That really isn’t as easy as it sounds, since descriptions of frugality tend to be in older styles of writing and language use than those more modern descriptions of stewardship. The result is that frugality seems to just sound cheap, while stewardship seems to be more flexible. For the sake of this discussion, I’m going to say they are the same thing, but I’m going to use the word frugality, since that is the name of the Classical Discipline, and that seems to mesh better with the discipline of Simplicity that we’ll discuss another time.
Frugality means that we don’t waste anything; not money, not food, not material items such as clothing or paper or plastic bags. A frugal person will avoid expensive cuts of meat, extravagant meals or clothes, luxuries, fancy cars and so forth so that they can save as much of their resources as possible.
That’s the part that might just sound cheap, but there’s more…
They do these things so that they will have plenty of resources available for two reasons: First, so that they are never a burden on anyone else, and second, so that they are in a position to give very generously for the needs of others and the building of the Kingdom to the glory of God.
Many would hear this and just think such people are crazy, others might be shamed by it because deep down they know that they haven’t really thought about what they could do for the less fortunate or for the work of God. You see God and serving the needs of others is their priority and keeping up with the Joneses isn’t even on their radar screens anywhere.
Yes, you are right if you are thinking that the Spiritual Practice of Frugality runs counter to modern culture.
In practice, someone who practices Frugality might save the lining bags from cereal boxes to use instead of buying costly plastic bags. They may wear quite a few items of clothing that are homemade. They drive cars that are economical and dependable, they have basic cable or an antenna, rather than premium channels. If they have a cell phone, it’s probably a 10-year- old flip phone, because it still works great. They may make their own soups, stews, stocks and breads so that they use everything and throw nothing away, while saving money at the same time. They vacation by visiting out of town relatives, not at resorts in faraway places. Maybe they hunt or fish to save money. They probably grow their own vegetables and fruit and can or give away any extra.
When they hear someone is in need, they don’t just tell the church, they leave groceries on the person’s doorstep or walk into the electric company and say they are there to pay the bill for such and such an address. They don’t even consider limiting their giving to 10%, and when the church needs to pay off a mortgage or replace the roof, they come up with half or more of the total… quietly.
Some of us might snicker at such people, but in reality, we are shamed by them, for they are answering a call we all have to serve others and glorify God, and they are doing so by denying themselves.