Thinking Out Loud

June 12, 2016

Follow Up: Christians and Cars

Filed under: personal — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 3:42 pm

Once again, we’re late today. Our church did its annual service in the park and this year’s was one of the best in terms of outreach and connection. Sets the bar high for next year, though!


Christian stewardshipMy post two days ago about Christian stewardship and the automotive market got a couple of comments which I felt were worthy of a longer and more visible reply.

The general response I would expect is: Don’t over-think it. In other words, if you live in North America, unless it’s in the heart of a major urban center, you’re going to need some type of motorized vehicle.

Trust me, I get that.

What I wanted to do was simply get people thinking. (Hint: See blog’s title.) In a world of scarce resources where God’s people are called to maintain a distinct identity, are we putting our personal funds to best use to incurring a cost on a depreciating item.

That’s the tension I hope we live in.

So yes, my wife needs a car — and I need her to be happy — but it would also be good to allocate those resources to other things and causes.

By doing the one I can’t do the other.

Our personal finances are extremely limited. So we buy the used car, but it pains me to have  to do it.

I think that tension is a good place. It’s not keeping me up at night, but it’s a better place than simply going through the motions of life without a thought as to the big-picture issues I believe God’s people ought to consider.

One comment said,

a car is not an investment, it’s a consumable good like shoes or a phone”

That’s true. Really each and every expenditure I make, no matter how small, should be done with good stewardship in mind. From buying bananas to garbage bags to socks to dish soap, my goal should be to exercise wisdom with the gifts God has given.

If you have loads of cash available, you might see this differently, but when you are barely scraping by, stewardship and survival go hand-in-hand. And yes, you can strain at a fruit fly and swallow a dromedary. We do all the time. We get a great deal on a $5 commodity and then make a $50 mistake by missing a payment deadline.

I think God wants us to be aware.

I think He wants us to think about our actions.

But I also think He wants us to enjoy the money we work for.

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June 10, 2016

Christian Stewardship and the Used Car Market

I don't have a picture of our 'new' car yet, but this is the one we're trading in, taken on the day we got two flat tires in 30 seconds while driving home from camp.

I don’t have a picture of our ‘new’ car yet, but this is the one we’re trading in, taken on the day we got two flat tires in 30 seconds while driving home from camp.

When a Christian is trying to practice financial stewardship, there’s something counter intuitive about buying a motor vehicle of any type. The key word is depreciation, but I think it also has to do with high cost of owning and maintaining a car, van or truck versus the other uses to which those funds could be applied.

Today we’re picking up a domestic, 2009, 4-door sedan. The 2017s will be out in a few weeks — I think; I don’t tract the automotive market at all — which means we’re already model years behind, so this will be the oldest car we’ve ever purchase, but it is all our present bank account will allow us to buy. Even there, we are buying this with family help, given that my current vocation — i.e. missionary — is not providing any income at present; and by “not providing any” I do indeed mean nothing at all.

So we’re waiting for the call that this vehicle is waiting for us. It’s not my dream vehicle — also used; my dreams are modest — but this car will be primarily driven by Mrs. W. to replace the one she’s currently using which is simply not safe to drive.

Yes, there are hungry people in the third world. (Or two-thirds world, or majority world, or whatever it is we’re supposed to say.) But we live here. It’s hot in summer, cold in winter. Temperatures in Canada can vary between -40°C and +40°C. That’s an 80 degree range. 144 degrees in Fahrenheit. Distances are not near. Public transportation between communities is not as sophisticated in North America as it is in Europe. We don’t live in an urban center.

I’m not sure if my social justice friends would approve of my purchase. They might question whether we need a car at all. They might suggest we keep repairing the present one. Or, I hope, they might commend me for buying used.

Bottom line, with the measure of intelligence God has given us, we feel this is the right decision for today. And yes, the car will continue to depreciate until it is basically scrap, like the one we’re trading in today. And yes, it’s counter-intuitive to do this when things that appreciate or are a valid investment seem like better stewardship.

Mixed feelings. Ambivalence.

September 28, 2014

“We Don’t Go To Restaurants”

Eating Out

Depending on your social/church circle, it’s possible you’ve heard the phrase, “We don’t go to restaurants;” or even use it yourselves. Usually there are one of three underlying convictions at work behind the statement:

  • a sort of righteousness associated staying away from those places; which presupposes that every Waffle House is a seedy sports bar
  • a financial decision based on good money management, and rigid budget, or a distinct savings goal like a new car or new house
  • a stewardship decision which is spiritual at its root, but is coupled with a personal assessment of what constitutes a poor use of funds

There’s no denying it, there’s little in a restaurant you can’t make at home much cheaper, and there are some categories where the restaurant makes huge profits, such as appetizers, side orders, and drinks both soft and hard. Of course, there are also things that you can’t make at home at all, and the wisdom of ordering something that’s too labor intensive, involves esoteric ingredients, or involves the use of techniques or cooking appliances you don’t own is often your best use of the time and money spent eating out.

Stewardship and wise financial management are both good goals, but in the first category, sometimes people over-spiritualize their passing on both fast food and slow food and do so in a way that leaves other feeling somewhat judged. The usually not verbalized response would be, “What, you go to Applebee’s? And you call yourselves Christians?”

It’s an almost Puritanical approach that usually also involves not going to movies or sporting events, ether; but can run to things like not purchasing a book or CD or treating yourself to a wall-hanging for the front hall.  In the extreme, it leaves no room for hobbies, recreation, or just plain fun; it denies the possibility of fun or even smiling, let alone laughing.

Let me be really clear, the financial reasons for staying away from fast food at lunchtime are valid, and the consequential behaviors resulting from stewardship are not to be condemned. You do better at the grocery store, and you do best shopping the outside aisles of the grocery store. However even there, I think people deserve a treat every now and then, and treat can be defined differently; like the couple we met at the burger joint who were there to celebrate their first anniversary.

So where does your household land the plane on this one?

Image: The Atlantic (click to link)

 

 

February 1, 2012

Wednesday Link List

Ideas are always welcomed, but I’d especially like to hear from people who are in touch with electic Christian bloggers from outside North America. 

As for the drum kit (above) the blog where I sourced it (click image) says it’s claimed to be the largest drum set in the world by a church in New York state.  Can someone verify this?

  • Okay, I can’t say I’ve read every single word, but this exhaustive article on the subject of tithing is probably the best I’ve seen — author and Canadian financial consultant Leo De Siqueira really poured himself into this — but you have to read  all  three  parts.
  • Despite the popularity of the recent TV series “Big Love” and the current Broadway hit, “The Book of Mormon,” a Reuters special report quotes Mormon leaders admitting that people are currently “leaving the church in droves.” Apparently all the pop-culture attention is a double-edged sword.
  • The news story playing out about an hour down the road from where we live — involving the ‘honor killings’ of four family members — got worldwide coverage this week, and Get Religion looks closely at press coverage both in and outside Canada.
  • A tarp now covers a prayer in a high school auditorium after a federal judge ruled its presence unconstitutional; … a poem a seventh-grader wrote in 1963 that begins with the words “Our Heavenly Father”  Karen Spears Zacharias sees an irony involving the 16-year old who brought the complaint.
  • Jeff Bethke, the guy who did the viral video, Why I Hate Religion But Love Jesus (now at 18,000,000 views) is back with Sex, Marriage and Family. “You might share a checkbook and a house, but are you actually friends?”
  • If The Shoe Fits Department: At least one Roman Catholic blogger thought the Bethke video was directed at his denomination, and filmed a response. Then he disabled comments, though a few got through.
  • Call me old fashioned, but you just don’t expect to see “Allah” in a scripture translation project sponsored by Wycliffe Bible Translators.  But before Jack VanImpe is all over this, let’s hear the explanation.
  • If you go to a certain ministry job-finding site, the greatest need right now is for worship pastors. But Jim Greer thinks we’re putting too much emphasis there and advancing the wrong paradigm.
  • Meanwhile, Willow Creek (and former Mars Hill Grand Rapids) worship guy Aaron Niequist as released A New Liturgy. Brad Lomenick introduces the project and its promo video.  If you already know Aaron’s music, check out (and download) Liturgy #2.
  • Pete Wilson sits down with Will, a friend and neighbor, who describes living with the consequences of childhood sexual abuse.
  • When times get tough and the pews get barren, the church gets resourceful, but blogger Josh Rhone thinks they’re taking The MacGyver approach to church.

    Wednesday List Lynx arrives late to the party

  • In the modern church, especially the American megachurch, kids are conspicuously absent, doing their own thing in a Kid Min program.  But that doesn’t fit every situation, hence the need for the Messy Church template.
  • Brett Harrison explains carefully his decision about his tattoo, which, for the record, he didn’t actually get yet.  (Not sure about the one he wants to give his 2-year old,  though.)
  • Kerri Weems offers some fasting recipes.  Wait a minute, I’m confused, isn’t that a contradiction?
  • Speaking of food, while Christianity Today isn’t switching to a format featuring restaurant reviews, they do pay a visit to The King’s Kitchen in Charlotte, NC.
  • Meanwhile, in other part of the galaxy: This is Your Wake Up Call Online is the website of Chief Inspiration Officer, Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie. Research it and get back to me, okay?
  • The graphic below originates with the photoblog Spiritual Inspiration. There are some you can use on your blog or Facebook page which are perhaps better quality than the one I chose, but I was really struck by the quotation.

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