Frugality: A Fading Virtue
By: Deji Yesufu
One day, a few years ago, as I sat in my room I overheard Pastor E. A. Adeboye, General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), on TV instruct his congregation “…this year you will not manage…” and the people responded with the usual chorus of “amen”. This “declaration” is one of those prophetic utterances that Pentecostal pastors make as they pray over their congregation. I cringed when I heard it; I kept wondering to myself: does Adeboye not realize that the art of thriftiness or frugality is actually a Christian virtue? Or what else could Jesus have been talking when he said “…he that is faithful with a little, with be faithful with much…” Faithfulness is a fruit of the Spirit and the number one thing that faithfulness demands is that people know how to manage what they have.
David Wood is an American Christian Apologist with a ministry to Muslims. He has the largest following for a Christian apologist on YouTube (only followed by the Ravi Zacharias Ministries). Recently Wood had a former prison bunk mate online to discuss why prisoners who had been converted to Christianity often returned back to prison. They identified a number of factors but Wood made this point: Prison life comes with a number of disciplines. These disciplines are enforced on you by the prison system. He said that the moment people leave prison, they no longer have those constraints. Too often, Christian former convicts loose themselves to the pleasures of freedom, and they soon return to their vomit. With time they commit an offence again and return to prison.
Then he said this: today when Christians are called to keep healthy boundaries and disciplines in their lives, they often have two or three things like prayer and church attendance pressed on them. He however said that in the first century Christians often had about sixteen disciplines enjoined on them. Then he made the point that a leading discipline of the first century Christianity was frugality. It is this point that I wish to expand on in my essay.
When Nigeria hit the black gold, crude oil, in the 1970s and one of our heads of state said that Nigeria’s problem was not money but how to spend it, some missionaries warned Nigeria against this new found wealth. They said the sudden wealth that has befallen the country will lead Nigeria to become spendthrift. And they were right: in a little over a decade after that period, this country was plunged into austere times. Most people do better in times of difficulty than in times of prosperity. Difficulty teaches us to be thrifty, while prosperity leads us to loose our sense of frugality. Much of the problem with people is not how much they earn but how much they spend. Most people have enough for their needs but they often plunge themselves into problems because of their greed. In the rest of this essay, I’ll suggest a few things we can do to learn the art of frugality.
The first thing I’ll suggest to my readers, who may wish to learn the art of frugality, is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. But what has faith in Christ got to do with thriftiness? Everything. Here is the thing: at the foundation of waste and obscene pursuit of wealth is greed – in another word, sin. A human mind that is not subject to the Lordship of Christ is hard, rebellious and greedy. Greed is the spirit that seeks to gather much so as to spend with ease and little regard to discipline or restraint. The man that will learn to be frugal must first submit to Christ; he must have his heart of stone changed and then God begins to teach him on how to live on a little, until he perfect the use of a lot more.
The second thing we must bring into place in our finances is planning. I remember when I was about to get married that one of the ministers that counselled us explained that there is no amount a family cannot live on. What most people lack is not money but the discipline of planning their spending. There was a friend of mine who began his career with a multinational company. Before his jumbo salary arrived that month, his wise mother took him to her driver’s home. After the visit, she told him that this man earns such a little amount yet he lives in his own house and has educated all his children. My friend got the message: use your money wisely. My friend is a big boy now with numerous investments in different businesses. The fact is that the really poor individual is not the person with little funds but the person who does not know how to use money. Frugality is actually the art that many people who make money legally have in growing their wealth. We all can learn the to be more thrifty in our spending.
Third. Too much cannot be said about savings. For those of us who are civil servants and earn very little, the Cooperative Societies are our lifelines. I watched my late aunt sponsor all her children through school with this cooperative Societies, after her husband had lost his job. If one can extend the discipline of savings to more savings, more the Cooperatives, please do it. One discovers quickly that what 100,000 can do, 70,000 will do the same. If you can save that 30,000, you will have a bulk sum at the close of the year for some bigger projects.
Then there is the simple act of discipline. Bringing our flesh under. Saying no the things that entice our eyes and flesh. If you search long enough, some of things you buy in some of these new shopping malls springing up everywhere, you can actually get in other places at half the price. Hopefully as we perfect the art of discipline, we will also have worthy examples to guide us in life. When a whole pastor, minister over the largest Pentecostal denomination in the world, cannot teach his people to be frugal – we genuinely have a problem of worthy examples in our clime.
A few days ago the internet became awash with videos from a burial ceremony. One Obi Cubana was burying his mother and people were stoning each other with dollars during the celebrations. They were dancing over wads of cash, as Cubana and his guests celebrated their wealth. Soon allegations of fraud were being leveled against him. He quickly responded by saying he was the owner of numerous business concern in Lagos, etc. Yet the thought of making money legitimately and wasting it in that fashion appears incongruent to many. Just yesterday, Hushpuppi, another money waster, who was caught by the FBI in Dubai sometimes ago, confessed to prosecutors that he had once bribed Abba Kyari, Nigeria’s super cop, to arrest an enemy. Kyari has a famous picture he took with Cubana where the two are draped in the same attire. Now questions are again being raised about the legitimacy of Cubana’s wealth itself.
While the world may do whatever they wish their money, Christians cannot. Christ calls us to be faithful with the resources he puts in our hands and one art of faithfulness is being frugal with our spending. Let us remember that for most people our earning is not the problem; our problem is our spending. If we will curb waste, we will have enough to meet our needs and even to support others.