Stories Worth Rereading: The Sin of Extravagance

“It may be a folly, but you would not think of calling extravagance a sin?” asked a young man of his minister.

“I do not care to offend you by harsh terms, but if we agree that it is a folly, that is reason enough for wishing to be wiser.”

“But it is very easy to spend money when one is with others, and one does not like to be called ‘tight.'”

“John,” said the minister, “I do not propose to argue with you, but I want to tell you two stories, both of them true, recent, and out of my own experience. They will illustrate the reason why, knowing you as well as I do, having baptized you and received you into the church, I cannot view without concern your growing extravagance, and the company into which it leads you, and the interests from which it tends to separate you.

“A few months ago a young man came to this city, and spent his first days here under my own roof. I have known his father for many years, an earnest, faithful man, who has denied himself for that boy, and prayed for him, and done everything that a father ought.

“I chance to remember a word which his father spoke to me a number of years ago, when the boy was a young lad, and was recovering from a sickness that made it seem possible he would need a change of climate. I happen to remember meeting his father, who told me of this, and how he was arranging in his own mind to change his business, to make any sacrifice, to move to the ends of the earth, if necessary, for that boy’s sake.

“The boy is not a bad boy. But he had not been in my home an hour before he asked me for the address of a tailor, and when his new suit came,—a suit which I thought he might very well have waited to earn,—it was silk-lined throughout. I do not believe the suit which his father wears as he passes the plate in church every Sunday is silk-lined.

“I knew what the boy was to earn, and could estimate what he could afford, and I knew that he could not buy that suit out of his own earnings.

“I had a letter from his father a few days ago. Shall I read it to you? It is very short. It reads as follows:—

“‘MY DEAR FRIEND: I hope you will never know how hard it is for me to write to you to say that you must not under any circumstances lend money to my dear boy.’

“And those last three words make it the more pathetic.

“The second story, too, is recent. Another boy, from another State, came to this city, and for the first few Sundays attended our church. We tried to interest him in good things; we liked him, and did our best for him. I saw little in him to disturb me, except that he was spending more money than I could think he earned. Recently I received a letter from his father. It is longer, and I will not read it, but will tell you the substance of it. He wrote saying that his son was employed in a business where, with economy, he ought to be able to make a living from the start, and with hope for advancement, but that from the first week he had written home for money. Not only so, but the father had all too good reason to believe that the boy was still leaving bills unpaid. The father wrote to ask me whether he could not arrange with some one connected with the church to receive the boy’s money from home week by week, and see that it was applied to the uses for which it was sent. He added that he would be glad to consider himself a contributor to the church during the period of this arrangement.

“I had little hope that any arrangement of this kind would help matters, but I took it as indicating that the boy needed looking after, and I sent at once to look him up. Where do you think we found him?—In jail.

“These are not imaginary stories, nor are they of a remote past. And I see other young men for whom I am anxious. Wear the coat a little longer, but pay for it out of your own money. Be considered ‘tight’ if necessary, but live within your means. It is good sense; more than that, it is good religion.

“And now I will answer your question, or rather, you may answer it: Is extravagance merely a folly, or is it also a sin? What do you think?”

Youth’s Companion.