"Now gather the leftovers," Jesus told his disciples, "so that nothing is wasted."

Jesus set a great example for frugality. Even though He had performed a miracle and fed a crowd of 5,000 men and an undisclosed number of women and children with only five loaves and two small fishes, He instructed His disciples to gather up the leftovers. When it was all said and done, they had gathered 12 basketfuls. Now, Jesus, you may wonder, was that necessary? You could have thrown that extra bread away. All you had to do was perform another miracle and make more bread when You needed it. Through His actions, Jesus was showing the importance of not squandering what God has provided—even when it appears that you do not need the excess.

I talked to a couple recently who had lived a rather lavish lifestyle, but through a series of misfortunes lost everything. They are starting to rebuild their lives and are working at jobs that pay much less than they were used to making. I queried them about the role they had played in their financial decline, and they confessed that they were partly responsible. I concluded from a casual observation of their current behavior that a lot of their old wasteful habits were still alive and well. They called it "generosity" when they gave a 95 percent tip to the restaurant’s parking attendant. By no means am I opposed to such bigheartedness, but when you are trying to stabilize your finances, you need to understand that frugality is a significant part of spirituality and God is not pleased when we engage in extravagance.

In one of His parables, Jesus talked about a son who convinced his father to give him his inheritance before the appointed time. "A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and took a trip to a land, and there he wasted all his money on wild living"(Luke 15:13 NLT). When the economy turned sour, he could only find work feeding a farmer’s swine. He almost starved to death. At one point, he became so hungry he had to eat the pods that the farmer fed to the swine. I can imagine him sitting there by the trough dividing the food between himself and the pigs: "swine," "mine," "swine," "mine." He then realized that his father’s servants were living better than this. He humbled himself and headed home. His merciful father was glad to receive him and gave him a big welcome back party. Of course, by having the party, the father was by no means condoning his son’s wastefulness, but rather celebrating his coming to his senses.

Are you wasteful in any area of your life, or do you actively seek ways to practice frugality? For instance, do you allow your children to open a can of soda, take a few sips, and then trash it? Did you know that there are special lids available at the supermarket that will allow you to seal the can and preserve the fizz? Are you too embarrassed to ask for a doggie bag when you eat out? Do you bring home leftovers from your restaurant dining and then allow them to spoil in the refrigerator before you can consume them? Do you consider reusing plastic lunch bags, especially when you only use them for dry goods such as chips and cookies? They can be recycled at least once after a quick swipe with a damp towel. Do you always turn the lights off when you leave the room? Do you use both sides of the paper when printing drafts of reports—at home and at work?

I have practiced frugality as far back as I can remember. In fact, Darnell teases that I squeeze each dollar so tightly it’s a wonder I don’t rub George Washington’s face right off the front of it. Yes, I turn the bottle upside down and get the last drop out of everything. I pick up every penny I find when I’m out walking. As Benjamin Franklin said, "A penny saved is a penny earned." I use vinegar and water instead of the fancy cleaners to clean glass and shiny surfaces. I do everything I can to save money—not to hoard it, but so that I can share it. I can’t think of a single thing I have ever purchased that has brought more joy than writing a check to someone who desperately needs it. We are never more like Christ than when we are giving.