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  • Shawn Thornton

Our Wants and Our Needs

Tuesday - February 23rd

Scripture to Read Today: Jame 4:1-12

You want what you don't have, so you scheme and kill to get it.

You are jealous of what others have, but you can't get it,

so you fight and wage war to take it away from them.

Yet you don't have what you want because you don't ask God for it.

James 4:2


In a recent Retail Federation Survey, over 80% of Americans say that high-speed internet service is the highest non-negotiable budget item they have. Mobile phone service ranks high on the list too. In the survey, Americans indicate they would give up electricity, water, and food before giving up high-speed internet. Hmmm. It seems highly unlikely they could give up electricity before internet access since electricity is needed to enjoy the internet.


Over the years, I have enjoyed reading surveys of what Americans describe as their wants versus their needs. Since such surveys started in the 1950s, the results have often been like the recent Retail Federation survey. People identify something as the one non-negotiable item they cannot do without, but they forget something like electricity needed to enjoy that item.


People who teach household budgeting classes and seminars suggest we identify our needs and our wants as the first step in budgeting. That makes sense. When you misunderstand what you genuinely need over what you simply want, you can get your finances completely messed up. People with high, unmanageable debt often got there by spending on their wants while ignoring bills related to their needs.


In the Book of James, we are told, "you don't have what you want because you don't ask God for it" (James 4:2). In our lack of having something, we develop envy for what others have. The same verse tells us that our envy and jealousy can get so bad that we "scheme and kill to get it." Getting to that level of envy is frightening!


We could read a verse like that and dismiss any application of it to our lives because it is far from what we would do. But our hearts often harbor bitter envy, and the envy itself rots us on the inside. When we turn to God in prayer, making our requests to Him, it is hard to harbor envy.


God says we should ask Him for what we need or want. Doing that tends to sort out what my actual needs and wants are. I find it tough to pray for something extravagant, luxurious, or frivolous. Prayer has a way of shaping our priorities. We ask ourselves, "Am I comfortable praying for this? Do I really need or want it so badly that I am comfortable asking God for it?" Generally, after prayer, my comfort level floats much closer to my needs than my wants.


While God encourages us to pray for what we want, prayer highlights what we need over what we want!

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