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Report: Religious people have more self-control when it comes to shopping

Grocery Store Credit: Province of British Columbia/Flickr/Creative Commons

Grocery Store Credit: Province of British Columbia/Flickr/Creative Commons

According to a study by three researchers from university business schools,  Didem Kurt, Boston University, J. Jeffrey Inman, University of Pittsburgh and Francesca Gino, Harvard Business School, religious people not only spend less than non-religious but they are also less likely to make impulse purchases.

The study that involved looking at the results of five earlier studies on spending habits also included the group’s own research.

In their study, the three researchers put 800 people through a variety of “hypothetical” shopping scenarios and as well tests to evaluate how strong their religious beliefs were.

What they discovered is that an incremental increase in religious belief resulted in a 5% decrease in spending and impulsive buying.

This confirmed results from a survey of spending by 2,400 people in 10 states in 2011 and 2012, conducted by Point of Purchase Advertising International. It showed that people living in more religious counties not only spent less money on groceries than people living in less religious counties, but also had “fewer impulse purchases.”

There are undoubtedly a variety of reasons why religious people have more self-control. For one, the Bible is very clear that the Holy Spirit wants to bring self-control into our lives and in this discussion on the subject Paul makes an interesting connection:

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7 New King James)

The Greek word for “sound mind” is “sophronismou” and it means “sound judgment,” “moderation,” sensible” and “self-control.”

But notice how Paul connects “self-control” with a “spirit of fear.”

As the Holy Spirit moves in our lives, He deals with our fears and brings in self-control which moderates our life style.

However, does this also imply the opposite, meaning that a person who is controlled by fear will have no self-control? If so this suggests that fear affects our ability to control our selves.

We see a great sale while shopping and a fear rises up within us if we don’t buy it now, we may miss out. And we buy it simply because it is a great price not because we really need it.

Or we see another popular item and again there is a fear, if we don’t buy it, someone else will and we will miss out.

But the connection between fear and a lack of self-control shows up in other ways as well. Often when dealing with stress, worry or anxiety (all manifestations of fear) people resort to all sorts of activities such as emotional eating (comfort food), alcohol, or even shopping as a way of dealing with this stress.

We lose control because of our fear.

The key to dealing with this problem is not by focusing on our lack of self-control manifesting itself through binge eating or shopping, but rather by dealing with the fears that are causing it.

An interesting verse in the Old Testament also connects a lack of self-control with fear:

Like a city whose walls are broken through
    is a person who lacks self-control. (Proverbs 25:38 NIV)

A person without self-control is compared to a defenseless city, which in the culture of that day would be a city in a constant state of fear. So it becomes a vicious circle. We have fear creating a lack of self-control and then this lack of self-control spawns more fear. We become stressed by our binge eating or out of control drinking and spending.

So when we believe, one of the first things the Holy Spirit wants to deal with is the fear in our lives that then brings with it a measure of self-control.

We need to trust God during our difficult times.


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