by Pat Ennis
The events on Wall Street in the fall of 2008 reminded us that no investment in this world is truly secure. Regardless of the safeguards and supposed guarantees, the economic climate can change in an instant. Like the falling autumn leaves that characterized the season, financial portfolios dropped significantly in 2008 leaving individuals of all ages asking the question, “Does a gruesome lifestyle lie ahead?”
Economic uncertainty can evoke a myriad of negative responses—especially for the individuals whose trust is in money rather than God. The believer, however, should have an entirely different response.
The cornerstone of “dollar theology” is that believers are accountable to the Lord for the resources he entrusts to them. Teaching about stewardship is woven throughout the New Testament. As you read the following passages consider how they impact your dollar theology.
• Matthew 24:45-51 and Luke 12:41-48 describe the parable of the faithful steward and remind us that every person possesses natural abilities, wealth, and possessions in trust from God. Eventually, he will require an account of how each was used.
• Luke 16:1-13 records the parable of the unjust servant. This passage, especially Luke 16:9, illustrates that even the wicked sons of this world are shrewd enough to provide for themselves against coming evil. Believers ought to be even wiser because they are concerned with eternal matters, not just earthly ones.
• Luke 12:13-32 admonishes believers to “lay up treasures in heaven.”
Jim Rickard directs Stewardship Services Foundation, a privately funded non-profit corporation serving the Christian community.
Jim believes our spending habits reflect our spiritual values. The question, “What does your checkbook register reveal about your values?” is the launching pad for his stewardship principles. Jim suggests a number of principles that can eliminate financial problems.
• You cannot be financially bound and spiritually free (Matthew 6:19-24).
• Give to the Lord’s work (1 Corinthians 16:2; 2 Corinthians 9:6-8).
• Learn to save money (Proverbs 13:11).
• Learn to spend less than you earn (Proverbs 21:20).
• Don’t finance pleasure items (Ecclesiastes 5:10).
• Control your credit cards (Proverbs 22:7).
• Have adequate life insurance to protect your loved ones (1 Timothy 5:8).
• Be self-insured for life insurance by the time you retire (Proverbs 13:16).
• Have a retirement plan in progress by age 40 (Proverbs 13:16).
• Own your own home debt-free by the time you retire (Proverbs 13:16).
• Have a workable budget. The key elements to workability are discipline and control (Proverbs 24:3, 4).
• Understand the tax laws that apply to you and pay your taxes (Matthew 22:15-22).
• Have an estate plan that includes a will and/or a living trust.
• Remember there is a difference between debt and obligations.
• Have cash in an emergency fund.
The Full Tithe
Critical to the successful implementation of these principles is the application of Malachi 3:10. This verse is a reminder to “bring the full tithe into the storehouse” (Revised Standard Version).
Christians can’t afford not to tithe. There was a time when tithing was not a part of my family’s financial goals. Looking back, it’s clear that many of the financial calamities we experienced were related, in part, to our failure to give to God.
But when I began to write my tithing check first each pay period, my financial resources multiplied. It may not seem that the check writing order should make a difference, but to this day I continue the practice and as long as I am a careful steward of the remaining resources, I never have too much month at the end of the money.
While God promises to meet all of our needs, he also calls us to exercise faithful financial stewardship with our resources. Learning to manage our money is a significant component of faithful financial stewardship.
In one study 57 percent of divorced couples in the United States named money problems as the cause of their divorce.
Highlighting the role money plays in marital satisfaction, another study claims that couples with annual incomes over $50,000 have a 30 percent lower risk of divorce.
This is why budgeting is important. Failing to have a budget or spending plan is like trying to navigate through an unfamiliar city without a road map. You most likely will get lost.
A budget or spending plan is simply a road map for using the money you have to its maximum potential. Designing a personal budget or spending plan is not difficult. However, to build a successful budget you must know your personal goals and determine your expenses.
Setting Personal Goals
Every successful spending plan is based on clearly defined personal goals—the things you really want. They can be short-term, like saving for a new pair of shoes, or long-term, such as having enough money to make a down payment on a home. Most goals require more money than what you have right now. That is why goals must be written down. Once they are in place you are ready to build your budget.
Building Your Budget
Consider using the following steps to build your budget.
• Pray (John 14:13, 15:16; 1 Peter 5:7, 8; James 1:5).
• List your income and expenses to develop your budget or spending plan. You must know the following information to be successful:
Your income—salary, retirement benefits, gifts, and loans.
Fixed Expenses—tithing, house payment or rent, car insurance, gas, utilities, and so on.
Variable Expenses—clothing, entertainment, gifts, and so on.
Savings—an established percentage from each paycheck. Since we must learn to get along with what we have, an amount for savings should be determined before any money is spent from the paycheck.
• Create a weekly spending plan.
Once your income and expenses are determined you’ll need to chart them weekly.
Once you have charted your expenses for a month you must evaluate your spending plan to determine whether or not it is helping you reach your goals. Revision is necessary if there is too much week at the end of the money.
The following activities can assist you in building your spiritual bank account.
• Conduct a Scripture search to determine how often money and finances are mentioned in the Bible. Use a concordance and record your research.
• Review the principles listed in the “Dollar Theology” subheading. What do they teach you about money and how you should use it? Develop a personal dollar theology. Some verses to launch your study are Proverbs 11:24, 13:11; Ecclesiastes 5:10; Malachi 3:10; Matthew 6:24; Mark 12:40-42; Luke 6:38; 1 Corinthians 9:6-8; and 1Timothy 6:10.
• Write a response to the spiritual investment principle that states “All that we have belongs to the Lord.”
Pat Ennis is a freelance writer in Stevenson Ranch, California.
Debt-Proof Living Web site: www.cheapskatemonthly.com
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