When is it “ok” for Christians to spend money on themselves?

(This is a post I wrote for onemoneydesign.com.)

Many Christians struggle with whether or not it is good, or godly, to spend money on our own enjoyment.  While there are a lot of ways one could respond to this question, I read a passage the other day that made me think of the very difficult question of how much should, could, or can a Christian spend on themselves.  It is found in first timothy:

“Men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth.  For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude.” (1 Tim 4:3-4, NASB)

First and foremost, we must consider the context.  Paul is not speaking about spending money in these verses…he is speaking of eating various foods that were considered by Jewish standards to be “unclean”.  (This is not the only place he tackles this issue and arrives at the same conclusion, Col. 2:16.)  Therefore, I want to say loud and clear that I am digging a principle out the passage today, and if my conclusions stretch the context more than you are comfortable with, you have every right to disagree.  That being said…

Paul argues that forbidding marriage and abstaining from foods is not the purpose of the gospel.  In fact, he claims that ALL things are good if we receive them with gratitude.  Going even further, God created these things to be gratefully shared in.  Now, if you are a biblically astute believer, a few hairs should be raised on the back of your neck.  Paul makes one more statement we ought to consider before we go hogwild into hedonism carrying our “thankfulness card”  in our back pocket!  He wraps up this thought in verse five:

“For it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.” (1 Tim 4:5, NASB)

We ought to consider all that God created to be good, and our enjoyment of those things are to be sancified by the means of God’s word and time spent in prayer.  What that means is that we should gratefully enjoy all that God has created with the wisdom of His word and His Holy Spirit (in prayer) to guide our enjoyment.

There is a real temptation to take a verse like 1 Tim. 4:4, say that “all things are good if we are thankful”, and run in the opposite direction of everything the Bible teaches.  This is not what Paul intended.  Instead, we are left with the principle that:  Our ability to enjoy things (including our money) is sanctified through our willingness to dig into the word and prayer regarding how to best utilize those resources.  When we do so considering our money, we will find the importance of things like generosity and contentment to short curcuit our apparently limitless capacity for selfishness.  When we pray, we are enlightened to the needs of people other than ourselves.  On the other hand, we find verses like these that give us the freedom to enjoy some of what God has created with gratitude rather than guilt.

In conclusion:  When we “baptize our budget” in the word and prayer, we will find freedom to enjoy some of that with which God has blessed us and wisdom for what to do with the rest.  When we proclaim everything we have ever recieved is for our own enjoyment as long as we are thankful, we are far from honest prayer and study of God’s word.

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