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When I Want What I Want and I Call It a Need

How does your family handle the shiny temptations of materialism? There are so many things we could purchase and put to good use, but when we identify them as needs, instead of wants, we slowly twist our understanding of God's provision in to our families. Don't miss how making one small change can model thanksgiving and self control for your kids!I’ve been rigorously purging our home of material excess; no item is safe, and I’ve been especially ruthless in my closet.  As a result, I have one pair of jeans — and it almost met its fate in our garage sale yesterday because I don’t love them.

I can hear your collective gasp: Only one pair of jeans? Girl, you NEED to go shopping.

Also at that garage sale yesterday, I gave away all of our deck chairs. For free. With fabric rips in every seat and plastic chips in every arm rest, the chairs were begging for an accident. So now we have a lovely table on our patio with no chairs.

I need some new chairs!

I could keep adding to this list, but the hard reality is this: not one item on my list is a need.

Somewhere along the way, I started naming my wants as needs.

Now don’t get me wrong: there isn’t anything inappropriate about having a list of wants. Trouble follows, however, when we label simple desires as necessary requirements.

This trouble multiplies when parenting children who hear us calling our “wants,” “needs” because soon they’ll begin doing the same. (Most recently, my kids “needed” a stuffed doggie, a chocolate donut, a new dance leotard and a fish tank with a pump.)

Citing Paul, who clearly exhorts the Philippians in 4:19 by telling them that “God will supply every need of yours according to his riches,” some {wrongly} use scripture to justify lofty expectations of what they perceive as a vending machine deity who is happy to supply everything their hearts desire.

While we humans do have legitimate needs, our list of essentials is exponentially smaller than our consumeristic culture trains us to believe. Justifiable needs include food, water, clothing, shelter and love — but blue jeans and patio furniture? stuffed animals and fish tanks? I’m sure Paul would agree: those items are not likely the “needs” God had in mind to supply.

And while there is no disgrace in wanting new clothing or a yummy treat, in wanting new toys or patio furniture, rationalizing unnecessary purchases — even compromising the budget? perhaps growing less generous in a tithe or charitable giving? — by calling them “needs” is deplorable indeed.

So how do we fight this desire for new and more and better, this “I want what I want so I call it a need” mentality?

Here’s a simple solution: call a want what it is — a want.

In doing so, you’ll come to understand how very few needs you have, you’ll rest easy with an unfulfilled list of wants, and you’ll help your children discern between desire and necessity.

At least that is what is happening in our family.

If I catch myself saying, “I need a pair of jeans,” for example, I revise my statement out loud so my children hear. I might say, “Actually, I don’t need a pair of jeans; I just want a pair.”

Suddenly, the pressure is off to buy new jeans, to fulfill what I tricked my brain into thinking it needs.

Our kids are learning, too. “I need a fish tank with a pump, Mom,” soon became, “Not really; I just want one.” And then later, “I don’t need a new leotard, either; I just want a new one.”

Oh that we could always be this honest with ourselves and teach our kids to do the same!

Scripture encourages us to “be satisfied with what you have, for He Himself has said, I will never leave you or forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

We must remember that every Christ-following Believer has everything s/he needs: Jesus. And because God is with us always and the Holy Spirit leads us every moment, we can {and should} be satisfied.

Even if it means sitting on the ground next to a patio table while wearing last year’s leotard or forgoing the chocolate donut without a new stuffed doggie.

How about you and your family? How do you avoid the trappings and temptations of this shiny materialistic culture? I’d love to hear the strategies you have for your families in the comments below.



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  1. I get what you’re saying completely and lately I’ve had to reframe my thoughts for this very same reason. However, I will admit that sometimes I do doubt God’s provision because I can’t see what’s ahead. I do see children with teeth that *need* to be fixed and eyes that *need* glasses and we have no vision insurance. I see that our diet *needs* to change and I have to eat healthier or I’ll end up with diabetes like my parents but we often have to fill bellies with things we probably really shouldn’t be eating (like bread for sandwiches because it’s cheap but not good for keeping sugar levels low).
    The things I desire are good health for my family and for my children to be fed well, have shoes that don’t hurt their feet, and clothed in at least season-appropriate clothes. Aren’t these needs? I’m struggling with this lately and I know we could be a LOT worse off but we already weren’t doing well then hubby lost his second job. Sometimes I feel like I’m missing God’s blessings and provision for some reason.

    1. Hi Dee-
      I’m praying for your situation. Please keep talking with God about these things too. He does love you and is the Great Provider:) When I feel that squeeze between faith and sorting out how to pay for practical expenses, I see God work in me and in our situation when I lay it all out before Him with a humble heart and beg Him to not let me blow it! And I listen and lately He is telling me to work…so I’m trying to do the things I can … trying to be faithful with my small and kinda’ struggling vegetable garden and selling things I don’t really need. I really struggle with buying, so for me, I’m at a place where I have to be really cautious with purchases. Anyway, no judgment on ya’ – I ‘ll just pray that God will help you see what He is doing for you and will help you with the parts you struggle with.

    2. Hi Dee: I love your honesty and vulnerability. I’m sorry to hear that your husband lost his second job. 🙁

      My article focused primarily on calling wants, needs, in order to rationalize unnecessary purchases. What you detail here, however (shoes that fit and clothing that is season-appropriate) are legitimate needs! I am certain that God sees your circumstance, and my prayer for you is that He will meet your needs in such a way that your faith-legacy in Him is strengthened beyond anything you’ve ever known.

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