“She wants me to use my gas money, to drive the opposite direction, to pick her up then drive back to the park two blocks from me, just because she doesn’t feel like driving tonight?!” I stared at my phone aghast at my friend’s request for a ride to the park where we decided to go walking that evening.
Stomping to the fridge, I pulled out a water bottle to cool down wondering how to respond to my friend’s text. “She knows I don’t have extra money. I’m barely making it as it is! I can’t use any extra gas tonight. I’m at a quarter of a tank and don’t get paid for two days.”
But then, I remembered the previous week when she covered the appetizer as I couldn’t and I wasn’t going to eat any of it because I felt bad.
“I wish I had more money to be generous back!” I moaned, taking a swig of water.
Lord, I prayed, what is the difference between being frugal and being stingy? You know my bank account. What do I do?
_ _ _
Though this account isn’t verbatim, I prayed a similar prayer a couple of years ago upon graduating college and I wonder have any of you been in a related circumstance?
Fresh outta college looking for more than a part time job and unpaid internship, paying my own bills, buying my own groceries, and not letting finances dictate my life in an emotional balancing act: Being honest with where I was at with friends, without complaining to them that I couldn’t afford the restaurants they could. Trusting God with my bank account, while taking responsibility for my purchases and expenses. Exhausting!
That’s when I offered my question to the Lord- how can I be frugal (prudent/ economical) without being stingy (penny-pinching)?
Growing up is hard, I tell ya, and finances are a kicker. The reality is most of us grew up with parents who spent more than they earned, instead of guiding us to save, give, and spend money appropriately. The average American last year was over $7,000 in debt on a single credit card. It’s like an epidemic of see something you like, swipe that magic card, incur more debt, and turn a blind eye to the insatiable, consumer appetite that eats away at our culture.
What’s more is Christians are in the same financial crisis as non-Christians. God’s word tells us to be in the world and not of it (John 17:16). However our multiple TVs and cars, $5 daily lattes, and penchant for dining out, look the same as our unbelieving neighbors to whom we are supposed to be an example.
So when the Bible tells me that it is better to give than to receive (Acts 20:35), to look out for the poor (Ephesians 4: 27-28), and to let love be the only debt on my record (Romans 13:8)- how do I take care of my finances as a responsible Christian?
I’ve learned over the unstable post college years that God ALWAYS provides. And when He says it is better to give than to receive He means it! It tickles Him when His daughters are generous with what we’ve been gifted.
Perhaps you are in a place of frugality, how do you give back without abusing what little money is getting you by? It’s time to get creative my friend! On my end, I realized that I’m young and healthy; I have energy. I’m single and don’t have kids; I have time. I’m loved by the Most High King; I have an excess of love. Though short on money, I lived with abundant energy, time, and love. These gifts I used by encouraging friends with notes, babysitting a neighbor’s daughter for free, baking cookies for a friend who let me attend an event without paying, and donating time to the church as a tithe instead of that 10% the Old Testament talks about. There are so many ways to give, even without money!
Perhaps you are in a financially stable position and can give away those dollars and cents that make the world go round. Think back. Were you ever in a place of financial need that people gave to you? Be generous with those monies that God blessed you with; you never know when you might need a financial favor someday. Next time you go shopping, buy that cute scarf for a teen girl in your church instead of yourself. “Adopt” a college student and take him grocery shopping because you can. Give a gas card to your babysitter in addition to paying for her time. There are financial burdens all around. God is delighted when we use our creativity to meet those needs as well!
Those post college years words like, “don’t worry about it, I got you,” sounded like gold wrapped in emotions of gratitude and a good dose of humility to the point of tears once. I’ll never forget one friend saying over a simple cup of coffee, “This is my treat. You’ll return the favor one day.” I already see it happening as I trust God more with my finances and give to others in a variety of ways.
Back to the original question: the difference between being frugal and being stingy? Stingy lives in fear. Frugal lives in wisdom.
The bottom line is I serve a God who lives in a heaven paved with gold. To Him money is just a number. God cares about our hearts and character. He’s taught me humility to receive from others when I’ve had “nothing,” wisdom to save over spending, and generosity to give back when and how I can. Whether you have money or not to spare in this phase of life, you can always give.
Think about what God has given you much of. How can you give generously?