The ability to manage our finances is critical to our Christian witness. God has given us an eternal mandate to be stewards of the resources He has placed in the earth. One of these resources is, of course, money.
In the Garden of Eden, God commanded Adam to withhold himself from a portion of the Garden’s bounty. Why would God give such a command? Because God wanted Adam to acknowledge that He was the owner of everything that had been put under Adam’s care. God wanted Adam to realize that he was simply the steward of the Lord’s resources.
The same thing is true for us today. If we’re to be successful money managers, we must remember, first and foremost, that God is the true owner of all we have. We must recognize that now, as in the Garden of Eden, the whole world in all its fullness belongs to Him (Ps. 50:12). How do we acknowledge His ownership? By tithing.
The next key of biblical money management is to write the vision or to make a written financial plan called a budget. I realize “budget” is a dirty word to a lot of people, but it is an absolute must if you want to prosper. God isn’t going to put great amounts of wealth into your hands if you have holes in your pocket.
Another biblical key to money management is to steer clear of rocky ground.
Financially speaking, borrowing money puts you on rocky ground. Like the seed that sprang up quickly but withered, buying things on credit gives you an illusion of instant prosperity. But since it has no roots, when times get hard and the heat is turned up, that kind of prosperity will disappear. Am I saying you should never borrow money? No, but I am saying you should never be in debt.
You see, there is a difference between borrowing and debt. Borrowing is entering into a contractual agreement to pay someone a certain amount of money within a specified period of time. Indebtedness is incurred when you fail to keep your agreement. It is that type of indebtedness the apostle Paul was referring to when he said, “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another” (Rom. 13:8 NIV).
How can you keep from falling prey to such debt? You do it by avoiding the kind of credit God says is wrong. Proverbs 22:26 warns us about that kind of credit. It says, “Be not thou one of them that strike hands, or of them that are sureties for debts.”
Although this scripture makes it plain you should not cosign a note for someone else, it’s also saying you should not personally guarantee any loan. If you borrow to purchase an asset, the asset itself should have enough collateral value to support the loan without your personal endorsement.
It’s sad how many Christians ignore the Bible’s warning and plunge themselves into financial bondage through unscriptural borrowing. Most of them do it with credit cards—the greatest modern-day source of surety. With just their signatures, they buy thousands of dollars worth of rapidly depreciating items, which have no collateral value. With high interest and penalties, such credit card debts can take years to pay off.
During those years, the Christian borrower becomes the servant of the non-Christian lender (Pro. 22:7). To his sorrow, he finds he is unable to be God’s faithful steward because he owes more than he can pay.
If you’re in that position right now, you’re probably feeling very discouraged. But don’t despair. There is a way out. God has the power to free you from your debts and prosper you beyond anything you can ask or imagine.
But you must realize it will require a change in lifestyle. There’s no benefit in getting out of debt if you don’t take steps to change the pattern of free spending that put you there in the first place. There are seven steps to freedom.
Step #1 is to tithe, to return ten percent of your gross income before taxes to the Lord. Your tithe qualifies you to be a steward and makes the whole debt-reduction process possible.
Step #2 is to have a written plan that addresses your particular situation. Review it every day to keep your vision of debt reduction in front of you. The major part of this plan should be a budget structured to limit your spending to essentials. Everything else goes into debt reduction.
Step #3 may surprise you. It involves setting aside part of your income to give as an offering. An offering is a gift that is over and above your tithe, which you give to God of your own free will. Your offering is the seed God uses to multiply your finances supernaturally. It sets in motion the principle found in Luke 6:38: “Give and it shall be given to you; good measure, pressed down and shaken together and running over.”
One word of caution though: there must be a balance here. I’ve seen Christians in financial bondage grab hold of that scripture, and give away literally everything they have and then go bankrupt. Although they mean well, they are actually disobeying God by defaulting on their debts and that makes it difficult for God to bless them.
How much should you set aside for offerings? You must follow the promptings of the Lord, of course, but apart from special direction from Him, if you’re still in debt, a good guideline for offerings is about three percent of your net income.
Step #4 is to spend for essentials only. Purchase what is required to meet your basic needs rather than simply buying whatever you want. For example, you might want steak, but you can get by with chicken or hamburger.
One crucial key to controlling your spending is to avoid impulse buying. You should never buy anything outside your established budget unless you’ve waited 24 hours, prayed about it, and discussed it with your spouse.
Even then, before you buy, ask yourself three important questions. Do you really need it? Have you shopped around for the best deal? How much is it going to cost you to maintain? These will keep you from buying something you’ll regret later.
Step #5 is to discontinue credit buying altogether and operate on a cash-only basis. Take a pair of scissors, cut your credit cards into little pieces, and praise God with every snip.
Step #6 is to total up all your debts and assign to each of your accounts an equal portion of the amount you have budgeted for debt reduction. If you have set aside $400 a month, for instance, and you have five accounts to pay, each account gets $80.
Step #7 is to communicate with your creditors and ask them to cooperate with your debt-reduction plan. Tell them about your situation, outline your strategy, and express your commitment to paying what you owe. You may be surprised at their willingness to cooperate.
Once you’ve made that contact, communicate regularly to reassure your creditors you’re following through and to thank them for their patience. Before long, they’ll tell you they trust you and there’s really no need for you to keep calling.
If you follow these seven steps and are diligent in your efforts to get out of debt, it won’t be long before God will show Himself strong on your behalf. He will multiply your offerings and may even bless you with a chunk of money that allows you to pay off things faster. He will increase the level of your prosperity because you’ve proven you can handle it.
Once you’ve demonstrated that you can be faithful over little, He’ll be able to make you ruler over much. And since God takes pleasure in the prosperity of His servants, that will make both you and the Lord very, very happy!