It’s become so common that I’ve come to expect it. Whenever we teach about managing your money God’s way or living on a budget, there’s always one person in the group that asks, “Is this really practical?”
If I don’t hear that question, I’m sure to hear, “I just don’t see how all of this can be applied to my situation.” Over time, I’ve come to realize that the biggest problem when it comes to Christians and money management isn’t a lack of available teaching, but a lack of motivation to apply the teaching in their own lives.
I guess I can understand their point of view. I remember the first few days after our major financial crisis when my Mom decided that we weren’t just going to pick up the pieces in our lives, we were going to rebuild our financial lives on God’s principles. The truth is that although I knew this was the right thing to do, I was really scared.
Obviously, big changes were coming.
What would it be like living on a budget?
Would there be enough money to pay all of the bills?
Would we ever have any extra money to eat out or do something fun ever again? Forget about fun---if we sat down and honestly tried to allocate appropriate amounts for necessities, what would our food, clothing, or gas budget look like? I think I envisioned us staying home all the time, wearing old rags and rationing food. The idea of living on a budget absolutely petrified me!
Looking back, it seems a little ridiculous. However, at the time the fear was very, very real.
I guess I had the same mentality as the people on the television show, “Hoarders”. The show is popular because those of us who aren’t living in squalor watch and think, “How can they possibly live this way?” However, the people living in this situation can’t imagine living any other way! They literally get panicky and physically sick when people start attempting to clean up their mess. They see nothing wrong with the chaos they are living in, but they are petrified of order, structure, and letting go of their current lifestyle.
Unfortunately, this is the same response that many well-meaning Christians have when they hear a sermon or read an article about managing their money properly or living on a budget. Sure, they may cover up their true feelings by saying that God’s principles don’t apply to their situation or that they don’t know how to do it, but the truth is, they are afraid. They are scared to face their financial mess, clean it up, put things back into order, and start living a new way. Like the people on “Hoarders” who refuse to let their homes be cleaned and reorganized so they can live a better life, many Christians allow their fears to control them and keep them from the abundant, prosperous, well-managed life God intends for them.
However, it’s time we stop letting these things control us. It’s time we answered the call that God gave to Joshua in Joshua 1:7-9: “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law My servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Do you want to be prosperous and successful? The keys are found in the Word of God.
Take a second and really look at this verse. God tells Joshua: “If you want to be successful wherever you go, be careful to obey all the Law of Moses, and don’t turn from it to the right or to the left. If you want to be prosperous and successful, then be careful to do everything written in it.”
During the time of Joshua, the Law of Moses was the inspired Word of God to mankind. Because we live centuries later, we have the benefit of the entire Bible being the inspired Word of God.
However, even though the length of God’s Word to mankind has grown, the principle remains the same. The keys to being prosperous and successful are given in God’s Word. When we choose to obey the principles God has laid out for money management, we do not have to be afraid. Instead, we can be strong and courageous, knowing that God’s ways are right, God is faithful, and we can rely on Him to lead us in the right direction.
It’s time for us to put our money where our faith is and start applying the truth that we’ve learned to our everyday lives---not giving into fear or discouragement---but strongly and courageously following God and His ways.
Are you ready to be strong and courageous and start putting God’s financial teaching into your everyday life? Then let’s get started with 5 Practical Ways to Start Your Financial New Year Off Right!!!
These activities will give you a great starting point on which to begin restructuring your finances by God’s principles. They’ll give you a financial reality check, help you organize your financial clutter, and get you started on the path to financial freedom. Best of all, they will help you overcome your fears of the financial unknown and redirect your energies toward solving your financial problems rather than avoiding them. Let’s get started:
First things first, It’s Time to Start Tithing.
If you and your family are not already tithing 10% of your gross income to God, then now is the time to start. The Bible says in Malachi 3:8-9 that if we are not tithing, we are robbing God. How can we expect God to bless us and help us financially if we are stealing from Him?
Tithing is not optional for Christians. It is a command. If we are not tithing, then we are disobeying and sinning. Malachi 3:9 says that our finances are under a curse if we are not tithing.
On the other hand, Malachi 3:10-12 says, “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. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the Lord Almighty. “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the Lord Almighty.”
The choice belongs to each of us. Do you want your finances to be cursed or blessed?
If you answered, “Blessed, Duh!”, then it’s time to stop being afraid, be strong and courageous and start tithing 10% of your gross income to the work of the Lord. It’s time to stop letting fear and excuses control you and give God’s way a try. Start tithing the full amount you owe God on a consistent and regular basis. Be bold in this matter and start giving God first priority in your life. It’s time to put first things first and start tithing.
Kiss the plastic “Goodbye”
Most experts agree that people spend money much more freely when they are using a credit card or debit card. When we switch to cash, we’re all a little more frugal. There’s something about actually watching the dollar bills leave our hands and empty our wallets that make us think, “Do I really need this? Do I even want it?”
A good exercise for anyone who is attempting to put their financial house in order is to go cold turkey on the credit cards and debit cards for a few months and switch to spending all cash. Write checks to pay your bills, but for your day to day spending, stick to cash. You’ll be surprised how this will change your spending habits!
This is one of the commitments that our family made when we initially starting living by God’s financial principles. After the bills were paid and our financial obligations were met, our food, clothing, medical, gas, and spending money was divided into separate envelopes. Anything we spent from these categories was paid for using the cash in these envelopes. When the money was gone---we were done spending.
Oh, the lessons we learned! The most important lesson was that money is REAL. It isn’t a game and it isn’t numbers on a screen. It has real value and it only stretches so far. I wholeheartedly recommend that everyone take the 90 day cash only challenge. It will change your life, your budget, and your family’s attitudes about money. Be strong and courageous---take the challenge!!
Going where no man or woman has gone before---It’s time to balance the checkbook.
It was a few weeks after our financial crisis that my Mom called Liberty University. She’d been taking Bible courses by correspondence, but because of our financial difficulty, we could no longer afford them. As she was explaining our situation, the woman on the other end of the phone commented that she and her husband went years without balancing their checkbook. When they finally got around to it, they found out they had more money than they thought they had.
Unfortunately, most people who don’t balance their checkbook aren’t as fortunate as this couple. For instance, when my Dad didn’t balance our checkbook, he ended up bouncing checks and paying exorbitant overdraft fees. This is the more common scenario. In fact, in 2011, Americans paid over $31.6 BILLION dollars in overdraft fees. How much of that came from Christian families?
Fortunately, there is a solution to this problem: Balance your checkbook.
Where do you begin? With today.
If you’re not sure how to get started, check out our practical article on this topic: Starting Your Year Off Right By Balancing Your Checkbook.
She’s so fine---there’s no telling where the money went.
Back in 1999, a Pepsi commercial made the lyrics to this song popular. However, most of us don’t have the luxury of not knowing where we spend our money. Living like this is irresponsible and not in character with a godly woman trying to be a good steward of what God’s given her. If we are going to live by God’s financial principles, we need to know where our money is being spent.
That’s why our 4th challenge is: For the next 30 days, have each member of your family record every purchase they make in a notebook.
Include everything---bills, clothing purchases, food purchases, restaurant bills, even a pack of gum needs to be recorded. At the end of the month, these notebooks will provide you with valuable information as you move forward. It will help you see where your money is going, and point out areas in which you can cut back. Most importantly, it will help you set up a realistic budget based on your family’s spending habits and needs.
It’s time to start talking about the “B” word: Budget.
James 2:20 says, “Faith without works is dead.” As we said at the beginning of this article, it’s time to stop being afraid, stop making excuses and start putting our knowledge into action. We’ve got some links to help you get started.
The first link is to an article about budgeting we published several years ago. It tells the story of our family’s first budget and gives practical step-by-step instructions for how to start your own family budget. Just click here for more information.
The second link we have is A Guide to Financial Freedom from CBN. This is the brochure that helped my Mom learn to create our family budget. It can help you get started, too.
Of course, these resources are only guides to help you get started. Whether or not you succeed in following God’s financial principles will depend on your level and your commitment to following God’s ways. There are no shortcuts.
Like Joshua, two paths are set before us: We can be strong and courageous and follow God’s direction or we can disobey God’s Words and live a life of defeat. It is my prayer that you will follow Joshua’s example and Be Strong and Courageous in your finances. God has great things in store for your life---if you will choose to follow Him.