Exposing the Harm of Ultra Frugality

ultra-frugalityI don’t understand what it is about the poverty mentality among Christians. We use fewer squares of toilet paper and squeeze toothpaste until our fingers hurt. We borrow things from people to avoid having to buy them, and we buy just about everything used.

Don’t get me wrong. I lived this way my whole life until two years ago. Then I stepped back and saw what I was doing. I also saw unethical behavior in homeschool circles. I was a part of a group of hundreds of homeschool moms online, and they were copying copyrighted material to avoid buying the products of sweet homeschool businesses who they were harming. I left the group immediately, after a fellow homeschool mom blew the whistle on them and got thrown out of the group.

What is wrong with us? Don’t we think that God can provide for our needs? Do we think that stinginess is godly? Because frugality is NEVER mentioned in Scripture. The Proverbs 31 woman dresses her family in scarlet and gorgeous clothes. She is not scrimping and ripping people off. No, she’s industrious, and God provides for her abundantly.

Even through all the years of having no money, God provided lavishly for me. Sometimes He provided the money for me to buy new curriculum. God is God. He owns the universe. Every single penny you have belongs to God. God is able to do abundantly beyond all that you could ask or think. (Ephesians 3:20) Let’s not limit God.

Yes, we need to not spend more than we earn, and we should save money so that we can pay for car repairs and other things. I’m not talking about that. I’m astounded at the amount of Christians who have an enormous amount of money at the bank, but physically suffer because they have their thermostat set to extremely cold temperatures in the winter. They are frugal because they pride themselves in being frugal, as if God is glad that they are causing their families to suffer when they have the money to make their families warm.

It reminds me of Ebenezer Scrooge from A Christmas Carol, who didn’t realize until it was almost too late, what really mattered in life. You don’t know when your life will be required of you. Why die with a huge pile of money beside you?

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12 Responses to “Exposing the Harm of Ultra Frugality”

  1. Dawn says:

    There is a huge difference between living frugally and stealing copyrighted material. I do agree about the ultra-frugal living people… I’ve seen families who wear near-rags because they got them at a thrift store, when they could have, at the least, afforded to buy clothes in better condition somewhere else. We live within our means, and sometimes that means buying things on sale, or at a thrift store, but often it means just waiting for that item to go on sale and getting a good price for it. I don’t have the energy to coupon, nor the time (or desire) to make my own clothes, but it also makes me sad to see friends charging their lives on credit cards that they can’t make the payments on just so that they can have the best of everything. There has to be a healthy balance.

    • Susan Evans says:

      I agree with you that there should be balance. I’ve seen a lot of articles about greed and the buy-now mentality. We shouldn’t live beyond our means. But I feel like so many Christians have gone the opposite extreme.

  2. I’ve thought some of these same things. It’s like we wear being broke as a badge of honor. Why? There’s lots of money in the world, what message are we sending when we act like christians can’t have what they need? Sounds like a pretty miserly God we serve.
    Yes, we need to be responsible and even buy some used curricula sometimes. But the minute we start copying materials we’ve really missed the boat. Not only is it crazy to say you’re homeschooling for biblical reasons and then break the law and steal in order to do it, but what is that saying about your belief that God will provide?
    Maybe if we christians would give God a chance to provide, He would show us how abundantly He is willing to do so.

    • Susan Evans says:

      I agree. God is so awesome. For example, He provided out of the blue for my husband and I to go on a trip to the Bahamas when we had no money just weeks previous to that. God can do ANYTHING. And when you know that all money belongs to God, you tend to give more to others, too.

  3. I love this, “Even through all the years of having no money, God provided lavishly for me.” Sometimes I’m honestly embarrassed by the things He has given us (through others as gifts), and yet it still amazes me when He gives me something else that I’ve wanted. While we do live within our means and sometimes find a more frugal way of doing things, we don’t scrimp on the important things or try to steal from someone else for our own monetary gain. God has richly blessed us, and we try to use His gifts wisely.

  4. Head Ant says:

    I’ve utilized the Book Samaritan when I had absolutely no money to homeschool. Borrowing books would be another thing to try. But copying? That’s taking it too far.
    As far as God providing, he is already providing us with ways to purchase our children’s curriculum for next year.

    • Susan says:

      God has always provided for my homeschool materials. I just get on my knees and ask God, and He grants me everything I need and almost everything I want.

  5. Heidi says:

    This is spot on, Susan! Honestly, this is something I struggle with… it’s hard for me to spend money because I worry about not having enough instead of trusting God. And I get a bit of a thrill from getting a really good price on something we need.

    On the other hand, as a church musician, copyright infringement is a HUGE deal to me. It’s stealing… no two ways about it. (I’ve been disappointed recently by some people close to me making copies of photos from a professional photographer, just to avoid paying his price for the work.)

    Thankfully, my dear Lord has blessed me with a husband who GETS THIS. He reminds me constantly that we can’t outgive God. Being frugal is great… IF it’s seen as a way to be more generous to others. God provides for us on a daily basis (like manna for the Israelites), and we don’t need to worry.

    Thanks for making me think today. 🙂

    • Susan says:

      Well, I get a thrill from getting a good deal, too. Plus, I pray before going to garage sales, and God blesses me with exactly what I need. But unfortunately for so many years, I didn’t want to give to others because “I had suffered to get that money.” My husband is the one who taught me how to give, because he would fill people’s needs on the spot. Once he paid for a $1,000 car repair of a friend who had no money. I was actually angry with my husband because “I had suffered to get that money.” So ultra-frugality often leads to an attitude of selfishness, too, not that I meant for that to happen!

  6. Kathy says:

    I appreciate your thoughts, Susan. For many years when my boys were small I never had any extra $ and it bothered me that I could not bless others in the way I wished I could. God did provide some unusual circumstances where I was able to purchase some homeschooling materials that I only dreamed about for a minimal price. I felt so blessed at times, not just in monetary ways, but by others’ generosity and friendship. Years later, we do have extra to go around and I could buy what I wanted. I’ve so enjoyed blessing others less fortunate.

    I know there are those that seem overly frugal, and stealing crosses the line (I’ve seen it too) but I hesitate to point any fingers.

    • Susan Evans says:

      I was actually describing myself in this article, since I was ultra frugal for the majority of my life. I didn’t mean to point any fingers, especially when someone lives in poverty, and they have to survive. I totally understand that. 🙂

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