Discover the Difference between Wants and Needs


At least 801 different pairs of sandals are available for purchase at my local shoe store. I counted. Really.

Customer comments I heard as I walked the aisles during my covert count (during which my daughter eye-rolled and abandoned me):
“I can’t find anything I need.”
“They don’t have the color I’m looking for.”
“Let’s go to the other store. There’s nothing here.”

Not one customer in that store needed shoes. Their soles were intact.

Putting the “wants” into the “needs” category elevates the importance of stuff. As the “needs” category grows, so goes the stress of fulfilling and acquiring a new critical mass.

How much is enough?

The most wise Solomon requested of God:

Two things I ask of you, Lord; do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.

Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.” (Prov. 30:7-9)

Do you have so much that you ask “Who is the Lord?” when it comes to daily living? Are you self-sufficient and not reliant on Him for your daily bread?

Consider what you need to live.

In 1943, Abraham Maslow wrote the paper “A Theory of Human Motivation.” He proposed a hierarchical list of needs with the physical needs of food, sleep, and breath being the most basic of needs. Then comes safety, feeling loved, confidence, care for others, and at the top is self-actualization. His theory on psychology remains foundational even today.

Notice that shoes did not make the list.

Neither did car, house with a garage (a personal disappointment) nor designer jewelry.


Ultimately, contentment remains the best strategy for emotional and mental health. We instruct our children to be content. We implore our young people to be satisfied and grateful. But we adults model the opposite. We acquire.

Paul reminds his young student Timothy to properly order his “wants” and “needs”:

For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” (1 Timothy 6:6-8)

Indeed, wealth consists not in having great possessions but in having few wants. (Esther de Waal)

Your Turn…

First, for one month, do not buy shoes or clothes. It is freeing to throw away mail catalogs unopened, toss the multiple sales papers, and avoid Mall traffic.

After the month’s experiment revisit the items you longed to purchase. Can you say “wow, I really did not need these shoes” or “yes, I do need new running shoes.” If so, ok.

Second, scan the content of your closets. Note: You own your stuff, your stuff does not own you.

So…if you don’t use it, give it away. Give it to someone who needs it. Take it to a local thrift store or Habitat ReStore. They sell your stuff to generate income to help build homes, pay utility bills, and purchase food for families struggling to survive.  Or, have a yard sale and donate the money.

Third, ponder Eugene Peterson’s paraphrased translation of Jesus’ words:

If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.

Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.” (Matthew 6:25-29)

Separate needs from wants.

It’s simply transformational!

Posted by Sharon R. Hoover

Photo credit: @10 via photo pin cc


About Sharon R Hoover

Serving the church for over twenty years in discipleship and mission ministries, I've walked alongside many people travelling and exploring the journey of faith. Add in my own crazy path and I hope my writing will offer glimpses of life worth sharing.
This entry was posted in Faith, Randomness and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Discover the Difference between Wants and Needs

  1. tweenyrandall says:

    LOVED this! You are right on Sharon. As Americans we live too much in the wants. It’s a constant challenge for most of us.

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