Christians probably have about the same amount of difficulty with managing finances properly as the rest of the world. Some manage them well and others have persistent problems which can cause so much havoc and miseries, making us feel uncertain and distressed. It’s not that some of us necessarily have been blessed with higher incomes or more money, because having more dollars in our possession or at our disposal will not always solve an underlying financial problem. Rather, it is the perception of money and managing money properly according to God’s principles that is important. So, then, what is our attitude toward money and what should we do to change our habits to line up with God’s Will for our lives?
Recognize that God owns everything, including our finances. (Luke 19:23)
The truth is, we own nothing. God owns everything, He is the King over the Universe and provides to us in His Grace all things that are needed. He entrusts us to be managers of the finances He owns. That includes making wise, prayerful decisions about how to spend or use what He gives us to manage; such as in tithing, saving, credit card use, and paying bills on time. We are to bear fruit with His money, and in so doing, He seeks to bless us and give us peace as well as freedom.
Tithing. A lot of Christians seem to be under the impression that because tithing was specifically commanded by God in the Old Testament but not in the New, it’s not necessary. Not true! We under the New Covenant are now under a much greater commandment than in the Old. Jesus came to fulfill the Old Testament laws, making the meaning and application of them complete and much broader. We are no longer bound by a tithe of 10% according to the OT letter; now we are compelled to tithe by the Spirit. That entails greater responsibility. Jesus said that a workman is worthy of his hire (Mt. 10:10); the Apostle Paul said in essence, that those in the ministry are entitled to support (2 Thess. 3:6-15), and also no one should be slothful (lazy) (Rom. 12:11). Therefore, we should make it incumbent upon ourselves to start regularly tithing and giving to ministry if we haven’t up till now; because in doing so and by being obedient to God in this area, He will in turn bless us. Does that mean God expects us to be foolish and not pay our other bills? Of course not! But it does mean that He expects us to tithe the first fruits of our finances to Him and not give Him the leftovers. There is a huge difference in this concept: we give to God FIRST before meeting any of our other obligations.
Saving. Just as in tithing, regular saving is important. We need to keep a certain amount in reserves as a cushion for those times of unexpected expenses. It is also a good idea to save for future “big ticket” purchases, such as a car; so when the time comes to buy another car, we will be prepared with a down payment and will be in a position to have a choice of a better quality car rather than settle for a cheaper or older one that could be more problematic in the long run. Of course, it doesn’t necessarily mean we should run out and buy a Jaguar or Mercedes when a standard vehicle will do. If you have a family with children, saving is important for their sakes, too, so putting aside funds for their security is helpful to them as they get older. There are a variety of investment options available for your financial profile; be careful in choosing your options wisely avoiding lots of risk. The key is to strike a balance between good financial planning according to God’s Will and not becoming overly obsessive over financial investment plans and allow a world view to overshadow devotion to God. If necessary, seek out a reputable professional who can help you with your planning and manage the funds if you are confused over the options available to you so you can avoid making costly mistakes.
Credit Cards and Other Debts. The best strategy is to use but don’t overuse. For example, I use my credit card only for certain things, but not for everything. This way my balance is limited and I am able to pay it off in full as soon as I get it every month. That is a smart way to build and keep a good credit rating. And I don’t get into debt! One problem, in America especially, is we have developed a very “materialistic” and “consumer” mindset. This has triggered out of control spending, from the government down to the individual. We seek to accumulate goods and higher standards of living, more creature comforts, etc. We listen to glamorous ads on TV or radio (or on the Internet) which appeal to the senses and tickle the ears. The result is we end up in tremendous debt for being so self-serving and consumer-oriented. If you are having a problem with credit card or other debt, you will need discipline to get your spending under control. It could possibly mean you’ll have to take your financial problems to a credit or financial counselor to figure out not only a budget that you’ll need to stick to, but to get to the bottom of whyyou might be spending more than you should or need. For example: do you find yourself spending money when you’re angry or depressed? Or, are you ashamed or secretive after you’ve come back from a shopping spree, knowing you’ve just spent $1,000 on stuff you probably don’t need? Those are red flags that indicate being out of God’s Will in finances. You can do some searches online for Christian financial organizations that will give you lots of good tips and help on how to get your finances where they should be. It takes a lot of prayer, work and time to straighten out bad habits; but in time, God rewards us with abundance when we seek to focus on Him and do what is right with finances.
Paying bills on time. This can’t be stressed enough. Whenever we are late in paying our bills (probably because of the latest shopping trip), it hurts not only our credit rating but our testimony. It makes us look bad as Christians to our creditors and puts a hardship on them when they don’t get paid. The Apostle Paul states “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.” (Rom. 13:8) Does it mean we shouldn’t have electric bills and such? Of course not! It simply says, in a practical application, not to have unpaid bills. When bills come due, we are to pay what is owed in full so we are not still owing. When we can do this, we then have peace and real freedom, because creditors will not be calling us with threatening and irritating phone calls demanding payment; or worse yet, we incur legal problems and have to go to court.
If you’re having trouble in any of these areas, you need to take a long, hard look at your situation and honestly assess the priorities and the steps that need to be taken to solve your financial crisis. God doesn’t want us to live in a constant crisis with our finances; He wants us to be blessed when we make it a priority to treat His money with respect in making good financial decisions at His direction. Bring your burdens to Him and, starting today, learn to decide the things that are a priority or necessary for your life and avoid the things that are not by practicing discipline. We can live well by not capitulating to the mentality of “consumerism” and reacting to endless ads telling us we need to have something in our life and we need it NOW when in fact we could very well do without it, at least for a while, and not suffer that much. A good rule of thumb is to remember there is always someone else in the world who needs the money we spend on ourselves far more than we do. There are any number of worthy ministries we can contribute these dollars to, starting with our own church.