How to Not Spend Money Like a Fool

Let’s Talk About What We Feel Weird Talking About: Our Luxury

Spending money is the American way of life. Saving and giving might not be, but Americans have been known to drop a trillion dollars on things we don’t actually need. Of course, consumer spending is a huge chunk of the economy and it’s not going anywhere any time soon. Spending is something we do and it helps keep this country afloat. But you can spend money foolishly or you can use it wisely.

With respect to money, we are simply holding on to what God has given us. My favorite book on stewardship is Randy Alcorn’s little book on managing God’s money (even if I don’t agree with all of his strategies). And that’s an essential starting point. You are holding on to your wealth as a caretaker. 
And you are most certainly wealthy or you belong to a wealthy family. But what are you going to do with that wealth?

Saving and giving are essential concepts to understand and implement, but even if we don’t all do those things, we all spend money. Does the Bible say anything about how we should spend our money? Not surprisingly, it does. It equips us with very tactical wisdom to show us how to spend well and spend wisely.

The Proverbial Dollar

The book of Proverbs has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to money wisdom. Embedded in the overall pattern of save-spend-give there is the two part step of pursuing righteousness first and then enjoying wealth as gift from God. Proverbs 14:24 says, “The crown of the wise is their wealth, but folly of fools brings folly.” If you are wise, you likely will have wealth. And that wealth is a crown. It functions as a visible indicator of your wisdom. This crown is to be seen so that others might see the allure of wisdom. If we wear ourselves out to get riches, we miss the point entirely. It has wings and will fly away anyway (Prov.23:4-5). The point is not to have it. The point is to use it (saving, give, spend). And the way you spend your wealth can function as a beacon for fools that you are wise in how you go about your business as a consumer. 

There’s a difference between spending and squandering. Proverbs 23:19-21 indicate that we ought not squander our money simply on temporary physical excess:

19 Hear, my son, and be wise,  and direct your heart in the way.20 Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat,21 for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags.

Likewise, Proverbs 29:3 (He who loves wisdom makes his father glad, but a companion of prostitutes squanders his wealth.) says we ought not squander money on temporary sexual pleasures. Again, God seems to be anti-squandering, not anti-spending.

“Whatever Your Appetite Craves”

In perhaps the most revealing text about how God views his people and their relationship to money, Deuteronomy 14:24-26 reads, 

24 And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the Lord your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the Lord your God chooses, to set his name there, 25 then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the Lord your God chooses 26 and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household. 

In describing the tithe, God tells Israel that when he blesses them, they give back in worship. But if it takes too much effort to take the tithe to the place of worship, they could sell it and spend the money for whatever they desired. Strong drink, oxen, whatever. “Whatever your appetite craves.” That’s how the Bible describes discretionary spending. But even this is not squander because notice that it is enjoyed “before the Lord” and that there is rejoicing in his presence. It is spending with an eye toward heaven, knowing that he has blessed and so we enjoy spending a portion of our wealth before the Lord.

“The Rich in This Present Age”

 At the end of 1 Timothy, Paul describes two different types of wealthy people: those who want to get rich (1 Tim.1:6-10) and those who happen to be rich (1 Tim.6:17-19) for whatever reason. For those who desire to become rich, the apostle gives a warning. With that desire comes temptation that can easily lead to ruin and destruction. For those who are wealthy, he gives a responsibility:

17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.

Spend your money. But do good. Be wealthy in good works. Maybe spend some of that lovely green on an amenity for those who have few. Perhaps bless someone with a book. Buy someone a coffee. And enjoy it there before the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household. 

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Three Pencils I’m Really Enjoying

Am I Write?

I’ve wanted to do a pencil review for some time now. To some, this might be as interesting as reviewing aglets or mud pies, and I can understand that. For a long time, I almost hated pencils. The sound of graphite on paper was like a mild Nazgûl scream to me. I’ve been a decided advocate of pens since I learned to write my left-handed words. But then I ran across Joe Thorn’s blog post on pencils and decided to give them a chance.

And now, having my own blog, I get to nerd out over a writing utensil that has grown on me over the last few years. When I sit down to work, I unfold my pencil roll and begin to sharpen my workhorses. Even know, some folks will come by and raise an eyebrow and ask about them. Everyone needs a hobby, I tell them, and this one is relatively inexpensive. But the truth is, I just like them. So, here are three pencils I’m really enjoying right now.

Golden Bear

This particular model of Golden Bear comes in a handsome blue color pack of 12. It’s made of the standard incense-cedar from the west coast so it smells great. I’ve never had the graphite break on me. I was going to include a certain brand until, last night, the point snapped after the pencil itself had become to short. But the Golden Bear has a graphite core that runs the length of its body, so you don’t really get that.

It’s not as dark as I prefer. The darker the graphite, the softer the lead. But that means I don’t have to sharpen it after every five minutes. And it’s a smooth draw across the page. Any pencil I can forget I’m using is a good pencil. I came across these after I started using Blackwings and so I can say that the Golden Bear is a happy medium between excellence and paper fodder. Just a nice stick to write with.

General’s Cedar Pointe

This one took some getting used to. But the same goes for most honest people. And when you get this pencil, you get an honest pencil. I say that because there’s not much to it. It’s unfinished and devoid of lacquer and color. That could be a plus or a minus for you.

For me, I like the feel of smooth cedar. I would love to be better at woodworking, but I covet my fingers. This gives me the illusion that I’m closer to that world. And the eraser works! Some pencils (like the Musgrave Scoring Pencil) have erasers that function like cheese on a grater. U.S.A. General’s Cedar Pointe has a sturdy black eraser that takes a beating.

Relative hardness. To my mind, it’s a shade lighter that the Golden Bear , but it’s solid. When I sit down to work, the Cedar Pointe is usually my workhorse. And again, it’s just fun to write with unfinished wood. Makes me feel like a pioneer (minus the dysentery).

Nataraj

This neat little guy deserves special mention. It’s an economical option from India. For the price of a Starbucks specialty drink, you get ten pencils, a little eraser, and a fun little sharpener. I didn’t use the sharpener because I prefer the Kum AS2M and keep several around the house, but you will need one and that’s because the HPL Nataraj doesn’t have an eraser.

At first blush, that might be seen as a drawback. But remember, I was (and still claim to be) a pen aficionado. Since erasable pens are a trick of the devil, this feels more like how writing should be. You think about what you want to say and then you slowly compose. There is no means of revision other than the graphite. At the risk of attributing way to much to a writing tool, I think it can be a tiny step towards civility. The lack of an eraser makes me slow down a bit more and weigh my words because I can’t just call a do over.

The Nataraj has a lovely paint job. I’m not sure what species of wood they us, but the shavings are pink and remind me of sliced champagne apples. And who wouldn’t love that?

Draw Your Own Conclusions

I work mostly on a laptop all day, but I have used a hybrid analog approach to content creation for a while now. Whether it’s my indispensable Full-Focus Planner or my Expedition Field Notes (for which I will only use Zebra F-301 pens), I write on paper everyday. And above are three pencils I would heartily recommend to anyone who enjoys using good graphite or wants to pick up a fun, cheap hobby.

And we haven’t even talked about pencil rolls yet…

Happy Monday.

My wife, her sister, her sister’s husband, and I were at Hutchmoot this past weekend. As an Enneagram 4w5 who scores quite high in openness to experiences, it was like crack to me. It’s Rivendell transported to 2019 Nashville. Now, I’ve been through too many last nights of camp to be all that sad to let beautiful things like that go. The transitory nature of it is part of its glory. It’s the contrast that gets me.

Because there’s no buffer day for me, I have no time to process all that we experienced. I can’t take some leisure time fill out a notebook with all my thoughts and feelings and reflections. This is a baby step toward that end, but it’s not nearly enough. I have to go to work today.

Most people who attended Hutchmoot have to go to work today. The hard work of teaching and raising children in the home, keeping house, holding down a cubicle, sitting in class, staring at screens- the contrast is jarring.

Yet, as I was talking with the Lord this morning, he spoke to me out of Psalm 104. I like to think of as Wendell Berry’s psalm. It describes the creation and how creatures live out their ordained roles and functions and are sustained by the God of the wild. And two thirds through the poem, God says, “Man goes out to his work and to his labor until the evening” (Ps.104:23).

Before sin shattered and stained everything, work was God’s idea. And putting in a full day of good work (frustrating and tough and draining though it may be) is actually part of the original tapestry. Whether our day job is creative by nature or whether creativity has to grow slowly through spreadsheets like wildflowers through asphalt, we are a part of God’s spinning watercolor called Earth.

He waters the cedars. He feeds the cattle. He sees to it that we have wine, oil, and bread. He gives the lion cubs a meal in the dead of night. And man goes out to his work and to his labor until the evening. Bless the Lord, O my soul.

Hutchmoot and Monday are equally part of God’s calendar. Both are clothed by the Lord with splendor and majesty, even if one dazzles and the other sort of just sits there. Enjoy your Monday and all the hard work that it brings. Revel in the contrast. Tomorrow, we get another Tuesday.