Extreme Cheapskates & the Love of Money

Mark Beuving —  December 29, 2011 — 3 Comments

Amongst other things, the days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve are for spending time with family watching TV shows you don’t care about. While channel surfing with my in-laws last night, we struck gold. We happened upon a show called Extreme Cheapskates. It’s unbelievable.

Basically, the show features people who go to great lengths to save a buck—or even a penny (no really, literally saving a penny). These thriftophiles employ such tactics as purchasing overdue food, asking other restaurant patrons for their leftovers, reusing old greeting cards, collecting dyer lint from the local laundromat to use as kindling, “paying” for haircuts and donuts by reciting poetry or emptying trashcans, and even using, washing, and reusing cloth “toiletpaper.”

The show alternates between the surprising, the comical, the disgusting, and the just plain pathetic. It’s brilliant.

But is this blogworthy? Obviously, I’m saying yes. I think that inherent in this type of intense penny pinching is an unbiblical attitude toward money. At the very least, this approach to spending opens one up to some dangerous tendencies.

Paul warned us: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Tim. 6:10). The corrupt executives on Wall Street are an easy target in this regard—their love of money and the resulting destruction is flashy and well publicized. But frugality can also reveal the love of money.

Your grandmother or great-grandmother who scraped her way through the Great Depression is a great reminder that our standard of living has gotten way out of hand. If we are honest with ourselves, we don’t need the things we think we need. But I think survivors of the Depression are different than your average cheapskate.

The typical cheapskate is so focused on money that he will go to great lengths to avoid parting with it. You might think that the cheapskate isn’t focused on the things of this world. But perhaps this person loves money so much that they are only willing to part with it when they are able to exchange it for something they value even more. I’m not saying that every frugal person falls into this category, but it’s easy to see how the term “cheapskate” is often a euphemism for “idolater.”

Of course there are people who avoid spending money for good reasons. But it is important to see that both the extravagant and the thrifty can be tempted to worship the same idol.

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Mark Beuving

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Mark has worked in youth, college, and worship ministry since 1999, and now serves at Eternity Bible College as the Associate Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies. He is passionate about building up the body of Christ, training future leaders for the Church, and writing. Though he is interested in many areas of theology and philosophy, Mark is most fascinated with practical theology and exploring the many ways in which the Bible can speak to and transform our world. He is the author of "Resonate: Enjoying God's Gift of Music" and the co-author with Francis Chan of "Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples." Mark lives in Simi Valley with his wife and two daughters.
  • http://generationchurchless.blogspot.com torri

    heck yeah, mark!

  • http://blog.experts-exchange.com Gary W.

    Nice post, Mark.

    This is something I don’t think I’ve ever heard taught in church, but something that is very real. Granted, most people in our country struggle with the overspending side of money love, but as a cheapskate myself (albeit not extreme) I know the dangers of loving money through underspending.

    There are many examples of extravagant spending in the Bible that, if I’m honest, I would rationalize away as a poor financial choice. I’m the disciple sitting in the room saying “Dude, she could’ve totally sold that perfume and given the money to the poor.” When really, I just want to feel good about myself for saving money.

    (P.S. Glad to see you’re still keeping up with “the teachings.”)

  • http://prestonsprinkle.com Preston Sprinkle

    Great thoughts, Mark!

    I think that being “cheap” is good when there’s the ultimate goal of being able to give more away. Or, of course, if you’re just trying to make ends meet, or live simply. But when cheapskate-ness is turned inward with the sole purpose of gratifying your own desire for saving money, then it can become idolatrous and self-serving. The Bible doesn’t commend being cheap as an end in itself; it does commend living wisely and giving generously.