Featured / Perspectives / July 19, 2016

Good Clothes & Unlit Candles

You would think that a poverty mentality is associated with how much money we have. I’ve met a widow living with aids in Africa that put out her best (and her only) food knowing that God provides for her and I’ve met a millionaire too stingy to buy someone a coffee. In other words, poverty, while it can be paired with a life circumstance, is actually a mindset.

“poverty…is actually a mindset”

I lived with this mentality my entire life until only a few years ago. I noticed that many of my friends were much more generous than me. I actually started feeling confronted by what seemed like an inability within myself to give things away and to let go of the fear that I wouldn’t have enough in the long run. I didn’t grow up in extreme poverty. There was never a time when I couldn’t eat or lived without a home, yet there were things that I experienced that led me to believe that I would never have MORE than enough, only JUST enough. If you give it away… it’s gone. This way of believing actually led to bad decisions that inadvertently seemed to generate more poverty. This is probably why it says in Proverbs 11:24 that the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller. When I first started earning a paycheck at 16 years old I would wait for it to be deposited and I would immediately go spend all of it, everything. Most of the time it would be on ridiculously cheap clothing like 5 shirts for $25. I know it’s hard to believe but I didn’t need a v-neck shirt in five colors. It was the fear that if I didn’t buy it now I may never have another chance. It was irrational as most fears are. Whenever I found myself owning something nice I would categorize it with my “good clothes” and was afraid to wear it just in case it got ruined.

“…the fear that if I didn’t buy it now I may never have another chance.”

I wish that the damage would have stopped at such an inconsequential stage, but of course it didn’t. It really is true that what you do with $5 you’ll do with $5,000. And on and on I went through life with a chainsaw making stupid choice after stupid choice. I’ve come a LONG way with this but sometimes I still recognize that old familiar mentality or an old habit knocking at the door. That’s when I have to identify it, reject it and remind myself that I live in generosity. I have a Father in heaven who is not holding anything back from me and who loves me; that my generosity actually displays my trust in God to supply for tomorrow and demonstrates my value for people over things.

Like anything that has been “normal” for a long time, if we want to change how we behave then we have to change the way we think. Yet another Proverb teaches us that as we think, so are we (23:7)… We will perpetuate and magnify what we believe to be true and it will actually become truer and truer in our life. I believe I’ll never have enough, which compels me to spend my money on things I don’t need and go into debt for things I can’t afford, which takes all my money and actually drives me further and further into actual poverty. When we are sick we look at the symptoms to communicate the root of the problem. It can be the same with our behavior.

“…if we want to change how we behave then we have to change the way we think.”

Unfortunately I know these things from experience….here’s some symptoms of a poverty mentality:

  • You have a fear that if you don’t get it now you’ll never have another chance.
  • You buy things you can’t afford because you “need” them. (Of course “need” isn’t actually need but this helps to justify the lack of wisdom)
  • You find other people’s generosity confronting or even offensive and assume they live that way because they have more money than you do.
  • You think you don’t have to be generous now but you will totally give more when you have more…. one day (the day that will never come).
  • You think that wanting something justifies doing anything to get it, which could even mean a compromise of character.
  • You say things like “I work hard, I deserve this or that”, which is often only entitlement.
  • You won’t throw or give things away. (what do you mean I don’t need 7 black jackets?)
  • You buy things but then refuse to use them because they’re too nice or you would have to to replace them. (the plastic covered couch, the white outfit you might spill on, the unlit candles all over the house)
  • You secretly hope other people will pay for you when you’re in a group.
  • You buy things because they are cheap, simply because they are cheap and not necessarily because they were the best choice.
  • You can’t be happy for someone else if they get something you wanted. I mean, they must have done something wrong to get it, right? (the “it’s not fair” scenario)

If you think you may be living with a poverty mentality like I was there’s definitely hope! It’s partly spiritual and partly practical. Two things…

1. Pray and ask God to take away poverty and give you a new way of thinking. Here’s an easy prayer you could pray:

Father God, I ask you to remove my poverty mentality and replace it with a mindset of generosity. Help me to trust you and show me if there are lies that I’m believing about you as my provider. Fill me with your wisdom so that I can live with more than enough, able to give on any occasion. Amen

2. Identify the habits and patterns of behavior in your life that are rooted in poverty that have become normal.

Amazingly the Holy Spirit is amazing at helping us to see once we ask! You have to begin to live in the opposite spirit: generosity. It will feel terrifying at first because everything you’ve understood until now will be screaming that you shouldn’t be doing what you’re doing. It’s a good sign that you’re about to sow different seed and that you’re on your way to freedom.

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Tags:  Father God Freedom Generosity Identity Personal Growth Stewardship

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