Fancy Homes and Fancy Cars: A Warning to Christians about the Danger of “Unintentional” Worldliness
I have a thesis: Christians should never buy a luxury car or home. There. I said it. You can call me a legalist. You can convince yourself that your $40k+ car can glorify God more than a $20k 2-year-old car. My thesis is that no Christian in America actually needs a luxury car. It’s that any time a person thinks about getting a luxury car, there is always a standard vehicle that would be perfectly suitable for the job.
No doubt, I have already divided those who may actually read this essay, of which I assume there are very few. My opening is harsh. It seems legalistic. Don’t we have freedom in Christ?
I want to point out that I know that I am totally depraved. I have no right to judge anybody else. Sin, especially my own, leaves me saddened beyond measure. But we, as Christians, are still called to stand for the truth of the Gospel, and exhort our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to live according to how God would have us live.
So this essay will attempt to show that there is likely no possible way that a luxury car or home can out-glorify God over a regular car or home. The essay will focus more on the car, and make a note about homes.
THE CURSE OF FINANCIAL BLESSING
The rich young man of Matthew 19:16-30 learned the hard way the curse of financial blessing. Jesus exposed his idolatrous heart by commanding him to sell all he had and follow Jesus. Matthew writes, “when the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” Jesus continued by sharing how much easier it would be for a camel to to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.
This story is not saying that no rich person can enter the kingdom. Jesus states that with God, all things are possible. So if you are a genuine Christian, you have already been saved, and will taste and see the kingdom of God. Praise be to Him!
To you who have been blessed financially, however, you have been called to give much. In the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30, we learn that those who were given much are expected to invest and give much. Christians must take great care to steward God’s resources well. It’s because, though you may have worked for “your” money, you ultimately have money because God has given it to you.
THE CURSE OF THE LUXURY CAR
A pastor purchased a used Mercedes SUV for his wife. He had apparently gotten a great deal on the car. Yet because of the flair of this vehicle, he had to tell the congregation the price he paid so people wouldn’t think that he was using money unwisely.
I see two problems here. First, as a pastor, he shouldn’t have to explain away his purchases. But when a pastor gets a Mercedes, the flair factor will necessarily require the explanation. If his job is to worship and glorify God, and he has to take time to explain a flair purchase, is that really the best use of the pulpit? And secondly, buying a used Mercedes with a great price does not necessarily equate to good financial stewardship. According to Consumer Reports, Mercedes trails only BMW in high long-term cost of ownership. Further, Mercedes, like all luxury vehicles, requires premium fuel. Can he really stand before the throne of grace and say that that was a wise decision that glorified God?
In another case, a church member who was blessed financially bought a brand new, $40k+ German SUV, after having a very humble and old SUV for a long time. Indeed, it was time for something new and more reliable. But was a $40k+ luxury vehicle needed? This person even said “I almost feel guilty.” That’s a pretty sure sign that there’s a vertical relationship issue.
Lastly, I read a post on Facebook from another person who was blessed financially, asking about advice on a number of luxury European SUV’s. The particular vehicles ranged in prices from $35k to $60k starting prices. Why on earth would a Christian even consider a $60k car?
What kind of witness can a Christian be to the poor and rejected of society when they roll up in $40-60k vehicles?
BUYING ON DEBT?
Another thing is that most people who buy $40-60k+ cars are not buying with cash. It’s a lot harder to give up that much cash at one time. But is it wise to take on such a debt for an asset that will immediately lose value? Aren’t you also presuming on God’s future provision by using debt for such a large purchase?
OPPORTUNITY COST: LOVE GOD, LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR TO THE GLORY OF GOD
Even when Christians are blessed financially, that doesn’t mean that they need to re-bless themselves with that blessing. Financial blessing gives one the means to bless others who are in need. It gives them the opportunity to bless God’s kingdom.
A full seminary education for somebody in America is about $35k (yes… I realize that I am biased about putting this opportunity first since I am in seminary at this moment and struggling to pay for it all). Imagine spending $25k on a nice 2-year-old vehicle, and funding somebody’s seminary education. A school in Africa costs $12,500. Imagine getting almost 3 schools just to cut back on a car. Maybe somebody in your church is investing in a new business or ministry that will serve the community. Wouldn’t that car money be better spent building God’s kingdom?
And what if you instead bought a $20k car and invested $20k in financial investments. After 10 years, the $20k investment could be worth $50k at 10% growth. Wouldn’t it be better to have a more humble car and $50k in the bank after 10 years, than spending $40k and having nothing to show for it?
Any resources spent on the self necessarily means that those resources were not spent for one’s neighbor. If the great commandment is to love God and love your neighbor, why not deny yourself to the glory of God?
WHAT AM I NOT SAYING
I am not saying that all Christians must become destitute and never spend any money on themselves. Having a beaten up car will not make you more holy than somebody who has a nice car. Jesus says in Matthew 6:16, “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.”
What I am saying is that Christians ought to be reasonable in what they do. If you, for example, have money and want to take a vacation, go take a vacation. You likely won’t need to find the lowest and most humble accommodations for you and your family. If you don’t have much money but want to take a vacation, you can still do it, but will likely have more humble accommodations. Even better, if you have the means, treat a family that doesn’t to a nice vacation that you might also take.
That leads me to my final point. Christians who have been blessed with the ability to purchase a $40k+ car should become exorbitant givers. You should look for opportunities to give to invest in God’s kingdom. You should think you’re buying a $40k car, and only buy a $20k car, and give $20k for whatever the Lord puts on your heart. Yes… part with your $20k. You will not have a lacking of anything you need by giving exorbitantly.
A NOTE ABOUT HOME-BUYING
I’ve focused mostly on cars, but wanted to share some ideas about home-buying. Your home is the most expensive purchase you’ll probably ever make. Keep in mind a few things:
Be sure to buy a home within a reasonable distance of a good church. You are part of a family of believers, and don’t want to be isolated. My church once lost a family who loved the church because they bought a mega-home by the lake too far away. They came to the church less and less, and had to change church families.
Don’t overbuy a home. God expects you to give a lot from what He has already given you. If you overbuy on your home, even if you can make the monthly payments, you’ll be so cash-strapped that you may struggle giving faithfully. When there is a need that arises in the church, you may not be able to bless others.
Use your home to be a blessing. As you economize your life, you might be able to buy a home that’s bigger than you need today in order to be a blessing to God’s kingdom. Maybe you’ll be a place where missionaries can stay for a while. It’s a wonderful blessing to be in this position!
We have been called to a great commission, called the Great Commission. We are to worship and glorify the Lord in everything we do. Let us not live with the guilt of spending so much money on ourselves, but rather in the freedom of giving and blessing God’s kingdom. Let us be a witness for Christ and for the Gospel. Thank you, and glory to God!