held by many proponents of the greed gospel. There are even some Christians who would argue against the prosperity gospel who still believe that God will bless them if they give more. Jesus made it clear that giving was a means of showing our love for each other and accumulating heavenly treasuresnot worldly treasures.

Buying God’s Blessing

       The prosperity gospel preachers claim that the more you give the more God will bless you. Think about that statement for a moment. If that’s true, what they’re saying is that you can buy off God. You can bribe Him into blessing you just by giving money (usually to their “ministry”). They can’t be any further from the truth! You can’t buy God’s blessings – He has already freely blessed us with the Gift of His Son. We have need for nothing else. In fact, Jesus warned us not to worry about our needs but to focus on seeking the Kingdom of God instead.

       The story of Simon the sorcerer is a clear warning against thinking that you can buy God’s blessings. When Simon saw the power of the Holy Spirit working through Peter and John and how they could give the Holy Spirit by laying their hands on people, he offered them money so that he could get the power of the Holy Spirit. But look at what Peter said to him:

       20 But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! 21 You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart isn’t right before God. 22 Repent therefore of this, your wickedness, and ask God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity.”

Acts 8:20-23 (WEB)

       Peter chastises Simon the sorcerer for thinking he could by God’s blessing and power with money. Simon had believed and been baptized, but his heart still wasn’t right with God. It’s the same with those who preach the prosperity gospel. They look at the Gospel of Christ as a means of financial gain – for them and their followers. They preach that if you’ll just give you can get God’s blessings. They think the power of the Gospel is in blessing us in this life with all the material possessions we desire and great health and prosperity. But they’ve missed it completely. They’re the ones teaching a different doctrine, as Paul warned Timothy:

       3 If anyone teaches a different doctrine, and doesn’t consent to sound words, the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness, 4 he is conceited, knowing nothing, but obsessed with arguments, disputes, and word battles, from which come envy, strife, insulting, evil suspicions, 5 constant friction of people of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. Withdraw yourself from such. 6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we certainly can’t carry anything out. 8 But having food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 But those who are determined to be rich fall into a temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful lusts, such as drown men in ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some have been led astray from the faith in their greed, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

1 Timothy 6:3-10 (WEB) emphasis mine

       Those who preach and believe the prosperity gospel falsely think that following God is a way of getting money. But Paul says that godliness with contentment is great gain. Following God and being content in this life because you know how fleeting and temporary it is gives you more wealth than any worldly riches can amount to. You’ve conquered death through Christ! No amount of money can do that – which means you’re wealthier than the richest non-Christian in the world. That’s how the Gospel is a means to great gain!

Treasures in Heaven

       When Jesus taught about giving, He never promised financial or material blessings. He promised His followers they would receive spiritual blessings – treasures in Heaven – if they give generously and seek God’s Kingdom. He even warned that doing all the right and holy things still wouldn’t bring us to the Kingdom of Heaven if we’re still focused on worldly riches:

       17 As he was going out into the way, one ran to him, knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” 18 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except one—God. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not give false testimony,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and mother.’” 20 He said to him, “Teacher, I have observed all these things from my youth.” 21 Jesus looking at him loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack. Go, sell whatever you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me, taking up the cross.” 22 But his face fell at that saying, and he went away sorrowful, for he was one who had great possessions. 23 Jesus looked around, and said to his disciples, “How difficult it is for those who have riches to enter into the Kingdom of God!” 24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus answered again, “Children, how hard is it for those who trust in riches to enter into the Kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God.” 26 They were exceedingly astonished, saying to him, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus, looking at them, said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God, for all things are possible with God.” 28 Peter began to tell him, “Behold, we have left all, and have followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Most certainly I tell you, there is no one who has left house, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or land, for my sake, and for the sake of the Good News, 30 but he will receive one hundred times more now in this time, houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and land, with persecutions; and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last; and the last first.”

Mark 10:17-31 (WEB)

       You can’t ask for a clearer teaching! Jesus asks the young man to give everything he has to the poor. And then what does He promise? More wealth? No! He tells the young man he’ll have treasure in heaven and that he should follow Him and take up the cross. Taking up the cross doesn’t mean you’re going to have an easy life once you start following Jesus. It means you’re exposing yourself to death and choosing self denial and love instead of selfishness and greed. You relinquish yourself to God’s Will and through His power conquer the temptations of wealth. You count everything a loss compared to knowing Christ.

       Jesus made it perfectly clear that following Him is not a way to wealth, health, and prosperity. If anything, we’ll endure trials and suffering for our faith in Him. He promises that the Father will take care of our needs as long as we seek His Kingdom, but there is never a promise of earthly riches in Jesus’ teaching. Right after He tells His disciples not to worry about their needs, He again teaches that they should give to the poor so they will have treasure in heaven and will be focused completely on the Kingdom.

       33 Sell that which you have, and give gifts to the needy. Make for yourselves purses which don’t grow old, a treasure in the heavens that doesn’t fail, where no thief approaches, neither moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Luke 12:33-34 (WEB)

       It’s very important that we remember verse 34. Wherever we focus on storing up our treasures, that’s where our hearts will be focused as well. To focus on heaven means we focus on building up our treasures in heaven – not on earth. And that means we leave the world and all the things that are perishing with it behind. We focus on serving God and seeking His Kingdom – on doing His good work and saving up treasures in heaven. It’s only when we lose our desire for worldly wealth that we can truly serve Him.

Who Will You Serve?

       The conclusion of it all comes in Jesus’ words to the Pharisees:

       13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to one, and despise the other. You aren’t able to serve God and mammon (Money).” 14 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things, and they scoffed at him. 15 He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts. For that which is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.

Luke 16:13-15 (WEB)

       You cannot serve God and Money at the same time. You must choose one. If you choose Money, you choose the things that are prized and held with high regard among men. But those things are an abomination in the sight of God. They’re worthless!!! But if you choose God over Money, then you can truly serve Him and you’ll amass immeasurable riches in heaven. You’ll enjoy wealth that will never perish, will never disappear, and can never be stolen. You’ll have the unspeakable Gift of Jesus and the unsearchable wealth He has promised. So, who will you serve?

       In our study of New Covenant Giving principles, we’ve examined giving yourself to God first, giving in response to Jesus’ gift, and giving with sincere desire and love. Today, we’re going to talk about giving under grace – not commandment. New Covenant Giving is based on the desire to give and love produced by the Holy Spirit. This grace of giving is superior to the Old Testament requirements of tithing because we are taught directly by the Holy Spirit how we should give – not by the requirements of the Law.

Give According to the Spirit’s Leading

       In his instructions on giving to the Corinthian church, Paul makes it clear that he is not asking them to give because of the Old Testament requirements of tithing. He explicitly states that he is not encouraging them to give by way of a commandment. Instead, he appeals to the service of love, which comes from the Holy Spirit.

       I speak not by way of commandment, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity also of your love.

2 Corinthians 8:8 (WEB)

       Let each man give according as he has determined in his heart; not grudgingly, or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver.

2 Corinthians 9:7 (WEB)

       It’s clear that there is not even a hint of a commandment, requirement, compulsion, or demand in Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians to give to help the poor. We are no longer giving under the Law of Moses but under the Law of Grace. It is God’s Spirit working in us that compels us to give generously to help each other as He directs our heats. The law of tithing is not found in the New Covenant Giving principles.

       The Law imposed tithing as a divine requirement. But Christian giving is completely voluntary. It’s a test of sincerity and love. When we fully understand, accept, and build our hope upon the Good News of Jesus Christ, we find ourselves overcome with love for God. And our love for God leads us to follow His command to love our neighbors as ourselves. Love freely gives whatever is needed. Love doesn’t need a command telling it to give a specific percentage of it’s income. Love wants to give. Love needs to give. It is love’s nature to give. It cannot do otherwise.

       Under the grace of the New Covenant, God is not seeking the gift of your money. What He’s looking for is an expression of your total devotion to Him and His Ways. He cares for the poor, and when His Spirit dwells in you then you’ll care for the poor just as He does. Your giving is proof of the same love, concern, and compassion that God has for the needy.

       That’s why the principles of New Covenant Giving are so much better than the Old Testament system of tithing. New Covenant Giving is not bound by percentages. New Covenant Giving is not proof of your adherence to the Law – it’s proof that God’s love dwells in you. New Covenant Giving is free to be extravagantly generous, just as God has generously given us Christ. Can you imagine how generous Christians would be if they based their giving on the love that gave us Jesus even while we were rejecting that same love?

       Under the New Covenant, we obey God because He has made us a new creation in Christ. We no longer follow our sinful nature. We follow the nature of Christ. We are no longer taught by commandments and laws – the Holy Spirit teaches us how to live. We don’t need to be told to give 10% or any set amount because God has given us a nature of generosity. His Spirit teaches each one of us how we should give. The Holy Spirit leads our hearts to decide what is right to give, and then we give it joyfully and cheerfully – not out of guilt, or compulsion, or requirement.

       We have a higher responsibility than making sure we give 10% of our income. We are called to follow the Holy Spirit in our giving – as in all other areas of our Christian life. Instead of trying to follow legalistic rules, seek the counsel of God’s Spirit in deciding how much you should give. Then give as you have decided, willingly and cheerfully, and experience the grace of giving as we are taught under the New Covenant.

The first step in figuring out how much you need to save for retirement is to determine how much income you’ll need in retirement. This number will affect how much you need to have saved up on the day you retire. While you won’t know exactly how much you’ll be spending when you’re retired, you need to come up with the best estimate possible.

Step One: Forget the 70%, 80%, 90%, 95%, or any other % Rule

Any rule that says you’ll need a certain percent of your pre-retirement income is complete nonsense. Everyone’s situation is different. Some people will need only 40% of their pre-retirement income, while others may want 120%. Your retirement income needs strongly depend upon your personal situation. By using one of the many percent rules, you’ll be shooting for a much higher income than you actually need – or worse, you won’t save enough. So forget all these rules, and let’s look at your personal situation.

Step Two: Look at Your Current Spending

If you haven’t already been tracking your expenses, now is the time to start. Trying to predict your future expenses is going to be extremely difficult if you don’t even know what you’re spending right now. There are plenty of ways to track your expenses, some easy and others more time-consuming. I’ll let you choose the method you like best. It doesn’t really matter as long as you can get a fairly accurate picture of where your money is going.

It’s also important to have a clear understanding of your health insurance. There a number of different plans available, but a good amount of research is absolutely crucial before going through with any of them. Depending on your plan, you may have access to prescription drugs. This becomes increasingly important as you become older. Thankfully, you can still order your medications via online pharmacy. Not only is this less expensive than buying medication at a drug store, but it is also much more convenient, as everything goes straight to your home.

Step Three: Figure Out Which Categories Are Likely to Change

The next thing you’ll want to do is determine which parts of your budget are likely to change when you’re retired. Figure all of this stuff in today’s dollars (what it would cost today). Inflation will be accounted for later. Here are a few possibilities:

    • Housing – If you have a mortgage now but you won’t in retirement, make sure you take that out of your retirement income needs. You’ll still have property taxes, utilities, maintenance costs, and homeowner’s insurance. If you’re going to sell your home and rent in retirement, don’t forget to account for that. If you rent now, will you own a home by the time you retire? If so, estimate those costs by talking with people who live in homes similar to one you’d like to buy. If not, figure on still paying rent and renter’s insurance during retirement.


    • Kids – If your children will be on their own by the time you retire, you can cut out any related costs when figuring your retirement income needs. You may even be able to plan on downsizing your home after your kids have moved out – saving you more on housing.


    • Job – If you won’t be working, forget the commute, business clothes, and any meals you bought with co-workers or clients. If you’ll be working part-time, estimate what your related costs will be.


    • Savings – If you’re retired, you most likely won’t be saving for retirement. You’ll still want to set aside some money for emergencies and other goals, but you can cut this spending category way down if you’re currently saving a lot.


    • Insurance – Life and disability insurance are designed to cover the risk of premature death while you’re working. If you don’t need to work during retirement, you can cut out these costs as well (unless you need the life insurance for estate taxes). Health insurance may go up or down depending on your current situation. Medicare Part B costs about $1,200 a year right now with a $135/year deductible and 20% coinsurance after that. If you’ll have 40 quarters of covered employment, you won’t pay Part A premiums. Medicare Part D (prescription coverage) currently costs about $360/year in its basic form and about $760/year if you want some gap coverage. Any Medigap policy premiums will depend on the coverage you buy.


    • Health Care – If you have or develop a chronic illness, your health care costs may go up quite a bit in retirement. Medicare will cover most of the basic stuff, but if you have specific conditions you’ll either need to pay for related costs out of your own pocket or cover them with a Medigap policy. If you’re healthy now, you may not need to account for increased health care costs in retirement. This should be additional motivation to start living healthy now before it’s too late! You’ll save a lot of money and enjoy life more.


    • Senior Discounts – Some of your current costs may go down in retirement because of senior discounts. Golf may be cheaper, dining out may cost a little less, and public transportation may provide discounts as well. You might also be able to get lower rates on insurance policies. Don’t get too caught up trying to figure these things out. It largely depends on what you’ll be doing in retirement and whether or not a discount will be available.


    • Travel – Will you travel more or less in retirement? Many people travel a lot in the first few years of retirement, but return to their regular habits after that. Don’t forget the senior discounts that may apply and the fact that you can travel at off-peak times to save even more money. You’re not in a hurry either, so maybe you’ll drive instead of flying.


    • New Hobbies/Activities – Will you be taking up any new past-times in retirement? How much do you think they’ll cost? Will you stop doing some of the things you do now, and how much will that save you? Maybe you’re planning on volunteering a lot, which means you’ll have some transportation costs to account for. If you’ll be planning missionary trips, include those here or in the travel category.


  • Income Taxes – Don’t include your income taxes (federal, state, or local) in your required retirement income. We’ll account for some of those in step four and the rest in Part 2 of this series.

This list is not all-inclusive. Some of these categories won’t apply to you, and I’ve missed some that probably do. You’ll need to consider your own situation and adjust accordingly. Once you’ve figured out what will likely change for you in retirement, come up with an annual retirement income need.

Step Four: Deduct Any Income Sources

Next, you’ll want to add up all your income sources in retirement. If you’re close to retirement, you might be able to include Social Security – younger people would do best not to count on Social Security yet because of the uncertainty. Pensions, business income that will continue, and any part-time employment are all possible sources of income in retirement. Take your annual retirement income need and subtract your after-tax retirement income. This will give you your target retirement income (TRI), which we’ll use in Parts 2 and 3 of this series to determine how much you should be saving for retirement.

Stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3 of this series to figure out how much you should be saving for retirement. The best way to make sure you don’t miss a thing is to sign up for free updates to Provident Planning.

       You know all that extra Stuff you have? The Stuff that’s piled in corners, packed in boxes, gathering dust in the garage, or sitting in a storage unit could mean lots of extra cash for you if you’re willing to sell it. Either it’s worth something or it’s just costing you money by taking up space. Here’s how you can make some space and some money by getting rid of your Stuff.

Ignore Your Inner Pack Rat

       Your inner pack rat is telling you that you’ll use all that Stuff someday. Or maybe it’s whispering sweet nothings about sentimental value. The first thing you need to realize before you can make money by selling your Stuff is that you must ignore your inner pack rat! He’s what got you into this mess in the first place!!!

       To really cash in on your Stuff, you’re going to have to get rid of all the junk that you never use. Then you need to go through the rest and figure out if you really need it or not. Be ruthless! If it’s something you haven’t used in the past 3 months, plan on selling it. Of course, you don’t have to sell everything to make some money. But you’ll make a lot more if you’re willing to part with all that extra Stuff you never use.


       Your first stop for selling your Stuff should be eBay. It’s a great way to sell items for much more than you’d get by having a garage/yard sale – and you don’t have to sit outside at home all day on a weekend either. Not everything will sell very well on eBay, so think about it before you start listing items. There is a cost to this, but the higher prices you’re likely to get will outweigh that. Take quality pictures, use a good title, and write a detailed description to make sure you have the best chance of selling your Stuff at a good price.


       For larger items that don’t ship easily, you’re better off using your local Craigslist classifieds. It’s absolutely free and requires little effort on your part. Just make sure to include a good picture, use a good title, and write a detailed description. Be prompt about responding to inquiries, and be courteous by deleting your posting when you’ve sold the item. Be careful about setting up meetings with potential buyers, and be prepared to deal with no-shows. Your best bet is to deal only in cash as checks could easily bounce.

Have a Garage or Yard Sale

       This will take a bit more work than the other two options because you’ll need to organize all the stuff you want to sell, indicate prices somehow, and sit out with your Stuff all day while you wait for potential buyers. You’ll want to advertise by putting up signs along major roads near your house the week before and using any free resources like community newspapers and bulletin boards. Be prepared to negotiate with buyers, and don’t overvalue your items. The best way to sell nothing is to price everything too high.

Donate to Charity

       Finally, donate whatever you’re unable to sell to charity. The Salvation Army and Goodwill are easy places to make donations of a wide variety of Stuff as well as church yard sales. If you itemize deductions on your tax return, you can deduct your donation and possibly reduce your taxes or get a larger refund. Even if you don’t itemize, you’ll have done something good while getting rid of your Stuff. You’ll get a warm fuzzy feeling, and you’ll have more space so you don’t have to pay for a storage unit. You might even decide to downsize your home and save even more money!

Don’t Waste the Money

       Now that you’ve cashed in on your Stuff, be careful you don’t waste all that money. Build up your emergency fund, pay off debt, save for retirement, or give it to the needy. Just make sure you don’t go out and buy more Stuff that will start piling up again in all that space you cleared out!

Stop the Stuff from Taking Over Again

       Now that you’ve cashed in on all that Stuff you accumulated before, take time to figure out how you can stop Stuff from taking over your space again. Why did you buy all that Stuff in the first place? Learn your weaknesses, then find ways to avoid the temptation to buy useless Stuff in the future. You’ll save money, time, and the hassle of having to purge all that Stuff again in another few years.

       The median size of a new home in America has grown from 1,200 square feet in 1940 to over 2,200 square feet in 2008. Why is this? Is it because our families are growing? Nope. The average household size has shrunk from 3.7 to 2.6 in that same time period. Our families are getting smaller, but our houses are getting bigger. It’s no small matter either. Using a $90/square foot average cost, the difference is $90,000 – not including increased property taxes, utilities, maintenance, repairs, and insurance costs. How does a bigger house for a smaller family make any sense? What’s the reason behind this?


       The only reason we’d need bigger houses for smaller families is our lack of contentment. Obviously, smaller houses worked just fine for the bigger families of the 1940s. They provided the shelter needed for the family. The size of the home didn’t matter nearly as much as whether it met your family’s needs or not. Today, we have homes that far exceed our needs while we’re languishing in debt and foreclosure. We want more amenities, more space, more bathrooms, more bedrooms, an entertainment room, a study, a bonus room, bigger garages, a fireplace, and it never ends.

       If we knew the power of enough, America might not be in the mess it’s in today. Materialism and consumerism have blinded us to our astounding wealth. We have wasted this wealth on our wants and desires and fantasies instead of using it to help the billions of poor around the world. Learning contentment would help us and the rest of the world.

What Does a Home Represent?

       To understand your motives for desiring a bigger house even when you don’t need it, you should start by looking at what a home represents to you. Here are few things a home could mean to you:

  • Shelter – This is the most basic function of a home. It serves to shelter and protect you from the outside. It provides the necessities for a suitable home – a place to cook and eat, a place to sleep, a place to clean yourself, and a place to relax. It doesn’t take very much (at least in America) for a home to fulfill the purpose of a suitable shelter.

  • Hospitality – A home gives you a place to entertain your family, friends, and strangers. Without adequate room this can be difficult. But a fold-up table and some chairs outside will often do just fine weather permitting. What you need your home to be for the purposes of hospitality will depend a great deal on what you plan to do, but you don’t need much to enjoy time with family and friends.

  • Home – Home is where the heart is. For many people, a home is a place to make memories with their family. It’s a refuge from the troubles of the world. But does it take over 2,000 square feet for a home to serve this purpose? Not really – if your family is grounded in the Lord and love is there, you can have a strong, happy home with very little extra space.

  • Creativity – A home can be a place to express yourself. You can decorate however you want, create a garden, or remodel it to suit your tastes. It can be an outlet for creativity when none other is available. But again, having more space than you really need doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll feel like you’re able to express your creativity much better.

  • Storage – Most of the extra space in American homes today is filled to the brim with Stuff. You’ll see two or three car garages with all the vehicles sitting outside. What’s in the garage? Stuff, Stuff, and more Stuff. We’ve even created storage units so we can rent even more space to store all that Stuff we can’t find a place for in our overStuffed homes. Here’s a thought – get rid of your Stuff!!!

  • Investment – Your home is your most valuable asset, right? Think again. Home values barely keep up with inflation over a long period of time, and that’s before you account for all the costs associated with ownership. A home is not an investment, and it can barely be called an asset. It’s a place to live – buying more home than you need is money down the drain. (The whole issue of a home being a good investment deserves it’s own series of posts…)

  • Status – The most superficial of all possible meanings, status is one of the biggest factors involved when people seek a home that’s larger than what they really need. We use our homes to impress our families, our friends, our co-workers, our neighbors, strangers, and most of all – ourselves. Too often we derive our success in life from our possessions. Do we own a home? 20 points. Do we have a fancy car? 10 points. Can we retire early? 15 points. Do we have all the newest gadgets? 5 points. We need to stop valuing our success on our wealth and possessions. Life is so much more than our Stuff.

Does Your Home Meet Your Needs?

       Be brutally honest with yourself. Does your home meet your needs? Does it exceed your needs? The basic function of a home is to provide suitable shelter. If your home does that, it meets your needs. We need to learn to look at possessions for what they really are when we talk about what we need. They are tools to be used – not symbols to reflect our worth or success as a person.

       Our possessions do not define who we are. We can be happy without having more Stuff, bigger Stuff, or better Stuff. As Christians, our sufficiency, happiness, and joy come from contentment in Christ – knowing that all things count for nothing compared to knowing Him. We must realize that our eternal homes matter much more than our earthly homes. Jesus has prepared a place for us that is so much better than the biggest and fanciest home we could ever build on earth. Our hope and worth are found only in the salvation Christ has provided for us – not in our homes down here.

Question the Motives of Your Desires

       Why do you find yourself wanting a bigger home? Do you actually need more space? Carefully consider your answer. Is your reason for needing more space a true need, a must have, or is it something that would be nice to have? It’s not about what you can afford. It’s about what you need.

       Consider how blessed you are to even have a home. Over 3.5 million people in the U.S. are homeless in any given year, and over 1.1 billion people in the world don’t have suitable housing. The mere fact that you have a home means you are more blessed than many other people can even imagine.

       If you want a bigger house for any reason other than a real need, acknowledge your motives for what they are. The happiness you think you’ll get from owning a bigger home will never cover the true cost of your greed, envy, or pride. If your home meets your needs, be happy, content, and thankful that you are blessed with a home. If you honestly need a larger home, then by all means buy one. If you’re just seeking to fulfill your desires and fantasies, take time to consider your motives.

The Power of Enough Home

       If you can learn to be content with your home – or even better, a smaller home – you’ll be able to harness the power of having “enough” home. You’ll spend less on your housing costs (the biggest financial drain for most people) – leaving you with much more to fulfill God’s Provident Plan for your finances. Saving 10% on your housing costs is a lot more powerful than saving 10% on your food costs. Sign up to get free updates to Provident Planning if you’re interested in learning about specific ways you can lower your housing costs!

       It’s not your home.

       It’s not your investment portfolio.

       And it’s not your collection of Beanie Babies.

       No, your most valuable asset is your ability to earn money. While it can take the shape of a single job (very rare) or a single career (a little more likely), many people today are earning money through a wide variety of jobs or careers.

       It doesn’t matter much how you do it. The important thing is that you earn money. If you’re not able to earn money, you won’t have a home. You won’t have an investment portfolio. That’s right. You won’t even have your beloved collection of beanie babies!

       More importantly, you won’t have food, clothing, shelter (of any kind), or much of a way to keep warm unless you’re able to earn money. (Aside from disability insurance and the like)

       Without a way to earn money, you don’t have to worry about how to manage your personal finances. You won’t have any!

How Do You Earn Money?

       Illegal activities, inheritances, and investing aside, you earn money by providing some product or service that other people value (or even better, need). So your ability to earn money is really your ability to provide something (anything) that other people think is useful. If you can do that, you can earn money.

       There are so many possibilities that I’m not going to bother listing them here. Just remember: if someone else thinks they need it, you can get paid for it. Food, clothing, ideas, manual labor, advice, etc. – if it’s valuable to someone, they’ll pay you for it.

Invest in Your Most Valuable Asset

       How can you manage your most valuable asset well? Invest in your ability to earn money. But what does that mean? Invest in your ability to provide value to others. More simply, invest in yourself!

       Anything you can do to improve your ability to provide something of value to others will improve your ability to earn money. Learning more, making connections with people, and finding ways to better meet your customer’s or your boss’s needs are simple ways to invest in yourself. They can take on many different forms depending on your current or desired profession, so figure out what will work for you.

       Does this mean you shouldn’t invest for retirement? Not at all. You won’t be able to work forever! But it does mean that you should spend more time focusing on your ability to earn money rather than your ability to invest it. Your earning ability is far more important than your investing ability. Learn what you need to invest well for retirement (stay tuned to Provident Planning for more on that), and focus instead on how you can earn more and spend less and do more with what God has given you (how you can glorify Him more).

How Does This Apply to Christians?

       Isn’t focusing on how you can earn more just plain greed? It depends on what you plan to do with your extra earnings. For some people, it’ll mean being able to save when they couldn’t before or being able to pay off debt. For those who are already managing their own finances well and are earning enough to meet their needs and savings, it’ll mean being able to give more in God’s name.

       The only time it would be greed is when you intend to spend whatever you can get on yourself – your own desires and wants (not needs). If you’re focused on meeting your needs (or your family’s needs) or how you can give more to help others, you’ll be glorifying God and fully acting within His Provident Plan for your finances. Motive is the deciding factor between greed and generosity.

       God has made it perfectly clear that He has called Christians to work hard. Not only will you provide for your own needs and avoid laziness, but you’ll also be following His plan for your finances and putting yourself in a position to give more generously. Hard work is the pathway to financial success because it helps us earn more so we’ll have more to save and give.

       So the next time you start thinking your home, your investments, or your Beanie Babies are your most valuable assets, remember that you wouldn’t have them if it weren’t for your ability to earn money.