Monday, May 2, 2011

why we don't have a clothes dryer

Last week my daughter, who was searching for a dry top to wear, asked me why we don't have a clothes dryer (it broke last year, and we chose not to replace it - which, by the way, causes little inconvenience). I'd usually say, "We can't afford it", but I answered, "Because we choose to give money away." I was inspired by what I'd just read at in tandem:

Chester issues a challenge to think about having less. This may mean choosing to work less hours or not take the promotion, in order to have more time outside of work. It may be choosing the smaller house over the larger one, so that we don’t have to work so hard to pay for that larger mortgage. It may mean no longer reading “Better Homes and Gardens” or similar, and learning to be satisfied with the home that you have.

I think this is something that those of us in ministry should be striving to model. Consumerism is so rife we hardly notice it anymore. But we need to find ways to model it that are honest. If people think we have less because we cannot afford it, we are sending the wrong message. Ministers (at least those in the Western world) are generally not poor, we are paid enough to live on (and often much more than that). We need to be able to explain why we choose to spend less on some things, it’s a choice. Most ministry families who cry “poor me” have little understanding of true poverty.
Yep, I needed to hear that, and so did my daughter. Thanks, Wendy.

From Wendy's post The Busy Christian...chapter 11.

image is by DanielleCM at flickr


simone r said...

It's a challenge, though, to train our kids and point them in the right direction without big noting our virtue. Is it enough to say, "We try not to spend money on things we don't really need. Then we'll have more for the stuff that really matters." and leave it there?

I'm uncomfortable with your line because I think there's a pretty high chance that if I used it, our kids would repeat it at school. [Your daughter is probably old enough and cluey enough not to!]

But I do agree with the essence of the post. Spending less (or not) is a choice.

Gordon Cheng said...

What a great, grace-infused perspective, Jean. Praise God!

Jean said...

Hi Simone,

Yeah, no big-noting here! :)

Yes, there's always a risk that our children will learn a "we're-better-than-so-and-so" attitude from us. That would be profoundly unhelpful. Whether they learn that will depend on our general attitude to ourselves and others, and most of all on whether we teach and model the gospel of grace. To be honest, the risk for my kids is probably the opposite - that they feel embarrassed about being different rather than superior - but I guess the risk for every family is different.

What I'm trying to do is to guide our kids towards a gospel-oriented perspective on money, possessions and career. I think it's okay to live our lives transparently in front of them (both the good and bad bits) so they can copy the good and learn from the bad. It's good for them to know, for example, why Steve works in ministry and why we give money away (and even how much).

I'd be happy for them to repeat it at school, to be honest! It'd help people to see that our values are different. Though not if they did it in a "we're better than you" kind of way. But I think that's pretty unlikely given the child concerned. I guess that's a judgement call you make depending on, as you say, the age and personality of your kids.

On another issue (which you were kind enough not to mention!) I did consider not posting this because it sounds like I'm big-noting my godliness (small that it is) in front of the whole blogging community!! I thought I'd risk that and share my thoughts all the same. In my case, people-pleasing would have meant not-sharing (so as not to look boastful) rather than sharing.

Love Jean.

Jean said...

Thanks, Gordo!

Alison K said...

Hey, thanks for sharing that. we're dealing with this too and i'm struggling to find a balance between avoiding looking like we need help (we don't, we just have different priorities) without playing keeping-up-with-the-joneses...

Jenny said...

I've thought about this issue quite a lot so I relate to your story. But I've come to realise its not just a Christian vs non-Christian thing. It's actually about teaching our kids that they have choice - they can make choices about how to spend their money, they can make choices about what they do or don't need/want, they can makes choices that are different to the 'Joneses'.

So many women I chat to end up going back to work when they have tiny babies to pay off massive mortgages and a lifestyle that is perceived as essential and no-one seems to have ever said to them 'you do actually have a choice - you could do your life differently'.

I subscribe to the 'Simple Savings' website and I'm constantly astounded by how financially trapped people are by what they perceive to be the essentials of life.

I think as Christians we already think about living differently but we have a real opportunity to teach our children that life doesn't HAVE to be a certain way.

Jean said...

Thanks, Alison. I find what you say about finding a balance helpful.

And yes, Jenny, you're right - it's not just Cn/non-Cn, it's how we make decisions as Christians about our priorities and how we'll live. I am saddened by the pressure many women feel to work to maintain a certain lifestyle when we could be accepting a lower standard of living and using our time for kingdom things: like raising a family and serving in church and community. Clearly this is a temptation we all face to a greater or lesser extent.


Anonymous said...

I'm inclined to think the answer to 'why don't we have a dryer?' is 'why should we?' They cost money to run, they damage the environment, and they damage your clothes.

Jean said...

Fair enough! Although I do admit to missing ours - especially on those mornings when my daughter is looking for a dry shirt...

Best used sparingly and in moderation, perhaps, but still useful.

Wendy said...

Thanks for the post Jean. I've enjoyed reading the follow up comments from you and others. It was definitely something I need to remind myself of, probably why I said it in the first place!