Worth vs. Waste

There is a really beautiful story in the Bible that I want to share with you today. It is the story of Mary and her amazing gift. John 12:3-7 says,
“Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said, ‘Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?’ This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it. But Jesus said, ‘Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial. For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always’.”

I love this story because of Mary’s extravagance, and yet as a budget conscious person, I think I might have had a response similar to Judas… There are so many other, better things we could have done with the money. It seems so wasteful, and yet Jesus didn’t rebuke her for wastefulness. In fact He honors her for her gift. The Bible clearly exposes Judas’s motives in questioning Mary’s gift, but many times our motives are not that easy to discern. Sometimes it’s difficult for us to see value because of our own poverty or needs, or because of our backgrounds, or because of our fear of being deprived. How was what Judas considered so wasteful, actually so valuable in it’s offering? What determines waste?

Judas looked at the situation and saw only the value of the perfume. Mary looked and saw only the value of Jesus and wanted to honor His value. To her it was not waste, it was the very best she could give to honor who was sitting in her kitchen. To Mary it wasn’t wasteful because of the purpose it was going to. The perfume had tremendous value, because if it hadn’t, it wouldn’t of been worthy of the purpose. So how do we determine what is wasteful and what is worthy in our own lives? A few years ago, God said this to my Dad in answer to this question, “Waste is determined by value and value is determined by purpose.” In other words, if you want to stop being wasteful with your money, your focus can’t be just stopping the waste because sometimes, what looks like waste can actually have great value. Your focus has to be finding the purpose for your money.

If you find yourself continually wasting your money, not ever knowing what it is going to, or being frivolous with your money in the face of huge debt, it is probably because you do not value your money. I have had friends say to me, “But what does it matter, it’s only four dollars,” or “Why bother saving myself a dollar when it’s only a dollar.” To me that is an instant red flag that they do not value money. If you do not value money, you will waste money, and if you continually waste money, then you will be continually in debt. It will not matter how many times you get out of debt, if you do not learn to value your money, you will always go right back into it.

Then how do you give your money value? This is the critical part. I also feel like it is the question that most financial advisors miss. Why get out of debt? Is it just so that you can spend more?… because you can do that while you are in debt. There is no motivation there. Why save? Why not buy that new electronic toy? Why not take that giant vacation when you are in debt? If you don’t have a purpose for your money, your money will hold no value to you and you will waste it. There is no lasting motivation for saving, for budgeting, for getting out of debt without having a purpose for money beyond just having more money to spend.

Up until a few years ago, I never really had any concept of purpose in my money besides just meeting the immediate needs of my family. Matt’s income, and my income were simply there to meet our needs. We saved to have money in case we had needs. We budgeted to make sure we always had enough for our needs. It wasn’t until I read “The Richest Man in Babylon” that the light bulb finally came on for me. My whole life I had never had any desire for “wealth” because I had no vision for it. I had a vision for my family being fed today, but not anything beyond that. In reading that book I realized how selfish that vision is. If my husband and I always just have enough, how will we ever be free to pursue the dreams in our hearts? How will we keep our children from being saddled with the hideous burden of college loans if we always just have enough? The Bible says in Proverbs “A good man leaves an inheritance for His children’s children.” How will we leave an inheritance if we have no vision except for meeting our immediate needs and wants? Now I believe that inheritance is more than just money, and yet just in the practical side, there is great honor and relief when a man dies and leaves an inheritance for his family, and great burden and stress when he dies and does not. How will we be a blessing to all of the families of the earth like the Bible calls us, if we are always in lack or with just enough. If you live only for the needs and wants of today, you will continually waste your money. But as you lift your eyes from your immediate needs and situation and begin to get a vision for your money that goes beyond yourself, your money will become so valuable, and as you value your money, your heart will turn away from wasting it.

God wants you to get a bigger vision for the resources that He has given to you, beyond just yourself. He wants to be able to pour His abundance through you, but if all you are able to see is just your needs, you will squander whatever He gives you. I started on Friday to write the first steps on how to get out of debt, but I had to take the blog down because I realized that trying to take steps to stop spending money when money has no value to you is pointless and it will feel like an enormous burden. I am going to repost my blog on stopping building the mountain later this week, but first you have to get a purpose in your heart for your money that is not just buying more stuff.

My Dad always says that, “Poverty is the most selfish thing because all you are focused on is just having enough to meet your own needs and not on having more than enough to be a blessing.” If you are continually needy and in debt, it is time to get a bigger vision. Just focusing on the mountain of debt, and even on stopping spending is not enough to get you over that mountain. In fact, the more you focus on your debt, the more despondent and hopeless you will become. It is your vision for the other side of the mountain that will carry you over, and will make your journey seem light. Sacrifice does not feel like sacrifice if it is joyfully given for a wonderful purpose. Without a purpose and without learning to value your money, every step you take will feel hard and restrictive and you will feel like it is a “waste” of time. Like Mary, it is only in seeing the amazing purpose before you, that your heart can be turned from what is actually wasteful, to what is valuable. If you never learn to value money by giving it a greater purpose, then why bother getting out of debt? What is your purpose in having money? If you can get the answer to that into your heart then budgeting will take on a whole new meaning, you will have joy in conquering your mountain of debt, and it will be easy for you to determine what is wasteful and what is truly valuable.