Sunday, December 21, 2008

Spending our way into insecurity

In my last post, I expressed incredulity that purchasing a $6000 was a necessity. I believe the post needs some clarification. The real question is the need or motivation for purchases. When I was a just starting out as an attorney, I drove a 1967 AMC Javelin. I suppose someone might now think that this was a "cool" car and it could be a collectible. But at the time, it had seen too many miles. The windows did not work, they were stuck either up or down. Since it does not rain much in Phoenix, having open windows was not a problem. However, there obviously was no air conditioning. The car had a three speed manual transmission. It was nearly ready for the junk pile.

One of my lawyer friends at the time, took me aside one day and told me that if I wanted to get ahead in the legal world, I needed to purchase a Cadillac. He said people didn't like to go to attorneys that didn't look rich.

I didn't buy a Cadillac, but eventually, I did buy a used Suburban. I have often thought about that advice. (I did drive a Cadillac for a while once and did not like it at all). Now, would I buy a $6000 bedroom set to impress my neighbors and friends? As a comment on the side, I doubt that any of my present clients even know what kind of car I drive. If we make purchases based on our perception of what others think of us, then this is the saddest and most destructive reason for spending money.

Some would justify purchases for the reason that they want "quality." That is a good thing but needs to be tempered with a realization that some things don't need quality. A brown paper bag, as cheaply purchased as possible, is more than adequate to carry your lunch to work. On the other hand a cheap tool may not perform its function. For example, a cheap screwdriver will seldom last long or work properly. The difference in price between a quality screwdriver and a cheap one is insignificant, but the quality difference is immense.

Part of being prepared for life's contingencies, is learning to distinguish needs from wants. It is also learning to purchase real quality rather than accumulating more and more junk. It is learning to set priorities and spend our time and resources on things, as Christ says "But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust does corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal."

The choices we make each day on how we spend our resources, money, time and effort will determine whether we are rich or poor, fearful or secure. Maybe one family can purchase a $6000 bedroom set without creating a problem, maybe, in some circumstances, it would be better to do without. In a recent news story, it was noted that because of the economy that Macy's Inc. offered $800 sapphire or ruby and diamond rings for $249. Maybe, this isn't a bargain, maybe the $250 would be better spent on helping poor around us who are struggling this Christmas season? Maybe a $2,100 Marc Jacobs dress at Sak's Inc. marked down to $629.95 is not a bargain, but a rope leading us down into into insecurity and away from the things that will help us to lay for ourselves treasures in heaven and give us real security.

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