My mother took care of the things God had given her, and taught us to do the same. She used money frugally. She cleaned the house. She washed our clothes (especially working on all the grass and mud stains). She dusted picture frames, polished stuff, and generally took very good care of everything. She taught us that since God had given us this stuff, we needed to not only take care of it and make it last, but also use it in ways that blessed others. The budget existed so we could give tithes and offerings. The house was clean to make a pleasant place for the family and guests. The clothes were washed and cared for so we were clean and comfortable and did not look like street urchins. Stuff was to be used in service. Using what we had carefully because it was God’s gift entrusted to us to bless others was a great lesson in itself.
But the second part of her example was even more powerful in a materialistic society. While my mother took care of stuff and used it well, she didn’t love it. This was clear in many ways. While we were taught to be careful in handling dishes, we occasionally broke one, and my mother was never angry, sad, or disappointed. I once broke an antique creamer that she loved and told her right away. “It’s just stuff,” she responded. “Throw it out and clean up the milk, Honey”. That’s what she often said, that or, “It’s going to burn, anyway,” referring to the judgement. We ruined much more than dishes, and she responded the same way to every innocent destruction of property. She showed to us utter contentment with what she had, what she did not have and when the Lord took away what she did have. Leaving a big house for a small one, spending shopping money on the broken car, receiving an amazing gift, giving away extra – all were done with eternity in sight.
This example shaped me incredibly. In a culture so obsessed with getting more, I have seen decades of what it looks like to be content with frugality that looks to God and eternity to keep its balance. In a world that constantly flashes earthly riches in my face, my mother was there teaching me to say “no” because there is something better. That is how to teach your children to store up treasure in Heaven (Matt. 6:20).