Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Needs vs. Wants

Pastor Steve here at Grace made me question my needs vs. wants. Well, he really didn’t do it, his phone did. It’s actually his NEW cell phone and it’s very cool. It’s a T-Mobile MyTouch 4G with all the bells and whistles. It’s an Android phone, it’s very fast, has SWYPE technology, and can download all kinds of apps and would really, really simplify my life immensely! NOT. I have a fine 3½ year old smart phone that’s very capable and does everything I need it to do. While I could make a case that I NEED it, it’s really a WANT.

Why do we struggle with that so much? Jesus said this:

"For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:32-33)

“All these things” cover the pretty much the basics of life, things like food, clothes and drink. All of which we need, they are essentials for living, wouldn’t you say? What are our needs? How’s this for a definition, “the essentials, the basics of life we cannot live without.” And those essentials are generally regarded as: basic food; basic transportation; basic shelter; basic clothing; medical care; debt payments; and childcare. Beyond that, do we really need anything else? Plus, Jesus said that if we seek first the kingdom, God will take care of us.

As we journey and seek joy through simplicity and generosity, it’s really important for each of us to get clear about our needs vs. wants. Matt Bell in his blog Matt About Money says this:

"An Internet connection. An annual vacation. The financial freedom to shop for birthdays and other special occasions. Are these essentials or luxuries? For many of today’s baby boomers, they are essentials. According to a survey conducted by MainStay Investments and reported by MarketWatch, 84 percent of boomers consider an Internet connection a necessity, 66 percent said it’s essential to be able to shop for special occasions, and 50 percent said they need a once-a-year vacation."

But I’m guilty of it as well, even in little ways. I rented a car on a trip recently and as I drove off, realized it had no power windows and no cruise control! How could I drive a car like that, it seemed so old-fashioned. How quickly we can turn luxuries and wants into needs. But living simply requires being counter-cultural and making intentional decisions to focus on the basics and on what fits with our values and goals in life. Someone at church said their grade-school aged daughter asked her, “What did you and dad text about when you were dating?” Now there’s wake-up call for you! (But you had to admit, if you meet an adult who doesn’t text, your response may be, “seriously, you don’t text?”)

Our first and primary concern as Christians should be to focus on growing in our relationship with God. While we could make a case for needing many things we want (and really don’t need), they can often get in the way of that growing relationship. They not only get in the way, but sometimes we slip into the tendency to worship things, rather than God. And that’s a dangerous place to be as we worship idols - something other than our Creator.

Solomon, one of the richest men in all of history, learned the lesson of needs vs. wants. He said:

“Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, as chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:11)

As we seek simplicity and generosity in our lives, it’s not simply a means to an end so we can have a better life. It’s to fulfill our calling as Christ-followers to bless the world and let our lives be spent on God’s behalf, for the sake of others. Love God, love others and let your life be spent to bless the world. Just know it takes prayer; intentionality; accountability; and God’s help. Live simply so that others may simply live.