Matthew 6:19 – 24; 33, 34. The Bible mentions the dangers of riches in such passages as Matthew 13:22; 19:22; Mark 10:17 – 30; Luke 12:16 – 21, but it never condemns money in and of itself. It condemns greed, hoarding of money and the love of money. In these situations, money controls our lives, rather than God. We trust it for our security, happiness and are more concerned about it than we are about God’s kingdom and His righteousness. If our treasure is in heaven, then our heart is there too: it is caught up with the things of God, rather than just getting by in this life. We store up treasure in heaven by how we use our money on earth, particularly in blessing the church, facilitating its mission to the world, and giving to the saints of God. Further, Scripture tells us that we are to put God’s kingdom first and are told not to worry.
Stewardship refers to godly management of all of our resources. When Jesus takes us to be with Him in heaven, we will have to give an account for our stewardship. The kingdom of God is the rule of God; God must reign in how we manage our finances. Denying God’s reign in this area is to give way to idolatry and materialism.
Let’s consider a few principles of stewardship. First, we need to thank God for His provision (this is chiefly for your job, for your business or whatever source of income and blessing God has provided); recognize that God is the source of all things. Nothing belongs to us; God is the owner of all things and He simply allows us to manage them for Him. A second thing that we should do is to develop a budget, which essentially lays out our income and our expenses. Our budget must prioritize our giving to God. The concept of firstfruits was to help the Israelites understand that they must give to God first. Also, you must prioritize your spending, that is, spend money on the important things first. Further, you must stick to your budget. It is tempting to see things that are not included in your budget and want to buy them. No, be strong and remain disciplined.
Another principle of stewardship is that we must spend responsibly. Do we really need to buy that item? It could be anything – a sports car, a laptop, a cell phone, a dress; the issue is do we need it? Could we do something better with the money? Did we shop around to see if there is a better price? We must account for every cent that we spend. Sometimes people spend money and don’t know where it went because they were not keeping track of their expenses. This can lead to problems in a marriage. In fact, money is one of the biggest sources of conflict in marriages and marital breakups.
There are certain things that we should allocate money for, especially when we are young, have just started working and may not have a lot of financial responsibilities. We need to allocate money for savings. This is needed for unexpected expenses or for future needs, or to leave a legacy for children, for the church, a charity, etc. Savings can help with future educational needs. Education is very important in an increasingly competitive environment.
Another area that you should allocate money for is investments. These don’t have to be risky. Investments of any kind ensure that our money works for us. Investments tend to be long term financial instruments. Insurance is a financial instrument that some persons do not understand. It could be a conservative form of investment, but the main purpose is to protect against the contingencies of life such as accident, critical illness or death. An important question that every parent must ask is what happens to our children if we die prematurely. I was told that it takes approximately $250, 000 to raise a child from birth to college. Shouldn’t we ensure that for a few cents a day, we can provide for our children in the event of untimely death?
A final area that I would recommend that we allocate money for is a pension. It is important to have a reasonable income for your retirement years. The cost of living, conservatively speaking, is likely to triple within the next 20 – 30 years. This means that if you need $2000 to live off of today, in the future you will need $4000 – 6000. I remember the days when I could buy a roti and a drink for under $5. Those days are long gone. Can you afford to take care of yourself or can your family afford to take care of you if you live to 100? While I was in the insurance industry, I had an interview with a painter who was well over 60. He admitted that he did not put aside any money in his working career and would likely have to work until he dies. I want to encourage you, particularly when you’re in your twenties and have just started working, to put aside some money to ensure that you have a good retirement income.
I want to warn you to be careful with debt. Only go into debt if it is absolutely necessary. For example, debt may be needed to purchase a house or a car. Avoid high interest credit card debt. If you have to use a credit card try to pay it off as quickly as possible. It may even be better to secure a loan, rather than pay high interest credit card debt. If you do have credit card debt, by all means pay more than the minimum balance. If you have multiple credit card debts, work hard to pay off the one with the lowest balance. Once that is paid off, transfer that money that you were paying to the other credit card debts.
Pay your debts on time. It is a bad Christian testimony to pay your debts late, especially if this is a habit. If there are extenuating circumstances then you should talk to your creditors. If you are repaying a loan, depending on the type of loan, paying more than is due can reduce the interest payable. There is a tendency to pay the minimum that is due and to spend the money on other things; things that may not be important. Some people believe in saving the money, but usually the rate of loan interest is higher than the rate of return, so you’re actually losing money.
If you are married, talk about finances with your spouse. There are three major things that are sources of conflict in a marriage: sex, communication and money. It is a serious thing when financial problems lead to communication problems that lead to sex problems! It is important to discuss finances and come to an agreement about priorities and how money will be spent. Further, couples must have the right perspective – all income and expenses are to be shared. There is only one income – the two shall become one. This may include the husband and the wife both having an allowance that they could spend as they want without having to account for it.
Easton’s Bible Dictionary says the following about the tithe: “A tenth of the produce of the earth consecrated and set apart for special purposes. The dedication of a tenth to God was recognized as a duty before the time of Moses. Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek (Gen 14:20; Heb 7:6); and Jacob vowed unto the Lord and said, “Of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.” The Dictionary continues, “It cannot be affirmed that the Old Testament law of tithes is binding on the Christian Church, nevertheless the principle of this law remains, and is incorporated in the gospel (1 Cor 9:13,14); and if, as is the case, the motive that ought to prompt to liberality in the cause of religion and of the service of God be greater now than in Old Testament times, then Christians ought to go beyond the ancient Hebrew in consecrating both themselves and their substance to God.”
Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary has this to say, “In the Old Testament the purpose of the giving of a tenth was to meet the material need of the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless (the orphan), and the widow (Deut 26:12-13). The tithe was an expression of gratitude to God by His people. Basic to tithing was the acknowledgment of God’s ownership of everything in the earth. In the New Testament the words tithe and tithing appear only eight times (Matt 23:23; Luke 11:42; 18:12; Heb 7:5-6,8-9). All of these passages refer to Old Testament usage and to current Jewish practice. Nowhere does the New Testament expressly command Christians to tithe. However, as believers we are to be generous in sharing our material possessions with the poor and for the support of Christian ministry. Christ Himself is our model in giving. Giving is to be voluntary, willing, cheerful, and given in the light of our accountability to God. Giving should be systematic and by no means limited to a tithe of our incomes. We recognize that all we have is from God. We are called to be faithful stewards of all our possessions (Rom 14:12; 1 Cor 9:3-14; 16:1-3; 2 Cor 8:1-9:15).”
There are three essential purposes for giving: to bless the work of the church, to provide materially for the ministers of the church and to help those that are in need. Regardless of what we believe about the tithe, we can still conclude the following. God expects us to give for the support of the ministry. He expects us to give generously. There are times where we are called to give sacrificially. God expects us to give consistently. He expects that we give special gifts for special needs. Giving is an essential part of our worship. In places where revival is happening, people give freely and generously to the work of God. In the developed West where the church is dying, people give little. It has been statistically proven that the wealthier the church is, the less it tends to give; this is largely because of a spirit of materialism.
Mistakes and Challenges
One of the challenges that Barbados faces at this moment is economic recession, which is resulting in job terminations. For all of us, perhaps some of these principles can help. Make every effort to save; if at all possible, try to have six months income set aside. Most of us live from paycheck to paycheck, but that makes us vulnerable to life’s financial fluctuations. Examine your expenses and see where you can reduce. There may be some services that you don’t need or really can no longer afford. Limit your spending – some things may not be needed. There is a mindset: have money, must spend. We must rid ourselves of that philosophy and cut out the frivolous spending.
Consider ways of generating extra income. Some of us have money earning gifts/abilities/talents. Colonel Sanders was in his 60s when he started Kentucky Fried Chicken. Get away from thinking that you have a job for life. In an age of globalism and increased competitiveness, job security can be an oxymoron. Make yourself hirable by really knowing your job – be on top of your field/profession so that employers would want to hire you. Make yourself hirable by investing in self-development – cultivating the right habits, cross training, developing right attitudes and reading. Another way to make yourself hirable is by investing in educational development such as on-the-job training, professional development courses and degrees. Work on your résumé; this is an area that you can get someone to help you with. If you are terminated, try to get rehired as soon as possible; don’t wait for unemployment benefits to run out and make sure to get references from your former boss.
There are other mistakes that we can make in relation to money. One such mistake is spending all of your income especially when your expenses are few. Some young people have begun to work but are still living at home with their parents. They may not have any bills to pay. Instead of spending money foolishly, they can begin to save and invest. Another mistake is having the wrong priorities in your spending – e.g. wanting the latest cell phone, Ipad, excessive travelling, essentially spending money on things that are not important. A critical mistake that is often too common is going into unnecessary debt – wanting something too quickly rather than taking the time to save the money. The final mistake I want to mention is destroying your health in pursuit of the “American dream.” Some people are workaholics; others become stressed out trying to attain what others have. Chronic illnesses are on the increase because people are destroying their bodies as they feverishly run the rat race.
As the people of God, we are kingdom people. God desires to bless us. There is nothing wrong with prosperity if we manage the money the way God wants us to manage it. The Bible indicates that we are blessed to be a blessing. Life is not to be measured by how much we keep, but by how much we give away to bless others. We must always trust God as our Jehovah-jireh and bring Him glory by how we spend “our” money (really God’s money). Commit your life to God then He will show you, based on His Word, and His specific plan for your life, how to manage His money.