Character Traits of the Spiritual Life:
Do you consider yourself to be thrifty? Are you careful of your money and possessions? Thrift may be defined as “wise economy in the management of money and other resources; frugality.” Thrifty means “practicing or marked by the practice of thrift; wisely economical.”[i][i] Do you save money in every way you can? James Moffat said, “A man’s treatment of money is the most decisive test of his character—how he makes it and spends it.”[ii][ii]
Some may confuse the matter of thriftiness with stinginess. What is the difference? “Thriftiness is using as few resources as possible for my own needs so that I will have greater resources for generosity to God and to others. Stinginess is keeping back what should be given to others so that I will have more for myself. God condemns stinginess.”[iii][iii] When we use money too freely for unneeded items or luxurious possessions, we won’t have as much left. When we spend money in this way, we won’t have as much to give to the needy, to Christian workers, to purchase and distribute Bibles and Christian literature. Foolish expenses will not store up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21).
How can we develop a Biblical thriftiness?
Thriftiness begins by being content with basics. A person who believes that happiness is measured by personal possessions will not be capable of true thriftiness. He will use up valuable assets for things that neither profit nor satisfy. Jesus warned, “Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Luke 12:15). On the other hand, a person who is content with the basic essentials of life will have the natural ability to be thrifty. “Having food and raiment [clothing] let us be therewith content” (1 Timothy 6:8).
If we spend too much on ourselves and on luxurious items, we just won’t have the ability to be generous with others. “Thriftiness is having only those personal possessions that are functional. Jesus is the ultimate example of thriftiness. He owned only the things that were essential for life and ministry. . . . Paul also understood how temporal things can be a hindrance to effectiveness in the work of the Lord.”[iv][iv] It has been said, “Thriftiness is the personal discipline of those who are striving for the greatest rewards.”[v][v]
Do we not only keep from spending more than we need to, but are we good stewards of what we presently own? A steward in New Testament times was one who was entrusted to care for the assets of the owner. Paul said, “It is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy” (1 Corinthians 4:2). Jesus gave the parable of the unjust steward, then He said, “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much” (Luke 16:10). We are faithful if we use God’s possessions in a wise way and we are unrighteous if we use them in a greedy and sinful way.
Are we trustworthy with the money and possessions that God has placed in our care? After Jesus fed the 5,000 and they were filled, do you remember what happened? He said to the disciples, “’Gather up the leftover fragments so that nothing will be lost.’ So they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten” (John 6:12-13). Our Lord didn’t want any fragment to be lost if it could be used in a worthwhile way. Are we just as careful with our unused food? Are we afraid to use leftovers? Do we throw away good food that we should have been more careful to preserve well?
We know that greed is a vice condemned throughout the Bible. Greed is “an excessive desire to acquire or possess more than one needs or deserves, especially of material wealth.”[vi][vi] The Greek word is pleonexia, meaning “a desire to have more.”[vii][vii] This sin is worthy of death (Romans 1:29, 32) and is called “idolatry” (Ephesians 5: 3, 5; Colossians 3:5). Those who are greedy will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). Do we “store up for [ourselves] treasures on earth” (Matthew 6:19), or are we anxious to use our money and possessions to further the kingdom of God on earth? Are we as thrifty as we can be in order to have more to give more? Love demands this perspective on material things. Wesley wisely said, “Earn all you can. Save all you can. Give all you can.”[viii][viii]
Think through the following questions and try to answer them: (1) Do you take time to evaluate the profitability of each investment you make? (2) Do you plan out each day so you can make the wisest use of every hour? (3) Do you use principles of negotiation so you can get the best buy and also help your suppliers save money? (4) Do you save all you can so you can have available funds to give? (5) Are you using your energies and resources primarily for yourself or for the needs of others? (6) Do you study procedures to see how they can be more efficient and less costly? (7) When your income increases, do you keep the same standard of living so you have more to give? (8) When God reviews [in the Judgment] your investments of time, energy, and money, will He commend you for your thriftiness or condemn you for extravagance?[ix][ix]
And just a few more questions: (1) Can you think of any ways you can save money for electric use, water use, or gas use? (2) Can you drive less to save on car repair bills and fuel cost? (3) Can you set your thermostat higher in the summer to save on air conditioning and set it lower in the winter to save on heating costs? (4) Can you live in a less luxurious house to save on mortgage costs? (5) Can you buy less expensive clothes, go to restaurants less, take fewer vacations, drive a cheaper yet dependable car, and spend less on entertainment and non-essentials? All of this will help you to be a thriftier person for the Lord. In the context of using money wisely, Jesus declared, “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much” (Luke 16:10).
[i][i] The American Heritage College Dictionary.
[ii][ii] The Power of True Success, p. 171.
[iii][iii] Ibid., p. 172.
[iv][iv] Ibid., p. 173.
[vi][vi] The American Heritage College Dictionary.
[vii][vii] W. E. Vine, Expository Dictionary.
[viii][viii] The Power for True Success, p. 174.