Recently, my child who was home-schooled for six years attended a conference called Gathering Around the Un-hewn Stone. I make note of his educational history because I feel responsible for inspiring alternative ideas that catalyzed more alternatives than I imagined when he was 8.

The event opened with a lecture, "The Ecological Endgame of Industrial Civilization as a Crisis of/for Faith," which was purported to be about the moral bankruptcy of progress as an article of faith in modernity and, by default, of Christianity for the past 300 years. Resistance involves learning how to brain tan a deer, forage for food, and live out "attachment parenting"—a phenomenon about which my son has no need of instruction, given that he clung to me like a monkey when he was a boy.

In her book, In CHEAP We Trust: The Story of a Misunderstood American Virtue, journalist Lauren Weber espouses similar values, which, like rank materialism, are as old and American as Manifest Destiny. Last week Atlantic economics blogger Megan McArdle reviewed Weber's book for The New York Times, and compared it unfavorably with the work of financial adviser Dave Ramsey, whom she describes as a "popular evangelical guru."

Weber grew up without much heat in her home and surprised herself by following in her father's frugal footsteps. McArdle takes issue with Weber's idealization of fiscal asceticism, but not with Ramsey's "save now, worry less later" approach. She says Weber's idea of thrift as a moral virtue is problematic because it unduly worships parsimony. And McArdle rightly notes that if dumpster-diving "freegans" weren't living off the largesse of their guilty neighbors, they'd have to get jobs like everybody else. The same could be said of Gathering Around the Un-hewn Stone attendees reveling in a buffet of supermarket overstock, but not of trash eaters around the world who have no other choice.

"We should be taxing carbon, pesticide overuse and other excesses that push the costs of our consumption onto others," writes McArdle, a fiscal conservative. "But once things are priced properly, there's nothing particularly admirable in refusing to spend money you can spare. If you're already financially secure and we've priced in the negative externalities of activities like driving and eating meat, then walking to work, lowering the thermostat and eating lower on the food chain isn't virtuous. It's just a lifestyle choice."

Not so fast, Ms. McArdle.

Matthew 25 presents three metaphors for stewardship that imbue it with far more value. In the first, Jesus speaks of wise and unwise virgins who ready themselves or not for their long-awaited bridegroom. The unprepared are dis-invited to the wedding banquet, while the conscientious brides enjoy a lavish celebration. In the second, we meet faithful and unfaithful servants who are entrusted with varying degrees of wealth. The only steward to be cast into outer darkness is the fearful miser who buries his wealth and maligns the character of his lord to justify himself.

Finally, we encounter the sheep and the goats. Theirs is a parable of dire consequence. The sheep that live un-selfconsciously generous lives are welcomed into eternal glory, while the self-righteous, self-absorbed flock of goats suffers eternal punishment. Prudence, stewardship, and generosity are neither conflicting values nor simple matters of preference; they are deeply Christian virtues.

I learned hard work and generosity from my evangelical parents, and frugality from my classmates at Eastern Mennonite University. Having arrived my freshman year in a cherry-red Cadillac and a modest but lovely new wardrobe, I found myself embarrassed in the presence of my 23-year-old roommate. She had come from the mission field and from an old-order Mennonite home. That meant living out of a suitcase for a few years and growing up without a TV or a washing machine. Her mother canned her own beef and sewed quilts in her spare time to raise money for missions. Her father worked the farm. We didn't exactly mesh, my roommate and I, but I left EMU with lifelong values about wealth and what it's for. I taught those values to my children.

McArdle says Ramsey followers are "righteously scolded" for spending in excess of $100 a month on groceries. That's not a life I want to live, nor is it one that necessarily reflects Christian virtue. But neither do I want a 50-inch plasma-screen TV dominating the communal living space in my home like McArdle. I'd rather see my son's reclaimed deer bone knives and cigar box synthesizers cluttering up the place, even if it means he lives off his parents' middle class largesse for longer than aspirational living—ascetic or otherwise—requires.