Broke, Dead or in Prison (or “What We Really Need”)

Via Flickr, by user Samuel M. Livingston. Used under Creative Commons License.

“I don’t have to do anything but die, and live until I do.”

That’s one of my favorite things I ever heard my mother say… and believe me, she’s said some doozies.

Mom usually says this in response to someone telling her that she “has” to do something. And technically she’s right — we all have free will, and there’s nothing that we have to do. But there are a lot of things that we need to do. We need to eat, we need to stay warm, we need to stay healthy. If we don’t, death will come way too soon.

When we talk about how we should use our build our financial lives according to God’s Master Plan, we know that God’s first priority for our money is that we use it to provide for the needs of our families. After all, I Tim. 5:8 tells us:

Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

The trouble is that we can very easily get confused about what we need when we spend our money. What do we need — and what do we only want — and how do we tell the difference?

Here’s an easy way to think about it: You’re useful to your friends, your family and the Kingdom of God when you’re healthy, free and productive. Anything that gets in the way of those goals is a problem. So when we talk about meeting our needs, we’re really talking about doing and buying the things necessary to stay alive, healthy and free.

In other words, if you’re broke, dead or in prison, you’re not much help to anyone.

So, let’s talk about what we really need in life to keep ourselves and our families alive and kicking. This isn’t necessarily an exclusive list, but it will get us going in a good direction.

1) Food — This one is pretty simple, right? If you don’t eat, you die. If you don’t eat well (as in food that is fulfilling and nutritious), you can end up sick or impaired. When all else fails, we should use our money to (wisely) feed ourselves. After all, our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit.

2) Shelter and Utilities — These come in a close second to food. Sure, you can camp for a while and survive. But in North America, you and your family won’t make it very long without heat, running water, and electricity. There are plenty of other places in a budget to save money, but don’t skip on your home or utility bills. Going without these things puts your health and safety at serious risk.

3) Clothing — Again, this one is fairly obvious. We must clothe ourselves; if we’re on a budget, however, we must also be wise about how we do it. A basic wardrobe that keeps you warm and modest is fairly affordable, and can last a long time. If you need specific clothes for your workplace, you’ll need to allocate some money for that too. But remember, fashion is a luxury. It’s okay to spend money on clothes that you enjoy, but enjoyment is a low priority in God’s money plan.

4) Transportation — Ask any employer: No one wants to hire a person that doesn’t have a way of getting to work. If you live in a large urban area, public transportation might meet your needs well, but you still need to budget to pay for it. If you’re rockin’ the suburbs and have to have a car, just remember: A cheap, ugly car gets you to work just as well as an expensive, beautiful SUV. It’s fine to have a car that you enjoy, but you shouldn’t bust your budget or go into debt to get it.

5) Personal health and hygiene — When times are tight, we can be tempted to forego our own health and personal care. The trouble is that this can actually make things worse financially. Ignore a minor health problem too long, and it can turn into a major one… and an expensive one. Take care of your body and your family’s health, and don’t skimp on health insurance.

6) Taxes — This might seem like an odd item to include on a list of our basic needs, but let’s face it — like death, taxes will never, ever go away. Sure, you can cheat on your taxes, and you may get away with it for a while. But pull that stunt for too long, and you’ll end up in prison. Since you’re not likely to achieve God’s purposes for your life in there, go ahead and give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.

Meet these six needs, and you’ll stay alive, healthy and out of prison. That’s what I really need in life, anyway. What about you?

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