Wednesday, May 9, 2012

"Why Me?" : Needs, Wants, and Luxuries

Recently, I've heard many people speak of wants and luxuries as "needs". This bothers me, especially since so many people in the world live on less than what most Americans make in a week.

Here's a few statistics: if you make $15,000, you're richer than 88% of the world. $50,000? You're richer than 99% of the world.

Rich list scale

I'm ashamed to admit it, but I have noticed that I sometimes feel entitled, like I deserve certain things, I need certain things - like time on the internet every day, or enough food to make me full at every meal. They don't occur often, these feelings, because the smart part of me is more dominant than the stupid part.

I know that I am a wretched sinner who deserves death and hell and that it is only by the grace of God that I have been born into a culture that has so much excess, and into a family that has provided everything I need. As I was taking a walk through my yard one day last week, I was praying, thanking God for all of the myriad blessings in my life and suddenly became overwhelmed. "Why me?" I thought, "Lord, why was I given all that I need, want, and so many luxuries when 90% + of the world so often must go without?"

Then I realized, God has blessed me in order that I might be a blessing to others. I need to be generous with what He has given me - my stuff, my money is not mine, it's His anyways. I'm to do with it as He wants me to.

Our American culture - kids especially - takes so much for granted. Many times, parents don't help the case:  they spoil their children with more toys than they could ever realistically play with, giving them manifold ways to keep entertained (no wonder so many kids now have ADHD [but I know there are legitimate cases] - but that's a topic for another time).

I was spoiled in this manner myself. I remember many Christmases when my parents would ask me for a list of things I wanted for Christmas. As far as I can remember I never wanted much, so I'd hand over my short list and without fail, there would be dozens of presents wrapped under the tree for me - most of which I would never use. I once told my mom that I didn't need all of this stuff, and she told me she would feel bad if I didn't get much - for she believed that I deserved to get just as much as my siblings, and she felt I'd be missing out if I didn't get a lot of things.

photo credit
I could go on and on, but I'm writing this post to differentiate between Needs, Wants, and Luxuries.


A need is... well, something that you need in order to live. Air, water, and food are all I would put on that list, but most others include clothing and shelter as well. Some even include sanitation, education, and healthcare.


Now air, water, food, clothing, and shelter does not mean air conditioning, purified water, five course meals, designer clothing and a mansion. It doesn't even necessarily mean tap water, canned soups, Dollar Store clothing and a two bedroom mobile home.

When we visited Africa in 2009, the people whose villages we visited felt blessed to live in one-room mud-brick homes, eat rice and chicken, drink well water that was shared with the livestock, and wear the clothing that Goodwills in America had cast off as unsaleable to Americans. But they had their needs met.

Wants and Luxuries are a bit harder to distinguish, but I'll give it a go.


I would consider wants to be upgrades from basic needs, so the air conditioning, tap water, nicer meals, dollar store or Wal-Mart clothing and two-bedroom home would be wants.


Also considered a want would be basic transportation: bicycles, access to public transportation, even a vehicle of your own.

Electricity in the home, a bed to sleep on, home telephone, movies to watch, are other examples.


Now we arrive at the things most of America "can't-live-without" - but really they can. 

I use an outdated cell
phone as an example
for a reason. One like this is
 still a luxury, whether you
appreciate it or not.
  • Cell phones
  • Internet
  • Laptop
  • A nice, reliable vehicle
  • Two vehicles for one family
  • A home large enough for everyone to be in a different room
  • Video games
  • A comfortable bed
  • 10+ outfits of clothing
  • Gourmet meals
  • Convenience meals
  • Convenience anything
  • Coffee
  • Chocolate
  • Soda
  • Jewelry
Again, I could go on and on. 

How can we feel that we deserve to be so spoiled? How can we say that we're tight on money when really, there's plenty of money, it's just tied up in our luxuries? How can we not give to others who truly have needs which they can't afford to meet? 

I know how it is for money to be tight - technically, our family is below the Federal Poverty Line - yet we live well. We have everything we need and want and many luxuries as well. The Lord has blessed us greatly to be able to survive and thrive on an income which many would deem insufficient. Yet we are able to tithe regularly and give additional gifts of generosity on occasion. I'm not saying this to boast about our giving or to make you feel sorry for our financial situation - as I said, we do fine and manage to give and save. What I'm trying to show is that almost any American family can afford to be generous if they're smart with their money.

I know that at any moment, we could sell a vehicle or some of our furniture or cut off our internet, or spend less on groceries. There's no excuse to not be generous with what we've been given. God has blessed our family with so much more than we could ever need or deserve, and He has blessed yours too.

 "And my God will supply every need of yours 
according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 4:19

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