I am always up for a good challenge. “Thirty days to declutter your home.” I am in! “Fourteen days of prayer for your husband.” Sign me up! A friend saying, “Hey, I bet you could run a half marathon.” Sure why not?
So when I first heard the challenge of a yearlong spending freeze, I jumped on board. I dreamed of the large chunk of debt we could pay off, and saw no reason to delay.
The only problem was my husband did not share my same enthusiasm. He begrudgingly agreed to participate, but only because I didn’t give him much choice. As a result, we fought over buying ice cream, replacing worn-out shoes, and a variety of other items before calling off the freeze after a month.
For three years I let the idea lie, with no intention of picking it back up. But as I looked over our budget this past fall, my heart sank; unless we called and asked for lower payments on our student loans, we would not have enough money to cover our expenses.
Four years early we made a plan to pay off debt, to avoid the very situation we now faced, but life had not gone as planned. My desperation to gain control over our finances sent me crawling back to the idea of a spending freeze.
Learning from my past mistakes, I approached the idea cautiously and began to pray about it.
I asked God if a spending freeze was even a good idea. Could we handle it considering everything else going on in our lives? Would it be beneficial? Would it honor God?
To answer my questions, God brought to mind a few passages from the Gospel of Matthew:
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 6:24)
“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25)
“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:31-33)
As I read these passages, I understood, my spending fast was not to be about money, but about tearing down idols, rearranging my priorities, and trusting God to meet my needs.
The Real Focus of my Spending Freeze
The truth is, a spending freeze isn’t going to help us pay off a lot of debt. We lived on such a tight budget before the fast, our average savings is $75/month—not enough to even pay off one small student loan by the end of the year. I could easily become discouraged by the slow progress, but God gave me a different focus.
He looked at my heart and said, yes, something needed to change. He saw me look around my living room and lament over our puppy chewed couch and 7-year-old, low-grade Ikea furniture. He saw me get frustrated over having nothing to wear, despite owning a closet full of clothes. He watched me browse Amazon, making purchases I could justify, but didn’t really need.
God saw what I didn’t; my treasures were laid here on earth. The desire for new things consumed my thoughts and fueled my discontentment. I thought paying off debt to free up more money was the answer, but God knew that would only serve my idols.
Through the verses in Matthew 6, I felt God saying, “I am all you need. Learning this lesson is what I truly desire for you.”
And slowly but surely, through this spending freeze, I’m learning God’s lesson.
I’m learning to let go of my desire to control my life because God knows what I need and promises to provide.
I’m learning to stop obsessing over what we have and do not have. Instead, we live life worrying less about the things we put in our mouth or on our bodies.
I’m learning to set aside what the world says I should be concerned about, and instead focus on the concerns of my Heavenly Father.
At the end of this the year, I won’t be able to boast about paying off thousands of dollars of debt, and I won’t have any new things to show off to my friends. But I will have something even better, a changed heart and treasures stored up in heaven.
What about you? What area of life does God want you to tear down idols, rearrange priories, and trust in Him?
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Linking up at Dancing with Jesus, and Fresh Market Friday