This is from the archives,originally published June 2012 but this is almost exactly what we talked about in Sunday school yesterday, so I thought I would repost.
“Poor” is a matter of attitude, not bank account.
I know this series is about conquering debt on a low-income, but to do that requires a frugal lifestyle (or that you win the lottery, of course), and a frugal lifestyle usually requires that we change our way of thinking.
I read an article recently that saddened me. It was about “impoverished” parenting and the author was lamenting the fact that her children weren’t able to eat much junk food because they were too poor. They also couldn’t afford to buy organic products, or name brand clothes. She went on and on about how “poor” they were because they could only do this and this, but weren’t able to do that. By the end of the article, she had achieved her goal and I felt sorry for her children.
I don’t feel sorry for them that they are deprived. They aren’t.
There are countless people in this world who are starving. No this isn’t a “there are people worse off than you” lecture, the point is that many of them are more content than we are! Will you process that for a minute? When I went to Haiti on a mission trip in 2003, I witnessed some of the deepest levels of poverty I have ever seen—people living in run-down straw shacks with dirt floors. Babies with their bellies pooched out from malnutrition, and kids with orange hair because their starving bodies were trying desperately to save any nutrition possible. Even in their deep need, the people I met were far happier and more content than the spoiled American society that we live in.
The children from that blog post are only deprived because their mother is teaching them that they are deprived. They are being taught to allow money to control their happiness and to live in a constant state of perceived want. Once that mindset starts, there can be no fulfillment, no matter how much money you have, no matter how many nice things you have, there will always be something out of reach that leaves you wanting, until you change your attitude.
We’re on a limited budget, and I’ve had people shake their heads at how we’re depriving our boys of ____ (insert junk food, eating out, fancy toys, expensive vacations, etc.). We have a roof over our heads and God always provides our needs (and most reasonable wants!). We have a $200/month grocery budget, which rarely includes junk food. (that’s a good thing. We don’t need junk food!) My boys always wear used clothing and it’s rarely name brand (again, a good thing. I don’t want them to learn that the label on their clothing determines their value). My youngest wears almost entirely hand-me-downs, except for a couple of new outfits throughout the year that he gets for his birthday or Christmas. They have less toys than other children we know and the ones they have aren’t fancy.
But, let me make something very clear. We are not poor and my children are not deprived. I will not teach them that.
They use their imaginations. They enjoy simple things. They don’t require the newest fancy toys to have fun or be happy. We choose this for them, for a variety of reasons.
As Christians, we’ve all heard this verse quoted, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Do you know what Paul said just before those inspiring words?
“I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content. I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:11-13)
Paul had learned the lesson that contentedness, happiness, fulfillment and joy are not found in things. He had learned to be content despite his circumstances. Why are we teaching our children the opposite?
It is our job as parents to teach our children how to be content, transcendent of circumstances and material possessions.
We are making the choice to teach our children this valuable life lesson. Through simple living, we are teaching them to be content with what we have. No, they don’t have name brand clothes, a lot of junk food, or fancy toys. They don’t “get to” eat out a lot or go on expensive vacations. But they are happy and enjoy the simple things in life. They are content.
And most of all, they are loved despite a lack of whatever material possessions our society tells us they need.