“I Need” vs. “I Want”

Via Flickr, by user tyger_lyllie. Used under Creative Commons License.

What do you need? What do you want? What is the difference?

God’s Master Plan for your money starts with providing for your needs, and the needs of your family. And providing starts with hard work. But once you’ve done the work and earned the money, how do you decide how to spend it?

It’s easy to get confused about what we need in life. Ask 20 people what they need, and you’ll get 20 different answers. Some will be pragmatic: food, shelter, clothing. Others will give you more philosophical answers: we need love, need challenges, need satisfaction. And if you listen to the things that people say in everyday conversation, you’ll hear some outlandish needs: “I really need a Starbucks right now.” “I need to go someplace warm.” “I need a new smartphone.” Maybe you’ve even said some of these things yourself. I know I have.

We live in a country that is so prosperous that we take many elements of a luxurious lifestyle for granted. Take a trip to the Third World, and you realize quickly that in the U.S., we enjoy many things that aren’t essential to life. We like them, we enjoy them, we want them. They make our lives easier and more prosperous. But we don’t need them to survive, or even to have healthy, happy families.

If we’re going to get serious about allocating the money that God gives us according to His master plan, we need to take a careful inventory of our needs and wants. All too often, American Christians fail to tithe, give and bless because so much of their income goes to meeting the “needs” of their families. But are those legitimate needs? Or do we sometimes leave the storehouses of the Kingdom empty because we’re prioritizing our wants as needs?

Think about it: Do you need to eat out three times a week? Do you need a new Macbook Pro every few years? Does your family need a late-model SUV, or could you get where you need to go in an eight-year-old station wagon that you paid cash for?

I’m not condemning cars, computers, restaurants or any of these things; I enjoy them myself. But it’s important to be honest about the fact that these are life luxuries that I enjoy. And since they are enjoyment items, they belong at the last priority of my financial strategy. I enjoy luxuries with what’s left over after I’ve met my family’s needs, tithed, given and invested.

When we confuse our needs and wants, we not only withhold resources from the Kingdom, but we also create dangerous spending habits and psychological dependencies that can lead to real financial trouble. Proverbs 21:17 warns us about this:

Whoever loves pleasure will become poor; whoever loves wine and olive oil will never become rich.

Luxury items are expensive, and if they become regular, habitual aspects of our lives, they can spiral out of control. A nice dinner out every now in then can be a great treat; continually dining at gourmet restaurants can put you in the poorhouse. I enjoy nice food, but all that I really need is a simple, healthy, home-cooked meal.

All too often, we include luxury “wants” in our list of life needs, and squander the resources that God has provided. If we do that continually, can we really expect Him to increase His provision for us?

Up next: What are our basic needs?


  1. If i love God for not riches i believe i will be wealth.


  1. […] Up Next: “I need” vs. “I want” […]

  2. […] very easily get confused about what we need when we spend our money. What do we need — and what do we only want — and how do we tell the […]

  3. […] “consumer debt,” and advise friends and family to avoid using credit cards to finance a lifestyle that they can’t afford. Many of these same people, though, promote the use of borrowing and […]

  4. […] work hard, you budget, and you’re careful to provide for the needs of your family. The basic necessities of life are covered: You have food, shelter, clothing and […]

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