The Prosperity of Frugality

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It is an ancient art. Its practice has been recorded as far back as the time of the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates (about 399 B.C.). Its nurture, or neglect, has influenced the rise and fall of nations and civilizations. Abandoning it has been the ruin of fortunes. Embracing it amplifies wealth and can dispel that state of poverty.

What is this mysterious, seemingly elusive art of which I speak? Frugality. A humble word, it is derived from two ancient Latin words, frugalis and frux, both meaning…”success.” You may also call it by other names, such as prudence, sparingness, and thrift. Whatever your choice may be, it always means the unwillingness to squander goods or spend money unnecessarily. It is the careful use of materials or resources.

The quality of being frugal is one so powerful as to change lives and affect history. Each of us possesses the ability to exercise it. Frugality allows you to govern your destiny and produce in your life a lovely, fertile garden of material and intangible wealth. Without it, you may be tossed upon the circumstances, at the mercy of your unorganized whims.

Tracey McBride, Frugal Luxuries

 

My wife is the prudent one. Word to the wise: if you ever wait on our table be sure to give me the check. Some of her summer reading has included ways to bone up on her boning up, to wit McBride’s verses on the Tao of Thrift. Perhaps I have had some influence over the years, as she guffawed upon reading these first words of the book. Quoth she: “Harrumph! Thrift is good, but c’mon already.” A conversation about the over-realization of virtue ensued.

It’s funny where prosperity shows itself. Sometimes it is where we might least expect it. Here we have it resident within the virtue of prudence.  It’s virtually monastic.

Christians generally, and Reformed specifically, tend to think prosperity gospel is only and ever about zoot suits, cheesy comb-overs and sweaty wads of cash. It’s not too unlike how we think legalism is only and ever about substance use, and perhaps worldly amusement. But prosperity, just like legalism, is really just a set of principles. That means it is highly mobile. The principles of legalism can be applied to education and (gulp) the Sabbath just as much as they can be applied against Drambuie, Hoyo de Monterrey’s and Cohen films.

In the same way, prosperity can manifest itself amongst the more staid and suburban consumers of virtue, those who may be tempted to rest in the fact that they be no sucka’s for bling. After all, if sin is an equal opportunity affliction then prosperity crouches at every turn, seeking whom it may devour. There is a siren song of prosperity for the middle- and high-brow patron who prefers a wallet to money clip. It can transcend the more unsavory trappings of material and tangible gain. It is usually about another more subdued way of being happy, healthy and whole by way of applying so-called “biblical principles” to one caucasian value or another: brighter and more pious children, a stable (not brimming) checking account, the accolades of peers.

Despite what sophisticated Presbyterians might assume, the dividing line between a theology of glory and that of the cross really isn’t set between the crass and couth elements of society. It isn’t even marked out by those given to peanut gallery out bursting and those who prefer their worship to be much more reserved.  In point of fact, the boundary marker is fixed within the human heart, a much more wily location. We are natural legalists as well as given to prosperity. We are hard-coded to look within and find a way to get our victory. If we’re being honest, looking outside ourselves is a heinous notion. The problem with being inwardly bent, however, is that the only thing which lies within East of Eden is sin. Thus after diving within we only surface with silliness. It’s not just those who rub idols to obtain a harvest of caddies that come off pitiable–it’s also those versed enough to invoke ancient Greek gods in order to “amplifiy wealth and dispel that state of poverty, govern your destiny and produce in your life a lovely, fertile garden of material and intangible wealth.” C’mon already.

My wife is still a fan of Epiphron but is taking McBride with a grain of salt. But I think I have an idea for her next stocking stuffer, Mark Chanski’s WOMANLY DOMINION: More Than A Gentle And Quiet Spirit, courtesy of the Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics:

Christian woman – take dominion!  “Play your position!” is a call we may hear a coach yell at a soccer or football game. The meaning is: “Do what you have been assigned to do, and do it well!” Many Christian women have been told over the years that they must quietly stay under their parasols while their men go out and conquer the world.  But is this what the Bible really teaches? 

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