MONEY! How many times have you thought: "If only I didn’t have to worry about money, life would be easy"? Did you know that Jesus had more to say about money than he did about heaven? He realized, of course, that money was going to give us lots of trouble, and he wanted us to know how to deal with this love of money problem.
In fact, he warned us that we cannot serve both God and Money, and that statement in itself tells us that we can be a slave to money and it can hold a lordship over our lives. Is that true for you? What is your attitude towards money?
Proverbs 30:8-9 gives us some good advice: "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." If you think that all your problems would be solved by someone giving you a ton of money, think again. Having a lot of money would be disastrous for most of us, for we would soon love it and depend on it and look to it for our security.
Paul wrote to Timothy that money is not our problem, but the love of money is, as we read in 1 Timothy 6:10: "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."
If your attitude toward money is that you love it, listen carefully to what Paul wrote. That love of money causes all kinds of evil, and it can cause you to wander from your faith and bring many griefs into your life. I ask you to think carefully about your attitude toward money, because the wrong attitude is a recipe for disaster. Is there some evil in your life right now—some sin that you know should not be there? If you dig deeply, you may well discover that the root of that evil is your love and desire for money. What griefs are you suffering in your life? Could it be that your love of money has brought about that grief?
The incredible thing is that Christians can be afflicted with this love of money disease just like anyone else, and it can cause all kinds of selfishness, greed, envy, unkindness, ruined relationships – the list is almost endless. Is it worth it? Is any amount of money worth the grief and the evil that it has brought into your life?
If you’re like me, you will find that it is a continual battle—this fight against the love of money. But you and I need to be willing to pull those roots of loving money out of our heart and give the throne of our hearts back to the Lord. Keeping a biblical attitude toward money takes a strong commitment on our part, but remember, if you don’t you will be asking for trouble and lots of it.
However, there is no denying that we all need money to exist and we have to deal with it on a daily basis. And none of us want to live our lives worrying about paying our bills all the time. So, while we don’t want to love money, we do need to practice good money management.
Like every other area of our lives, the Bible has principles and guidelines that will help us walk this fine line between loving money and using it wisely. I’d like to point some of those out to you, and encourage you to put them into practice in your life. They will truly help you manage your money.
Let’s begin with Proverbs 13:11: "Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow." Gathering money little by little—that’s saving money. Do you have some type of savings plan? Are you systematically and regularly putting some money aside? That is a biblical way to manage your money, and it will grow.
You’re probably thinking, "I don’t have enough money as it is; how do you expect me to save any?" But until you practice this principle, you’ll always be in that Catch 22 predicament. Think of a sum of money that you can save every week. It may be very small, but make a promise to yourself and to God that you will put that money in a savings account of some type, regardless of whether you think you can afford it or not. Five dollars a week amounts to $260 a year; it’s not much but it’s a starting place, and far better than nothing.
You need to establish this discipline in your life, and as you see that you’re able to find that five dollars, you’ll discover you may be able to save even more. Start small, but start. That’s the important thing. Get that discipline going. Let your children know you’re doing that, too, and teach them to save a little of the money that they have. This is such an important principle of money management, and it’s never too late to start and no amount is too small to start with.
Here’s another proverb that gives us some good advice about money management: Proverbs 17:16: "Of what use is money in the hand of a fool, since he has no desire to get wisdom?" Even if we had all the money we thought we needed, it would be no use if we did not use that money with great wisdom. Stories abound of people who got the money they wanted, and then wasted it on foolish spending.
As believers, we are going to be accountable to God for the use of the money entrusted to us. So, we should make it a practice to think carefully about every purchase we make. Now, this one hits me between the eyes, because I tend to be an impulsive person, and therefore an impulsive spender. That can lead you to spending money foolishly. Here’s a discipline I’m trying to incorporate into my life: Think before you spend. Sounds pretty simple, but it can certainly make you a better money manager.
- Do I really need this?
- What would happen if I don’t buy it?
- What else could I do with this money that would be more important?
- Is this going to require a lot of upkeep expense?
- If I need this, is this the best value I can find?
For example, I may see a red blouse I really like and want, but if I think before I buy, I remember that I have a couple of red blouses already. Often I talk myself into buying something I don’t need because it’s a bargain. But it’s not a bargain if I don’t need it! Or I may realize that this blouse is silk and the upkeep is expensive. Or perhaps I could find this blouse or a similar one at a reduced price in another store. Just that simple discipline of thinking before I buy can cause me to make much better decisions about how to spend my money.
It would be a good idea to write these qualifying questions on a 3 x 5 card and take it with you everywhere you go, particularly for those who tend to be impulsive spenders. Then force yourself to ask those questions before you buy anything. We’d be much better money managers if we did this simple thing of thinking before we spend.
Now, a major issue in money management is debt. If you’ve managed to get yourself into a fair amount of debt, you may feel as though you’re in a pit out of which there is no escape. Romans 13:7-8 says: "Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue. . . Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law."
Maybe the first thing we need to do is understand what we mean by the term "debt." In his book Your Finances in Changing Times, Larry Burkett gives the following definition of debt. "Debt exists," he writes, "when any of the following conditions are true: (1)Payment is past due for money, goods or services that are owed to other people; (2) The total value of unsecured liabilities exceeds total assets; in other words, if you had to cash out at any time, there would be a negative balance on your account; and (3) Anxiety is produced over financial responsibility, and the family’s basic needs are not being met because of past or present buying practices." Does any of that describe your debts?
If so, you need to face this challenge of getting yourself out of that kind of debt. Now, for most of us that means getting rid of credit cards. It’s so easy to use that plastic to buy something and face the music later on. And this is how so many people get into real money problems.
Credit cards in themselves are not evil, and in fact if used correctly, can offer some benefits. For example, there are advantages in returning merchandise when purchased on a credit card, and there are insurance policies for purchases made on credit cards. But the secret to using a credit card properly is to pay it off each month so you’re not paying any interest. That means you cannot purchase what you can’t pay for, so again, we have to think before we spend.
Many people don’t trust themselves with credit cards, so they just get rid of them. If you need to do that, do it. Jesus said if your arm offends you, cut it off. In other words, take whatever drastic action is necessary to make yourself do the right thing. If you know credit cards are too much temptation for you, cut them up and never get another one.
Also, if you’re already in debt over your head, you may need to go to your debtors and ask them to help you set up a payback schedule for that debt, then start chipping at it regularly. It is really important to pay back something on those debts every month. If a creditor sees that you are making a real effort to pay it off and you are consistent, they probably will be willing to make an extension for you and work with you. But remember that the Bible tells us we should pay our debts, so if you don’t put this discipline in place, you will be disobedient to God’s Word. This is a spiritual issue.
Indeed money is a spiritual matter, because the love of it is the root of all kinds of evil. So your attitude toward money and the way you manage your money is something you will have to give an account to the Lord for. Why is that so important to the Lord?
Well, Jesus said that where your money is, that’s where your heart is. In other words, what we do with our money shows what and who we love, what and who we are committed to, what and who we support. Therefore, if I spend my money foolishly and exclusively on myself, trying to get things that I want, it is a clear indication that I am a self-focused person.
I remember, during a ten year period when I was not walking with the Lord, that I spent money right and left on clothes and things for me or my home. What I was doing was trying to find a substitute for the Lord, but what I discovered is that no matter how many things I bought, they never satisfied me and it was never enough. Remember that money promises us a lot, but it doesn’t deliver. Only Jesus can truly bring soul satisfaction, and we can have his peace and contentment even if we’re broke! Isn’t that great news?
Not too many of us think of the Bible as a handbook on managing money. But as with all significant areas of our lives, the Bible has principles and guidelines that will give us a very firm and secure basis for managing our money.
It’s very easy to fall in love with money and make it more important in our lives than anything else. The love of money, we read in Scripture, is the root of all kinds of evil. Jesus said we must be careful with money, that we don’t become enslaved to money, because we cannot serve both God and Money.
Look at Proverbs 21:5: "The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty." Making a plan of how our money is going to be spent is a wise thing to do. If you find that you’re having real difficulties with money, a good starting place is to keep track of every nickel you spend for a month. Get yourself a little notebook, and force yourself to write in it every expenditure. The first thing you need to know is where your money is going now. That will tell you immediately where you can save some money.
Now, you may think that you have a real good handle on where your money is going, but my guess is that this exercise will teach you a great deal that you don’t now know about where your money is going. It’s amazing how much we can spend on incidental items that seem at the time to be insignificant. But add them all up and those incidentals can turn out to be a hefty portion of our spendable money.
Once you’ve kept a record of where your money is going, then you have the input you need to sit down and plan a budget. If you need some help doing this, there are many good books or trusted friends who can help you. In fact, we’ve assembled some very helpful information on beginning a budget and managing your money, and we’re glad to provide that for you, either on-line or call us and we will mail it to you. Of course, you can go to professional advisors, but that’s not usually necessary.
Begin with needs as you make out that budget: housing costs, food costs, transportation, etc. Remember to differentiate between needs and desires. For example, you may need transportation, but do you need the fancy car you’re driving or is that just a desire? You need food, but do you need to buy the expensive brands, or eat in restaurants so often? Usually within our needs we can find room for saving money.
Also, don’t forget to make saving some money a priority. We all need to think long term when it comes to financial planning. Got little kids? You need to think about some college finance plan. We all need to plan for retirement in some way. So, you want to be sure you include your long-range needs in your short-range budgeting; otherwise, those long-range needs will never be met.
Then commit that budget to the Lord, and look to him for strength to live by it. Proverbs 16:3 says "Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed." Pour prayer into that budgeting process, and pray for the discipline you will need to make it succeed. It won’t be easy to make yourself live by a budget, but the freedom you will achieve from those constant financial worries will be so wonderful.
Remember Proverbs 13:18: "He who ignores discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored." If you will heed the correction of setting up a budget and living by it, you will be honored by the Lord and you will be able to manage your money to his honor and glory. Money management is a spiritual issue, like everything else in the life of a believer.
I know I often find myself thinking, "If I just had X-dollars, this wouldn’t be a problem?" Or "If I were just rich, we wouldn’t have to raise funds for the ministry; money wouldn’t be a problem!" But one thing I know for sure is that God teaches me a lot of lessons about trusting him through money. It is certainly one area where God can get our attention pretty easily.
I believe the most important money management principle in the Bible is giving it away.
Proverbs 11:25 reminds us that, "A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed." Jesus warned us that we cannot serve both God and Money, and one of the best ways you can prove that money is not your god is to give it away. Think of someone right now who needs some money. Take some money out of your pocket or your checking account, put it in an envelope and mail it to them—anonymously perhaps. Doesn’t matter how small it is. Just give it away. You will be refreshed, and you will find great joy in doing it.
When we give money away, it is an act of faith that says, "Money is not as important to me as the Lord and as others," and in so doing you are sending a strong message to yourself and to the Lord about your attitude toward money. It really is amazing how the act of giving away money will help to break its power over us, for in so doing we realize the joy of giving and see that even though we gave it away, we still have what we need. It really is true that a generous person will prosper, and when we refresh others we are ourselves refreshed.
Jesus told us to lay up treasures in heaven, because rust and moths do not corrupt up there and thieves do not break through and steal. In other words, whatever we send on ahead of us to heaven will be a totally safe investment, whereas when we try to store things up on earth, those treasures are totally vulnerable. So any good money manager would choose the safest investment.
When we give money to others in the name of the Lord, we are storing money up in heaven. And, as Jesus said, because that’s where our treasure is, that’s where our heart will be also. That means that our thoughts, our emotions, our feelings, our loyalties are tied very closely to our treasure and where we have our treasure invested. If it’s invested in heaven, we will be more and more heavenly minded, more and more focused on eternity, and less and less vulnerable to the vagrancies of this earthly system.
The only area in which God asks us to test him is in this matter of money. In Malachi 3:10 we read: "’Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.’" Are you regularly giving God his tithe?
I think of a dear listener in California who owns her own business, and she has committed to the Lord to give him the tithe, no matter how tough things are financially. She gives the Lord his tithe before she writes her own paycheck. And there have been weeks when she couldn’t see how she could make her payroll. But each time, God has supplied just what she needed. Now, her business is thriving, and she has more to give to the Lord. She has tested and proved God’s faithfulness.
Financial planning for believers must include this as the highest priority. If you haven’t discovered the joy of giving your money to the Lord, you’re missing a special blessing. I encourage you to make this your starting place for managing your money more effectively. God asks you to test him, and he has promised you a blessing.
Well, I hope you will join me in getting serious about being a better steward of the money God has entrusted to you and managing that money better.
For example, in talking about buying cars, Larry Burkett wrote:
"Many families will buy new cars they cannot afford and trade them long before their utility is depleted. Those who buy a new car, keep it for less than four years, and then trade it for a new model have wasted the maximum amount of money… We swap cars because we want to—not because we have to. Many factors enter here such as ego, esteem and maturity."
Then he gives some hints for grocery shopping, like:
- Always use a written list of needs.
- Avoid buying when hungry.
- Use a calculator as you purchase your food so you can see when you’re exceeding the budget before you check out.
- Shop for advertised specials.
- Avoid buying non-grocery items in a grocery supermarket except on sale. These are normally "high mark-up items".