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Matthew Sleeth is a medical doctor who wrote a provocative book called "Serve God Save the Planet." Dr. Sleeth was a former emergency room doctor and chief of medical staff at a prominent hospital in the northeast.

He writes about a colleague named Todd. I think Todd represents the way many of us think -- even though most of us may not be able to live it out quite like Todd.

After Todd began his medical residency, he and his wife began searching for the perfect home on the ocean. They looked for a year and a half, during which time Todd began to pick up more and more shifts. Sometimes he’d finish a 24-hour shift at one hospital before dashing off to work 24-hours at a second hospital. He did this so to ramp up his salary in order to qualify for a bigger mortgage.

Finally, they found their "perfect home" located at the end of a peninsula with a great ocean view and a deep water dock. There was only one problem, according to Todd: the house itself. It was a mess. So they consulted an architect who was able to salvage part of the garage, but otherwise designed a whole new dream house.

Todd worked more and more hours to offset the skyrocketing construction costs. In January, he was so exhausted and the family was arguing so frequently that they threw caution to the wind and went on a lavish tropical vacation, paid for on credit.

By spring the house was complete. But one day Todd came to work in a rage. His wife had gone on a shopping spree and spent $20,000 on curtains, rugs and furniture. They had built a home too big for their old furniture, she explained. In retaliation, Todd went to a boat dealer. "No sense in living right on the water if we don’t own a boat," he reasoned. The boat dealer sold him not only a boat, but two Jet Skis as well. No payments were due until winter.

When Todd hauled his new boat home using his wife’s minivan, he burned out the transmission. So he bought a large SUV with a towing package and leather seats. When they arrived home, they were chagrined to realize that the one part of the old house they saved -- the garage -- wasn’t big enough to hold the new SUV. So the architect and builders returned and in a matter of weeks the garage was rebuilt.

Not long after that, Todd and his wife divorced.

Now the details may be different in your case, but that same basic story is repeated time and time again. And, friends, listen to me, it is insanity to live like that. You heard me right. It is insanity to live beyond your means buying things you do not really need to impress people you do not really care about.

(Source: from a sermon by Paul Decker, "So You Want to be Happy?" 8/10/08)

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