This morning on my way class, I was listening to a radio program where two pundits were discussing capital gains taxes. Exciting, I know. One thing that was said struck me. Since 1980 American wealth has grown from $30,000,000,000 to $70,000,000,000. I typed out all the zeros purposefully — just look at the staggering amount of wealth we have in this country. We live in the wealthiest society in the history of the world, and the last twenty-seven years have been the greatest single societal increase in wealth in history.
Another of the points made was that as the wealth of Americans has increased, so has expendable income — that is, money which is discretionary and not alloted for specific expenses. I am not an economics whiz, but this seems like a common sense approach to expenses:
1. Mandatory — things you must have to survive, such as food, shelter and clothing
2. Necessary — things you do not intrinsically need for survival, but are necessary for the functioning of a modern-day life, such as a car and gas (if you don’t live in a city), various types of insurance, etc
3. Discretionary — things that might be helpful, useful, or fun, but that are not mandatory or necessary, such as microwave, a computer, TV, etc
Obviously, we will have to spend money, and most of us do not have uncountable riches to spread to the masses. However, if you are an American, especially in the middle-class or higher, you are filthily and unavoidably rich. More so than 99.9% of the history of the world’s population. This means that we ought to be able to survive and thrive (if not “materially”) on much less than we do. There are probably dozens of ways we can pare down our mandatory, necessary and discretionary expenses, freeing up funds for the good of God’s Kingdom.
Take for example a very simple budgetary example:
Say Bob earns $1200 a month. Here is Bob’s budget:
Tithe = $100
Rent = $350
Food = $150
Gas = $100
Car Insurance = $50
Health Insurance = $50
Utilities = $50
Cell Phone = $50
Internet/Cable = $50
Savings = $250
Bob wants to know how to live on a “wartime budget”. I think there are two ways to do it:
1. Cut down on the quality/expense of his mandatory and necessary expenses. He could eat out less, or drive a cheaper car that would not cost as much to insure.
2. Cut down on the quantity of his discretionary expenses. He could cancel his cable and internet connection for example
We need to look at our budgets for ways that we can pare down our expenses, with the purpose of using our wealth for the Kingdom. I myself am only beginning to think through these issues, but I know that God will hold me (and us) accountable for what we have been given. I want the Slavich family to use its wealth and all of its resources in a selfless and non-money-treasuring way.
May the Lord help us and be gracious to us.