Priorities & Needs | Christ in your Finances

Today on the blog we have a guest post from Clarissa Fleming about reflecting Christ in your finances. Enjoy!
If you are interested in becoming a guest writer for the A Godly Marriage blog, please see the "contact us" page and shoot me an email! [Amy]

Money; the word creates a slew of emotions -- guilt, worry, excitement, annoyance, dread, happiness. Everywhere we look there are people telling us how to spend it, what we need to buy with it. Even in the church there are differing views. But what does the Bible REALLY say about money?

The first thing I want to point out is a pretty well-known verse, "For the love of money is the root of all evil." 1 Timothy 6:10. Many point to this verse as saying seeking money is evil. However, what it really says is that the love of money is evil. This is a different meaning. The desire to obtain financial security for your family is not evil. However, putting anything -- money, materialistic items, even your spouse -- ahead of God is a problem.

Being a Good Steward
We are commanded to be good stewards of our finances in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30). The servant who did not grow the money -- what his master put in his care -- was actually condemned. In case you aren’t familiar with this story, I urge you to read it now (below) – it will only take a couple of moments.

“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey.The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’ 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!’The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’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!’Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”

Wow, this is different than the poverty concept that many Christians have of money. We are not ordered to be poor, though God does put us all in different roles in life. Some are to be missionaries, others doctors. God wants us to be in a position to give to others generously which we cannot do if we ourselves are in need of charity. Giving to others also isn’t just about money, it is to give anything generously – be it your time, materialistic items, meals, or monetary donations/tithing.

Tithing is perhaps the best known Biblical command in regard to money. God wants us to give Him our best fruits. A tithe (10%) is actually the minimum God wants to see from us, not the standard. Why do we see it as being okay to always give our Heavenly Father the minimum? How would our earthly parents feel if we treated them the same? God wants us to live well and in a way so that we can give freely and not be indebted or a slave to money.

Living with Debt

The Bible warns heavily against debt. It never condemns it, but it is always spoken of in a negative light. The reasoning is simply because being in debt to someone (or something) makes you a slave to the lender and you are then ruled over by someone other than God. Unfortunately, in today’s society, it is almost impossible not to be in debt in some way or another, as our economy is based on credit cards and loan payments. Many Christian financial counselors would agree that a house is an acceptable debt as long as one is careful to choose a debt level well within their budget. It is also a necessity at times, as we all need a roof over our heads. A car loan, in comparison, is really not. A car is something that can be saved for in a reasonably short period of time. Are you a bad Christian for having a car payment? No. However, you will be better off in the long run avoiding one. Likewise, battling credit card debt can rob you of peace and create a block between you and your relationship with God, or even your spouse. Think of the struggles couples have over the single issue of money. If this was not a worry and a ‘stresser’, there would be far fewer arguments, and in the end, far fewer divorces that are brought on by financial struggles.

Life Insurance, Savings Accounts and Wills

On the practical side, we almost all have debt -- be that just a mortgage or other debt. This means protecting our families in other ways. Do you have your life insurance set up? If you have debt, you owe it to your family to make certain they are taken care of if you are not there to pay it off. Do you have an emergency fund so that if something happens and there is not a paycheck for a month or two you will be ok? Do you have a firm plan of paying off your debt? Do you have a special bank account set aside specifically for ‘just in case’ events or savings? Have you and your spouse put together a will? This is not a fun topic and many avoid it. Some people think we dont have anything, so why have a will? The most important aspect of a will is to designate who would get custody of any children if something horrible happened to the parents. In the commonwealth of Virginia, if both parents die (a car accident being the most likely case) the children go to foster care until a court can determine who should be the guardian. Preparing for you or your spouse’s death is NOT something we enjoy. But as parents, it is part of the job description and we would not be making wise decisions (nor would we be obedient to the word of God) if we were not prepared – choosing to leave our family with our debts, and confusion as to where our children should go in the event that we might no longer be here to take care of them. With that said, we need to lean on God for our strength and peace – certainly, none of us plan on leaving this world anytime soon, nor should be live in fear of it.

Choose a budget, Spend Wisely

Ok, so we are told to grow our finances and to give generously without gaining any debt. How do we accomplish this? We must learn to be good stewards of what we are given. This means making smart decisions on what we buy and how we live. Sometimes this is a painful process. We have all gotten into financial positions that take work and sacrifice to get ourselves out of, and it will not happen overnight! Take a hard look at your budget. Having worked with many couples, I can tell you that the argument "we cannot possible pay more on our debt" is seldom accurate. You choose your budget. Every day, you make a choice. When you go to the store, you choose steak or chicken. You choose to have cable TV or go out to a movie. We all make choices which determine the monthly bills and ‘extras’ we will have. Spending and enjoying nice things is not wrong, but living beyond your means is wrong -- making things your idol is wrong, as innocent as they may be. Please understand the difference.

Another interesting verse that is seldom mentioned is Proverbs 13:22, "A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children, but the sinner's wealth is laid up for the righteous." So, in fact, we are told to leave enough wealth that our children's children will benefit from our legacy! Though it is not a requirement -- as the Proverbs are not promises, but merely guidelines about being ‘wise’ -- it is still something to strive for. This is such a new idea to many. The Jewish community has practiced these concepts for generations. They are not stingy and in fact give very generously. They do, however, choose their purchases and their way of life carefully.

Now, I know many people think "you don't understand, we can't do that, we live paycheck to paycheck." Well, here comes some wisdom that certainly won't make me any friends. Look back at the parable in Matthew that we mentioned. There is a larger point in this story. God may not see fit to bless you with more if you are not a good steward of what you already have. What? Imagine as a parent, if your child was always breaking or losing their toys, etc., would you give them more? No, you would need to teach them to first take care of what they have already been given. So in order to gain wealth (without it becoming an idol or want) and be able to better our family’s life, we must first learn to be better stewards of what we have. We need to not demand the instant gratification that our society pushes at us. No one "deserves" to go out to dinner or buy that new outfit. You can choose those things if that item is a wise purchase based on your needs and budget, but do not fall into the trap of deserving "things"! Money is a tool and is a blessing in order to support and care for our families and ourselves, as well as to give to others. Just be careful to always put things in the proper order! God first, family second, household management/business/job third.

I will leave you with this verse. "But if any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith,and is worse than an infidel."
1 Timothy 5:8

I personally think this verse speaks volumes.

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