I can still smell the beige leather interior in that gorgeous red Cadillac CTS. Ahhh. Let me tell you, she was a sweet car.
It’s been nearly a decade since that Cadillac was mine—for less than 48 hours. Here’s what happened: I bought the car on a Saturday morning and drove it around all day. I was really enjoying it! The next day I drove it to church. After church, it hit me—an overwhelming wave of guilt. So I returned the car to the dealership. (They gave me two days to change my mind.)
That car was too nice for me to own. I didn’t deserve it, and I shouldn’t have spent money on something so . . . extravagant. At least that’s what I thought. Have you been there? I think most of us have. Sometimes buyer’s remorse is justified. But other times, it leaves you with uncertainty in the pit of your stomach.
So was my purchase too extravagant?
Whether that car was too nice or not had nothing to do with the car. It did, however, have everything to do with my financial circumstances at the time. What might be too extravagant for one person’s budget is a drop in the financial bucket for someone else’s budget. And based on my financial position at the time, there was nothing wrong with me buying that car.
Too bad I didn’t understand that back then!
I had been challenged my whole life to work hard and succeed, and I was finally seeing the results of years of good decisions. My wife and I were out of debt. We had several months of income saved in an emergency fund. We were contributing 15% of our income to retirement. We were tithing. And I paid for that beautiful red car in cash! Yet guilt made me take it back.
What’s that about, anyway?
The pressure I was feeling was not the Holy Spirit, that’s for sure. It was social pressure that stems from a modern-day version of a belief that’s been around for thousands of years: Gnosticism. In a nutshell, Gnosticism says that only spiritual stuff honors God. That means the material things our financial success can buy are never okay—regardless of a person’s circumstances. Sounds a lot like our culture today, huh?
But the Scriptures are clear that the Gnostics are wrong. In fact, God’s not only okay with us being financially successful, but He wants us to be:
“Here is what I have seen: It is good and fitting for one to eat and drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor in which he toils under the sun all the days of his life which God gives him; for it is his heritage. As for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, and given him power to eat of it, to receive his heritage and rejoice in his labor—this is the gift of God” (Ecclesiastes 5:18-19, NKJV).
Do you see it? It’s “appropriate” to enjoy the gifts God has provided—including “wealth and possessions.” And God is the One who actually gives us the ability to enjoy them.
God has set some standards around that, though. He wants us to enjoy the fruits of our labor, but only if we’ve managed our blessings in a way that brings glory to Him. And we should never let our stuff or our pursuit of success become idols. God has to remain first in our lives.
First Timothy 6:9–10 reminds us of this: “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (NIV).
Accumulating stuff just for the sake of stuff takes us down a dangerous road. When we keep our focus on God, though, and use money for His glory, He blesses us with more. It makes sense! He wants His resources to be in the hands of those who steward them well.
So if your heart is in the right place with God and you’ve worked hard to succeed, don’t let anyone tell you not to enjoy it. We can be generous and enjoy God’s blessings ourselves at the same time—He wants us to! Even if that blessing is a red Cadillac CTS.