I’ve heard it said that you can tell the spiritual maturity of a man by looking at his checkbook or his credit card statements. Well, how do yours look? What do they reveal about you…and your spiritual maturity? What would another person see if they were allowed a peek at your checkbook? Would they see checks written to missionaries, to your church, or to charities? Would they see checks written to cover the necessities of life, the needs of your family, and your children’s education? Or, would they be staring at a long log of checks written for indulgences, excesses, frivolities, fun … you know, toys? To prevent money from controlling your life more than it should, try these six little things that can make a big difference:
Money Management is a Spiritual Issue
1. Give to God first
In the Old Testament, God’s people were commanded to offer the first portion of their crops to God as a tribute to His abundant provision. In the New Testament, too, we are to give according to how we “prosper” (1 Corinthians 16:2). But the principle of “giving off the top” — the firstfruits — is a good way you and your wife can acknowledge your trust in God’s provision for you and your family, not only today but also for the future. (And, considering the weakness and selfishness of man-kind, there probably won’t be anything left to give God from the “bottom!”) So give to God first. Then trust that “God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8).
2. Have a budget
Most financial experts say the starting point for money management is having a budget. Without a budget, you and your wife will probably buy things that are not essential. A plan for saving and spending gives the two of you boundaries and defines what’s important. Just purchase a standard “Household Budget” workbook and start following the directions. But the real key to a budget is making it together with your wife and being in agreement as to what’s in and what’s not in your budget. Then you can hold each other accountable and celebrate and enjoy the benefits that having — and sticking to — a budget brings your way.
3. Pray over major purchases
Since the money you are to manage is really God’s money, shouldn’t He be consulted as to how you spend it? Hopefully you and your wife have already committed your budget to the Lord. The two of you have prayed about what should be included in your monetary plan. Therefore, if something is in the budget, you don’t necessarily need to pray about it again (although that’s a good practice). So this point of praying over major purchases has to do with non-budgeted purchases. You and your wife will want to pray for answers to questions like, “How will this purchase impact our budget? Can the purchase of a newer car be delayed by fixing the ‘clunker’ just one more time?” These are the kinds of prayers and questions that are necessary when making decisions about major purchases.
4. Get organized
Finances are complicated, even with the simplest of incomes. You and your wife should institute a financial filing system to keep track of important documents and financial statements. So purchase an accordion file folder with slots for each month of the year. Then drop your bills into the month they are due. As the bills are paid, drop in the receipts. At the end of the year you have everything handy in one place that you need for tax purposes.
5. Declare a “day of fasting” from spending money
In Bible times, fasting usually applied to food and was a religious exercise. Because those who fasted were not eating, their interests were diverted from the physical realm to the spiritual life. Similarly, when you implement a money-fast, you allow your interests to be turned from the “stuff” of life to the “staff of life.” And, as an added benefit, you and your wife come one day closer to staying within your budget. Now, that’s a praise! So take calendar in hand, pick a day, and proclaim it “a day of fasting.”
6. Make a list of ways to cut expenses
You and your wife should realize that your finances are a reflection of your spiritual condition. Isn’t self-control a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:23)? And aren’t you a steward of God’s money? Whether you have enough money or not, then cutting expenses will do you good. If you don’t have enough money, trimming your costs will give you back some of what you need. To get started, take your new budget in hand and together see what you and your wife can lop off and live without. If you have a sufficiency of money, cutting expenses to give more to God will help you and your wife to “set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2).
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