In the last blog post, we touched [well touched considerably haha] on the parable of the talents. The master granted Mr. 5 and 2 Talents more wealth because they earned His trust. They properly managed what was initially given. (P.S. all words in yellow are helpful links to other pages.)
I want to dispel the misconception that GOD is not equally concerned with our decision to (1) properly manage His wealth and (2) be generous givers.
Being a generous giver or a consistent tither does not excuse poor spending and saving habits. They are not mutually exclusive. A good steward gives generously, spends wisely and saves diligently.
In Luke 16:11 Jesus basically said to his disciples, ‘if you can’t be a good steward of worldly wealth, who will entrust you with the true riches of heaven?’
Management of money is a serious heart issue. Our use of money exposes our priorities, our insecurities and indiscipline. Let me tell you this. If you are able to control your heart and actions concerning money—it is likely that spiritual disciplines will be that much easier to develop.
I just want that to soak in nicely.
GOD provides guidance in His word for how we should manage finances. Today I’ll be sharing the first 4 principles of money management for the aspiring joyful steward.
1. Assess your heart posture concerning money
Matthew 6: 24
‘No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve GOD and be enslaved to money.’
This is critical to the stewardship journey. Improper perspectives on money will rob us of the peace, contentment and joy He designed for us to experience in this lifetime. Consider these questions:
- Do you feel as though life would be more fulfilling if you were in a better financial position? Is money at the core of what makes you feel safe and secure?
- Do you honour GOD in how you use your wealth?
- Does money capture the entirety of your relationship with GOD? Are your most intimate times with Him limited to requests for material wealth?
- Are you careless with money out of a sense of an entitlement?
- Do you believe deep down that money, or an increase in wealth is inherently wrong?
- Are you content with GOD alone?
These issues flow from the ‘poverty’ or ‘prosperity’ mindset; neither of which are a healthy and biblical perspective on wealth.
Whatever the state of your heart, ask that GOD address these misconceptions.
Let me know if you’d like me to address this in more detail in another blog post.
2. Give generously
2nd Corinthians 9:7
‘Each one should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for GOD loves a cheerful giver’
Giving generously is important to the steward. A steward shadows the actions of the Master he manages for. Our GOD is a generous GOD—giving His own Son for us to have an opportunity to be redeemed.
In 1st Timothy 6: 18-19, Paul encouraged the believers to “use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others.”
3. Get on a Budget
Yup the B word! I said it I said it!
Luke 14: 28
“But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it?
A budget is best thought of as a plan for how you’ll spend and save money.
The steward must exercise intentionality in the way he spends and saves. When GOD made this world, He planned things out beautifully; choosing days to create each creation and leaving a day for rest.
A budget helps you take emotions out of financial decisions because you’ve already designated how the money will be spent.
Ideally, a budget should be made whenever you receive an income. So if you earn an income monthly or fortnightly, make a plan on how you’ll manage that money for the duration of the period.
So how do we budget?
- Assess all your sources of income. Will there be a shortfall or surplus this month? Take this into consideration.
- Write down your consistent expenses.
- For example tithes, utilities, rent/mortgage, loans, contribution to your household, monthly subscriptions.
- It’s always best to be generous in your estimation of how much these categories may amount to.
- Write down your unique expenses.
- Are you planning to go out a little more often this month? Does the car need to be insured or licensed soon? Are you planning to purchase a gift for a friend or family member? These things must have their own line category in your budget.
- Again be generous in your estimation of these expenses.
- Consider your savings or investment goals. [We’ll discuss a little later in the post]
- Are you saving towards a car or vacation? Do you have an emergency fund in place? Is a baby on the way? These savings goals must be broken down into several months and included in your budget to ensure you meet them.
- I personally include ‘generous giving’ as a line category in my monthly budget. Some months will be more ‘generous’ than others but it forces my mind to consider who I can give generously to this month without the guilt of compromising on my obligations. It also curbs my spending habits. Once something is in your budget it means you have made it a priority.
- I also personally include a category called ‘Treat Me’. This encourages me throughout the month and makes me feel as though I’m working towards something. Some months I’ll ‘treat’ myself more than others.
- Most importantly, track your expenses. What medium is best for you? Maybe good old pen and paper might be best or a mobile app for the whiz kids. I occasionally use the spendee or wallet app to budget and track expenses but most times, at the beginning of the month, I outline my budget in a note app. Whatever medium you use, make sure it’s easily accessible so you’ll be reminded of how much you’ve designated for each category. Proverbs 27: 23 ‘Be diligent to know the state of your flock and attend to your herd.’
- Budget down to zero. Make a plan for where every dollar goes—whether it be paying off debt, long term or short term saving/investing or doing something great for yourself or someone.
- Create a miscellaneous category. This is a small sum set aside for unexpected expenses that may come up throughout the month. If you realise there’s an expense that always seems to end up in miscellaneous—it may warrant a category of it’s own.
- For those of us who do not have a consistent or set income, try budgeting with what a low earning month looks like for you. Consider your normal expenses–giving/tithing, the basic needs ( food, shelter, utilities and transportation). After these things are covered, consider other categories based on priorities. If you happen to have a surplus, consider saving it.
Staying on a budget is no easy feat. It’s laborious and sometimes makes you feel trapped. Notwithstanding this, there’s a freedom that comes with budgeting as you are telling the money where to go rather than life making financial decisions for you.
Finally, give yourself some grace. Some months you’ll stay on budget more than others but budgeting indicates that you are serious about managing His money well.
4. Save diligently
First things first–work towards an emergency fund. This should be your first savings goal.
In Genesis 41: 34-36, Pharaoh appointed commissioners over the land to take a fifth of the harvest during the years of abundance and put it in a reserve for the seven years of famine.
Ideally a proper emergency fund should be 6-12 months worth of your expenses. This will take some time to develop so start with a savings goal of $50,000- $100,000 (depending on your income and expenses). Don’t attempt any large spending/investing until you’ve met this goal. After you’ve reached this mini goal, pace yourself in achieving the bigger goal of 6-12 months worth of expenses.
When saving towards this emergency fund, outline the critical things that qualify as an emergency and deserving of use of the fund. Write it down in your journal. Make a note of it in your phone. Keep yourself accountable! Be honest with yourself—a new pair of shoes to add to your collection is not an emergency—that should be contemplated in your monthly budget.
Your emergency fund should not be placed in the account where you ordinarily spend from. That is a recipe for disaster. I personally save my emergency fund in a good old VMBS savings account and I just recently got a debit card for it. I try to keep it out of my purse, lest I be tempted to magnify wants to emergencies.
This is not necessary, but I personally save towards 2 emergency funds: one for general emergencies and another for car emergencies. Both are placed in separate accounts and have different qualifying conditions for their use.
I can’t stress the importance of an emergency fund enough! COVID-19 has underscored that life is outside our control. GOD is our Jehovah Jireh but He also delights in our diligence and wisdom. Proverbs 27:12– ‘A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.’
Saving is often considered as you paying yourself. When you purchase the groceries, pay all the utilities, buy that great pair of shoes or buy something for bae, you’ve paid a third party. Saving allows you to retain some of that hard-earned cash. Most importantly, saving allows you to accomplish future goals. Proverbs 21: 20—‘A wise man saves for the future but the foolish man spends whatever he gets.’
When we fail to save diligently, we do our future selves and family a disservice.
Next week i’ll discuss some other biblical principles on money management.