How Much Does “Keeping up with the Joneses” Cost?

This blog’s goal is to share reflections on sermons and lessons experienced at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church. However, the author doesn’t learn spiritual lessons only at church. Does anyone?

This post is loosely connected to chapter fifteen from the most recent book by Kurt Bubna (pastor of Eastpoint Church in Spokane Valley, WA) called Uncommon Hope: The Path to an Epic Life. I’ve been reading Pastor Kurt’s books since he published Epic Grace in 2013.

This is not an endorsement of anything other than the transparent wisdom I’ve read in three books by this man. Anyone who knows me, knows I don’t agree wholly with anyone I’ve ever met (not even my husband and we’ve been married for 32 years in May).

I do agree that we won’t find hope or peace by living commercially. It’s never true that the more I’ve had, the happier I’ve been. In fact, more things have almost always led to discontentment for me.

What the Joneses Have

Certainly I’m dating myself by using the cliche of keeping up with the Joneses in my title, but I think even millennials are familiar with this saying. The Joneses are that upper middle class family who has it all: fancy house, new cars, a boat, an RV and incredible vacations every year.

We all want to be them, right?

But for some reason, our paycheck doesn’t stretch far enough for yet another monthly payment on a toy we’ll rarely use. I mean, where I live, it might be boating season for three months in the year. If you’re a fisherman and live near the Columbia River, you can probably make use of a boat for six months.

But you’ll be making payments to the bank and the insurance company year-round.

I’m currently working on a scrapbook of our family’s vacations. We had some great ones: Washington D.C., Yellowstone, Orlando and Mexico. I enjoy reliving the memories made on those trips as I pick out pictures for the pages.

Memories are priceless. But I have to say, we formed even more irreplaceable memories at “normal” family gatherings and those cost a lot less money. This reminds me that sometimes we focus on the wrong things.

It isn’t where we go or if we go there in style, it’s who we spend time with. It’s about living each moment and appreciating its gift.

What Wise Solomon Says

As I write this, I’m in the midst of teaching the Book of Proverbs to my Sunday school class. It was great to see Bubna reference five different proverbs in his short chapter on money management. It’s a topic on which Solomon had plenty to say.

Solomon advises against going into debt.

The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.

Proverbs 22:7

How many of us live debt-free?

I’ve been inspired recently by a young couple who is determined to be debt free. They’ve made a plan and they’re living it. Praise the Lord! I hope to be debt-free by the time my husband retires, but only if we cut back on spending now.

Solomon tells us financial security requires planning. I’m not advocating that you think about money more than you need to, but living within a budget requires forethought.

“The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, but those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty.” Proverbs 21:5 NKJV

At the heart of keeping up with the Joneses is our fleshly desire to have what we want and satisfy all our desires. Solomon is quick to assure us that’s the fast track to poverty NOT security.

He that loveth pleasure shall be a poor man; he that loveth wine and oil shall not be rich. Proverbs 21:17

Finding the Happy Middle Road

Does that mean we should live in a small, old house and drive a rusty clunker? Is a wise man one who spurns anything others might consider extravagant?

First of all, a Christ-follower’s concern should be for pleasing the Lord. I spent many years trying to please others and that is the path to the dark hole of discontentment (and for me, depression).

If the Lord is pleased with your life, that’s what matters. Solomon concurs with this and goes even further to say that when a man pleases the Lord, God gives him peace with his enemies (Proverbs 16:7).

The Bible is filled with examples of wealthy men who faithfully served God. Abraham and Job are two examples that spring to mind. It’s also clear that some people had to become poor before they could follow God. The rich young ruler comes to mind (see Matthew 19:16-22 and Luke 18:18-25).

Jesus taught that we need to seek God’s kingdom FIRST and foremost. When we live like this, our daily needs will be met.

We want MORE than our needs though, don’t we? It’s a blessing to know that God graciously gives us abundantly above what we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20), but He does expect us to follow Him (Luke 9:23-25) at the cost self-denial which often means not having the newest, nicest and best according to the world’s selfish standards.

Are you someone who always wants the latest, greatest gadget? Do you see other’s gaining new things and feel envy or discontentment? What helps you to focus “beyond” the material?

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