unstained and unwasted: DECISION #3

we’re a 4-person, 1-car family.

(note: this decision is a personal decision that we have made. you may or may not agree with the decision or the rationale or convictions that form the basis of the decision. in romans 14:1-9, paul wrote about similar 'non-essential' matters where there was disagreement among followers of christ. at that time, the issues were disagreements over certain days and certain foods. while we are "convinced in [our] own mind" of this decision, we are not implying that you are living a 'stained' and 'wasted' life just because you have not come to the same decision point. we are not saying that our way is the only way to honor god or the only way to avoid sin. at the same time, we do hope you are challenged to think about this issue.)

we have decided that, as of may 15, 2008, we will become a 4-person, 1-car family! at that time, the three-year lease on our second car, a 2005 nissan murano, expires and we are going to just turn it in to the local nissan dealership and say “thank you” – no new lease, no new purchase, no succumbing to the pressure of the “big tent sale” or the “deal of the century!” we’re just turning it in and walking away, leaving us with one car.

of course, that’s the easy part – turning in the car and not getting another one. and, in and of itself, it really does nothing to move us closer to an unstained and unwasted life, because there are probably many people who would make the same decision for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with seeking christ as the supreme treasure of their lives:

  • to save money;
  • to save the ozone;
  • to “simplify” (see what john piper has to say about the difference between living a “simple” lifestyle versus a “wartime” lifestyle in chapter 7 of “don’t waste your life“);
  • to sit on a bus and take advantage of public transportation.

there is nothing wrong with saving money, saving the ozone, “simplifying” (as understood within the context of a “wartime” lifestyle), or sitting on a bus to take advantage of public transportation. those are good things. and, in fact, our decision is based on some of these reasons.

since january of this year, i have been riding a bus to work. there is a park-and-ride just a few miles from my house with an express bus that goes from there and drops me off practically right outside my office door in about 30-40 minutes. and it’s free because part of the benefits package at my employer includes free public transportation anywhere in the county! with only one car, shannon will now be dropping me off and picking me up at the park-and-ride each day (with the kids in tow!). (it won’t be easy, but it will be worth it in ways that go well beyond our wallet. stay tuned for more updates on how this works out throughout the coming months!)

so, our decision is about saving money and sitting on a bus. we can’t deny that.

but if our rationale for this decision to “downsize” to one car terminates on those things – saving money and sitting on a bus – then it really is of no value to us in terms of living an unwasted life. it might mean we are being less wasteful (of our money or the environment), but being unwasteful is not the same as living an unwasted life.  

so, the hard part is figuring out how we make this decision a means to a greater end – namely, a means to loving our comfort less and loving christ more so that we are freed to love and serve others sacrificially.  we have to be intentional and proactive in terms of how we re-direct all of the money, time, energy, and effort that goes into car ownership (or “lease-ship”) into something greater that shows that our treasure is not in our car or our money. ultimately, this will lead to a re-directing of our hearts (matthew 6:21)!

here’s some ideas we are thinking about in terms of how to re-direct our hearts through this decision:

  • maximize those few minutes we all have together as a family in the car each morning and evening as we go to/from the park-and-ride (pray, sing, laugh, speak words of grace for the day, etc.);
  • take the money we would be spending on a car payment, car insurance, car upkeep, gas, etc. and use in strategic ways to invest in christ-exalting causes (e.g., support a missionary; sponsor a needy child in a country where deciding whether or not to have a car is the last thing on their mind as they wonder where their next meal is coming from; be overflowing with generosity, etc.);
  • spend my time on the bus engaging people through conversation and enlarging my heart and mind through reading (you can read so much when you have 30-40 minutes to and from work to just sit and read), listening to sermons and songs on my iPod that prepare my heart for the day or the evening ahead, etc. 

at the end of the day, if anyone asks me why we decided to become a 4-person, 1-car family, i don’t want to simply let the conversation drift into banter back and forth about the high gas prices, the economic downturn, or any other common-sense reason. rather, i want to have the courage to share my christ-exalting reasons. i want to show that my hope is in christ and not in my car (1 peter 3:15). how about you?

interesting quotations and references

“One of the main dangers in being comfortable in our Christianity is that over time comfort tends to begin to feel like something that God–or the world–owes us; and what we once called “luxury” is now called “need.” More and more we want things, and securities, and comforts. And we find our conversations with people even drifiting onto the subject of special new things that we have just bought and we’re not talking Kingdom language anymore. It’s a creeping kind of gangrene with a smiling face on it that eats away at the heart of the Kingdom.” (from What’s the danger in being a middle-class comfortable Christian?)

“In a wartime lifestyle you always ask yourself, How can my life count to advance the cause of Christ? And if it means buying a computer to keep in touch with your missionaries through email, then you’re going to invest several thousand dollars into a computer and software. That’s a wartime lifestyle. But you might not eat out as often, or you might buy a used car so that you can buy that computer. That’s what I mean by wartime lifestyle. The alternative is to just go with the flow. Everybody gets his toys: bigger house and car, more clothing, more fine food, etc., without even thinking about how the war effort is advancing.” (from What’s the difference between living for the Kingdom and living for the American dream?)

Don’t Be Anxious, Lay Up Treasure in Heaven (Part 1)

Don’t Be Anxious, Lay Up Treasure in Heaven (Part 2)

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~ by david on May 9, 2008.

3 Responses to “unstained and unwasted: DECISION #3”

  1. hi. i just found this site off your family blog and wanted to let you know how much i appreciate you sharing your decisions, as well as the great quotes, articles, video. so much of what you say has been on my heart, too, and lately with even more of an “urgency.” if OK with you, i would like add a post to my blog directing readers to this site. thanks again!

  2. I think it’s great. We just spent the past two years being a one car family (3 person now 4 person family). My dh took the bus to the train to get to work. Now we moved out to the country (where there are no good connections for dh) so we needed a second car but got something small and economical. It really isn’t that hard to get used to being a one car family, it’s actually kind of nice! If we move to a major city in two years as planned we’ll give up both cars altogether. :)

  3. […] we’re a 4-person, 1-car family […]

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