Dealing with finances is so confusing to me. I’m so overwhelmed. I’m trying hard to minimize my spending, but I always seem to spend everything that I make. My credit card debts are increasing every month. I’d like to have money to give to people in need and to support special ministries, but I never have enough. I’m getting farther and farther behind. Can you help?
Jesus cares a great deal about how we handle our money!
Of Jesus’ 38 parables, 16 focus on how to handle money and possessions.
There are 228 verses that deal directly with the subject of money. The Bible offers a little over 400 verses on faith, but more than 2,000 verses on money and materialism.
Rest assured; you are not the only one who struggles with overspending. George Barna’s research, and other surveys like it, reveal that 90% of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings. In other words, like you, most people spend everything they make.
Let’s look, then, at 10 biblical principles for managing your finances:
1: Tithe 10% to the Lord
The first portion of our income is called the “tithe” (10%) which was validated by Jesus in Luke 11:42.
The most important principle in the Bible regarding the handling of money is paying our tithe to the Lord.
Why? Because how we handle the top 10% is the primary indicator of whether our hearts are wholeheartedly devoted to God.
I’m convinced that the reason many Christians struggle in financial bondage is because they refuse to follow this first step in a godly financial plan.
Only once in the Bible does God threaten to curse someone: in Malachi 3:8-10 regarding his tithe.
“Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’ “In tithes and offerings.You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. 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 there will not be room enough to store it.
You were fortunate if your parents taught you to tithe at an early age. Paying a tithe becomes the fabric of your Christian life. When I began kindergarten my father gave me a quarter to bring the church as an offering every Sunday.
2: Pay Taxes According to the Law
“Then he said to them, ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s”(Matthew 22:21).
By the way, a true tithe is based on our entire earnings, not on what is left after “withholding taxes” are taken out.
This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.(Romans 13:6-7)
I recall the story of the man who wrote an anonymous letter to the IRS. “Here is a check for $150 and if my conscience still bothers me, I’ll send the rest.”
3: Meet Family Needs
If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied his faith and is worse than an unbeliever.(1 Timothy 5:8)
Of course, this includes food, clothing, shelter, medical bills, transportation, appliances and on and on goes the list.
Be sure to buy some term-life insurance; it’s cheap. I’ve seen too many situations where a husband dies and the family is left destitute because there is no life insurance.
4: Get Out of Debt for All Depreciating Items
The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously. (Psalm 37:21)
We lower our standard of living every time we buy something on credit instead of paying full price. Why is that? Because of interest!
Why do credit card companies register in the state of Delaware? Because Delaware has voted to allow credit card companies to charge as much as 19% interest.
I’ve known too many people who’ve bought all kinds of “stuff” with money they have not yet earned. Many of them are paying 19% and will never catch up.
By the way, with great planning, it is sometimes okay to go into debt on appreciating items like a house which is going up in value. But remember, houses can also go down in value.
5: Have A Positive Cash Flow
A positive cash flow means that we are taking in every month more money than we are spending out. Every month we pay all our bills and have something left.
The wise store up choice food and olive oil, but fools gulp theirs down.(Proverbs 21:20).
Charles Dickens wrote (and I paraphrase): “$100 income, with $105 outgo brings misery and ruin.”
6: Save A Portion of Income for the Future
Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer.(Proverbs 30:25)
What does the ant do that we are to emulate?
It stores food for future consumption.
What the ant does instinctively, we must do voluntarily. We are not forced to do it. We must do it by choice. And to do that, we must act against the instincts of our old sin nature.
If all we have at retirement is our Social Security for income, we won’t have enough.
This includes an Emergency Fund that is set aside to cover our unpredictable (as well as predictable) future needs. Many economists say that our emergency fund should be somewhere between three to six times our monthly gross income.
7: Good Biblical Economics Yields Surplus to Respond to Others’ Needs
At the present time your plenty will supply what they need so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality.(2 Corinthians 8:14)
The creation of a surplus should be a major goal for the Christian.
Over the years I’ve noticed many Christians who would love to feed the hungry, support a missionary, give money to the poor, or help fund their local church ministries. Unfortunately, they can’t do that. They’ve spent everything on themselves.
Faithful management results in more to manage.
“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ (Matthew 25:23)
8: Plan on Your Financial Resources, Not Your Desires
Don’t ask: “What do I want? What does the world say that I should have? What does my peer group say that I should have? What is fashionable?”
Instead, ask questions: “What resources do we have? What can I do with the resources that I have? What buying power do I have? What earning power do I have? How does God want me to use it?”
When we take this approach we allocate our resources rather than attempt to pay for our desires. If we go through life attempting to pay for our desires, we will ultimately crash and burn.
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”(Hebrews 13:5)
9: Budget to Manage Well the Assets God Has Entrusted to You
Be sure you know the condition of your flocks. Give careful attention to your herds, for riches do not endure forever and a crown is not secure for all generations.(Proverbs 27:23)
Now if you don’t have any flocks and herds, just put whatever assets you have in there: probably money, savings accounts, stocks, bonds, a house, or a car. What this verse is saying is know exactly where you stand financially.
In other words, if you don’t watch your resources carefully, then you’re not secure, and you will not succeed financially.
Julie and I were leading a conference in Azerbaijan. We were talking with Mrs. Missionary as she was buying school clothes for her three children. She was having a tough time. She kept comparing prices and counting her money.
Finally, I said to her, “I’m sorry that this is so hard for you. You have no idea how much you can spend, do you? Wouldn’t this be a lot easier if you knew much you could spend?”
“Yes”, she said, “Things are tight at home. I’m trying to buy wisely; but, it’s hard to buy wisely when I have no idea how much to spend.”
“Wouldn’t it be nice to come to the store and know that you had $300 to spend on school clothes?”
Before Julie and I left we sat down at their kitchen table and worked out a suitable budget.
I saw her next year in Turkey and asked how the school shopping went?
“I had a great time. I knew how much I was free to spend, and I got all the clothes we needed and some money left over.”
10: Refuse to Be Seduced by Materialism and Status Symbols
Psalm 49 is the Psalm of the rich materialist. God is warning us that if we’re overawed by someone else’s things, like a house, or possessions, or envious of them, or attracted to their possessions, we are in danger of falling into the trap of materialism.
The result of materialism and status-seeking is often misery and despair (Ecclesiastes 2:4-11). This is especially true when we buy more “things” than we can afford.
But godliness with contentment is great gain...But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 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. (1 Timothy 6: 6-10)
Notice that Paul says, “But if we had food and clothing, we will be content with that.” Notice that he says nothing about a house.
The phrase, “pierced themselves,” pictures the materialist as being roasted over an open fire. That is misery.
What Are the Signs Of Materialism?
-Being discontent with what we have
-Holding on to more wealth than we need (hoarding)
-Failing to give God the “top portion” of our income
-Spending everything we make and saving nothing for the future
-Borrowing money for depreciating items
-Cheating on our income tax
-Using a credit card and not paying off, or not being able to pay off the balance completely at the end of the month
-Not having enough space to store all our stuff
-Getting nervous or upset when the pastor preaches about money
Start Living by the 10 Principles
If we will follow these 10 principles, then we will discover that we are biblically allocating our resources rather than having to pay for our desires.
I am convinced that if we begin to commit ourselves to follow God’s biblical principles we will be delighted to see that God just might start doing some things that we could never do with the resources that we have.
May God bless you, Latisha, as you apply biblical economics to your lifestyle.
By the way, don’t try to fix everything at once. You will surely fail. Instead, pick one or two areas and get them under control. Then you can go on the next area.