One of the worst decisions we ever made was the purchase of our first home. We started out with a realistic perspective on how much we were going to spend, but as the realtor showed us different homes each one was more expensive than the previous one. When she finally showed us a home recently featured in our town’s Parade of Homes, containing everything we’d ever dreamed of and more, we were hooked! When we asked, “Can we really afford this?!” She smiled and assured us we could. That night we signed a contract… which left us “house poor” for the next five years!
No one told us the realtor was working for the seller, trying to get us to spend as much as we possibly could. We had no idea you can get approved to borrow more than you can really afford. Now Jim at this time was a very successful salesman. It was a pretty heady feeling seeing how his income kept increasing dramatically each year. Little did we know a recession would start almost as soon as the ink on our contract dried greatly reducing his income.
So we lived in a gorgeous home… barely scraping by.
To get by I started couponing like crazy. Each week I would spend at least 2 hours doing this and hitting all the grocery stores to take advantage of deals. When we purchased our next home, we paid almost half of what our first one cost and discovered the joy of having “extra money” …to give, to save, to pay extra on the house to get it paid off quicker. And I thought, “I never want to go back to being poor again!”
But then the Lord convicted me of my extreme couponing, pointing out how this was based on fear, not on following Him. Instead, He led me to do all my grocery shopping at one store. Of course I’d still take advantage of the sales they offered, but it was amazing the opportunities I had to share Jesus and see His gospel advance as I spent more time in one store and developed relationships seeing the same employees each week. And instead of spending two hours a week couponing and shopping for deals, He led me to use that time to disciple another woman.
Then when the Lord called us to go on staff with The Navigators and we had to move, necessitating the purchase of our third home I gave strict boundaries for how much we’d spend, refusing to look at anything costing much more than the house we’d just sold. But one night the Lord convicted me I was reacting out of fear, fear of being house poor again, fear of living off support which varied from month to month, fear of not having enough, rather than following Him and He challenged me instead to trust Him. Eventually He led us to buy a home that cost more than our first home! But every single part of it proved to be a vital part of the ministry He had for us! And He provided what we needed to live well and love well in that home.
You see, in Titus 2:3-5 the third reason Paul says older women are to train the younger women in what is good is so they can be σωφρων. Different versions translate this to be self-controlled, to live wisely, to be sensible, to be discreet, to use good judgment, to be temperate. Historically this word was the mean between license and stupidity, frivolity and covetousness. Paul considers it a virtue describing the Christian life in the world where “faith manifests itself in a proper attitude to the world and its goods,” one of moderation and content.* As it says in Ecclesiastes 7:18, “Whoever is wise will avoid extremes.”
What a difference it can make when older women will come alongside younger women and help them learn what it looks like to live out a life trusting Jesus in practical matters. It’s so easy to focus on shared quiet times and Bible study, but we also need help learning how that translates into our everyday living – and this doesn’t look the same for everyone!
For example, I’m not saying couponing is wrong! But as Romans 14:23 says, “anything that does not come from faith is sin” and for me this was not coming from faith! But if the Lord leads you to coupon by all means do! But can it ever be wise to ask, “Why am I doing what I’m doing? Is this motivated by fear or by faith?” In the area of our finances this is vitally important for as Jesus says, “Where your treasure is there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21)
“House lust” is what we call the insanity that sets in when you go crazy “falling in love” with something more than you can afford. When you’re young, in your first job, experiencing the first tastes of success, with money in your bank account it’s so easy to get sucked into the American dream… until it turns into a nightmare! Can it ever help when older women will walk with those younger helping them traverse through this critical time. Conversely, others may be more prone to become hoarders – and I don’t just mean with packed garages, but with packed bank accounts, storing up treasure on earth rather than making eternal investments!
To take young believers through a Biblical course in managing money can be such a help! But remember there needs to be a focus on following Jesus even in this. When a young woman poured expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet the disciples rebuked her for the waste, but Jesus rebuked them saying, “She has done a beautiful thing for me.” And while the Bible has much to say on the wisdom of saving, we also see Jesus telling a rich young ruler to “go sell all that you have and follow me.”
Remember discipleship is about helping someone live as a disciple of Jesus – as a learner and follower of Him. And that’s not just concerning things traditionally considered “spiritual” but in all of life, including our finances and financial decisions!
But please note the word σωφρων is much broader than just relating to money. It literally means, “to be self-disciplined in one’s freedom; self-restrained in all passions and desires.”** We’ll look at another aspect of this in the next post!
*Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Geoffrey Bromiley, editor, p. 1151.
** The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament” Spiros Zodhiates, editor, p. 1363.