Friday, June 29, 2012

Do I Need It, or Do I Want It?

by Jennifer AlLee

(The following post originally appeared on The Pastor's Wife Speaks on March 25, 2011)

One of the TV shows I enjoy watching is House Hunters. If you're not familiar with it, one family is showcased per episode. They always look at three different houses, and in the end they buy one. The fun is imagining which house might work best, weighing the pros and cons of each, then trying to guess which one will be purchased.

Tonight, I saw an episode about a family with four children who needed to downsize because the husband had been let go from his banking job. My heart immediately went out to them. How terrible to have to leave the home you expected to live in forever. (A 7200 square foot home.) But due to finances, it was important that they cut back anywhere they could.
They were being realistic... or so I thought. But then we found out the couple's maximum purchase price: $400,000. And then we started seeing the homes. When the realtor told them the first house was 3400 square feet, the wife looked shocked and said, "That's so small."

It quickly became clear that "downsizing" meant something different to them than it means to me. In each home, when they found something that was old or they didn't like, they both responded with, "We'll have to replace that" or "that'll need an upgrade." After a while, I started to feel like I was listening to two spoiled children rather than a couple trying to be fiscally responsible.

But then I turned the mirror on myself. How many times have I claimed to need something, when in reality, it was merely something I wanted? How many times have I looked at something that was perfectly capable of serving my needs and said, "I want something else"?

There's nothing wrong with wanting nice things. There's nothing wrong with enjoying the fruits of your labor. But it's important that we open our eyes and see things for what they really are. When we discern our needs from our wants, we're freed from envy. Freed from being unsatisfied. Freed from depression over not having. By seeing how God fulfills our needs, we are more fully able to praise him when he blesses us with the things we want. What a good and gracious Father he is!

How about you? Have you ever needed something, only to realize later that it wasn't as necessary as you thought? How do you deal with those "gotta have it" feelings?

JENNIFER ALLEE believes the most important thing a woman can do is find her identity in God – a theme that carries throughout her novels. A professional writer for over twenty years, she's done extensive freelance work for Concordia Publishing House, including skits, Bible activity pages, and over 100 contributions to their popular My Devotions series. Her novels include The Love of His Brother (Five Star, 11/07), The Pastor’s Wife (Abingdon Press, 2/10), The Mother Road (Abingdon Press, 4/12) and the upcoming A Wild Goose Chase Christmas (Abingdon Press, 11/12). She's a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Romance Writers of America, Christian Authors Network, and the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance.
Visit Jennifer's website at


  1. Nice thoughts, Jen. I miss House Hunters~ It's fun to tag along. That show is also very revealing of human nature -just as you've done.

    I've been this way with the TV set. I have a boxy, small tv at least 30 years old. Oh how nice to go watch Downton Abbey on one of those nice 40" flat screen tis... when I come home to my own little tv.... it takes me awhile to stop noticing how small it is.

    I tend to use the Do I Need it or Do I Want it question often. Thanks for the reminder!

  2. hoo boy, i face do i need it, or is it a want? all the time. especially in this economy.

    i'm ashamed to admit that too many times i cave to the want - trying to convince myself it is a need. of course, there are the times i admit it's a want and know that i'll have deal with the consequences of caving for that one want.

    i'm working on the discipline to keep the wants and needs clearly defined and minimize the caving in.

    thanks for the reminder though. good to always have that thought front and center.

  3. It's so easy to be overwhelmed by the "I want"s. Even some of the things that seem like necessities probably aren't if we're honest with ourselves. Not that we shouldn't enjoy life... If God didn't want us to experience joy in our surroundings, he wouldn't have made so many different kinds of flowers ;+)

  4. Oh boy, Jen. You got me right where I live. I have a few "things" that I can manage to convince myself that I need them and need them now. Ahem. Purses, electronic gadgets, and things with whales or fish or seashells on them: purses, pictures, nick-nacks. Those are my weaknesses and I can walk by lots of things - I don't even shop much - but I can't pass up a pretty whale or a cool pink purse or something that could "do" something cool.

  5. Hmm...I guess my weaknesses are books and clothes. But I only buy ultra-discounted clothes and lately I've been getting most of my books free for kindle. So I guess I'm not doing too horribly. Sometimes I think I need to eat out and then feel the sting when the bill comes.

    Oh, and talking about books reminds me, I read The Mother Road last week and LOVED IT!!! I didn't realize it would be so sassy and funny. It had depth, which I expected, but at the same time it was such a refreshing, breezy read. I enjoyed every word of it.

  6. Ouch, Jen, I needed to read this! I (ahem) enjoy whipping out my credit card from time to time, and yes, I don't need a lot of what I have as it is.

    Sometimes, I have another issue when I watch these shows. I become ungrateful. I feel inadequate about my home and I wish I had more to mine: another bathroom, a larger backyard, etc.

    I definitely need to work on gratitude.

  7. Well, Gals, we all splurge on things we don't really "have" to have. As long as we don't neglect areas that God wants us to give in, or become jealous of what others have, I don't think it's a problem.

    Dina, I'm SO glad you enjoyed The Mother Road. Thanks for the encouraging words!


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