By Clarence Burton
An usher was passing the offering plate at a large church wedding. One of those attending looked up, quite puzzled. Without waiting for the question the usher nodded his head and said, “l know it’s quite unusual, but the groom requested it.” Perhaps that’s a good way to start the marriage. (Just joking.)
“Money! Money! Money! That’s all I hear.” Elvira said to the counselor as she and her husband sat in his office. Money problems are common to many families.
A survey was made of 100 families, with one of the questions asking, “What is the most common family problem?” Eighty-two out of the 100 stated, “Financial.”
What’s the answer to this problem? As simple as it sounds, “Spend less than you make.” If the outgo is more than the income, obviously there will be a problem.
Let’s look at this from a realistic, practical viewpoint and note four statements that make sense.
1. All of us have limited resources. (Some families have larger incomes than others, but all have limited resources.)
2. There are more alternatives (uses of money) than money available. (A walk through the shopping mall describes this in picture form.)
3. Today’s decision determines destiny. (When the item is purchased, the money is spent.)
4. Purchase only that which can be bought within your financial resources. (Financial maturity is being able to give up today’s desire for future benefits.)
These four ideas can be formed into this one “Financial Planning is allocating limited financial resources among various unlimited alternatives.” There are more things to buy than the money to buy with, so be wise in buying.
Some families never discuss money, or better, their financial problems. The quick answer is, God will provide. And with that, the house payment is made, the groceries bought, the insurance premiums paid and checks written until the bank account shows a debit. The well is dry!
Some folks may not say it, but unconsciously they may think, “God let us down.”But we know that He did not. He always does His part. He always keeps His promises. In this vein of thought let’s note some ways in which God can use money.
God’s Three Ways
- God can use money to strengthen our trust in Him. Jesus makes a statement and a promise in Matthew 6:33, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”
The Bible states in Philippians 4:19, “But my God shall supply ally our need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” These are irrevocable promises.
Illustration: A student is in college. He needs help with his tuition. Mr. Jones comes by and tells the student that he will pay the bill in one week. A week later Mr. Jones comes by and pays the bill. He does this for the next semester and the next. What does this do to the confidence the student has in Mr. Jones? It strengthens it.
The Christian who has served the Lord for a number of years has seen this happen several times. When a Christian is where God wants him to be, doing what God wants him to do and living the kind of life God wants him to live, God will provide! This is an irrevocable fact. God’s provisions strengthen our trust.
- God can use money to prove His love. In Matthew 7:11, Jesus makes the father/family relationship clear. The father assumes the responsibility of providing for the family. And He states, in essence, as our earthly father would give us good things, surely our heavenly Father would assume the same responsibility and privilege.
- God can use money to demonstrate His power over the resources of the world. Did the families of Israel leave Egypt empty-handed? Who moved upon the hearts of the Egyptians? It had to be God.
I can think of a classic example when an anonymous donor paid a large hospital bill for a Christian family in St. Louis, Missouri. To this day they do not know who paid it. God touched a person’s heart to give, that a need for one of his children would be met. He assumed that responsibility. Now with these principles in mind we can be assured that God can provide and that He will provide.
But some reading this may say, “l love God and I am living for God. Why am I in such a financial bind?” It could be one of two reasons: God may be leading you through the valley to draw you closer to Him, to strengthen your faith. (Some flowers grow in the valley that will not grow on top of the mountain.) Or, it could be that you are not managing your finances properly.
This leads me to a money management plan I saw that I like. It’s called the ABC’s of money management.
Be alert to how you spend, whatyou spend and whyyou spend. This will help avoid impulsive buying and buying just to keep up with the Joneses.
In making purchases two things should be considered. (1) Is it God’s will? (Don’t expect God to help meet the need to pay for an item that was purchased out of His will.) (2) Is the purchase necessary or is the motive selfish?
The credit card probably has as much to do with impulsive spending as any other thing. (Although I know the credit card has some strong benefits.) But most purchases that are made with the credit card should be made with the assurance that the item will be paid for shortly.
Most folks who work in money management discourage the use of the credit card, except for short-term purchases. Why? Because the concept behind the credit card is that the holder will buy more because of its convenience and easier buying. Many families have suffered unnecessary strain and frustration because of falling into the proverbial plastic pit. Be alert.
The husband and wife should work together in planning the family budget. (If the children are at the age to offer mature suggestions, it is well to consider them also.) As family members work together, they should be able to tame the budget. I will offer a simple guideline or plan for the budget.
A composition book or ledger may be used. In one section of the book show the income (weekly or monthly). In another section show the outgo or expenditures. Commonly these are called credit and debit. For the expenditures it would be well to use at least two columns, one for fixed and the other for variables.
For example, the tithe would come under fixed expenditure. (This is not normally thought of as expenditure, but rather an expression of our love and respect to God. But it should be listed as a fixed outgo, for one cannot honestly claim Matthew 6:33 nor Philippians 4:19 if the tithe is withheld.) Fixed expenditures also include food, housing, utilities, taxes and such.
Under the variables would be clothing, furniture, medical, dental, savings and the like. What is often referred to as hidden expenditures should be considered in the budget (medical, dental, entertainment). In a period of a year, no matter how tight the budget, be realistic: some money will be spent for these things.
Now, if at all possible, some money should be put into a savings plan. It may be small, very small, but budget to do this. As time goes by, this little seed savings can grow into a tree, and how glad you will be that you planted it several years ago.
The secret of preparing a budget is to make it balance. Don’t plan the outgo more than the income. I can hear someone say, “That would take a magician at our house.” It may appear that way, but we have someone greater than a magician and that is El Shaddai, The Great Provider.
Accepting the fact that God leads, guides, and directs His children—within that context—it is logical and scriptural to believe that God will provide. And within this entire concept and context it is logical to believe that God, who is the Provider, will provide the income to match the outgo. That is, the income the Lord has provided will take care of the Lord-directed expenditures.
This may be where the rubber meets the road. It can be difficult in the beginning to commit to follow the budget. But the benefits of being committed to the balanced budget will bring more lasting joy than temporary thrills that may come from impulsive and oftentimes unnecessary buying.
No doubt many couples would echo the words of this husband and wife, “Living within a disciplined budget has enriched our marriage. With freedom from unnecessary financial stress, we enjoy each other more and have more freedom in our service to the Lord.” Commit yourselves to the balanced budget.
I can hear someone say, “How about those unexpected, sudden expenses?” And they may come. If they do, it will not shatter our confidence in God. The “unexpected” for us is always the “expected” for God. It could be that we may need a nudge, or perhaps a jolt, that our impossibilities lead us to God’s possibilities.
What a joy to experience the Lord using a relative, a friend or perhaps someone unknown to supply a sudden, unexpected need. And we know that God can do that. But this does not eliminate the fact that when He provides an income through our place of labor or service, we should do our part in using that to meet our needs and enjoy living a life free from financial frustration.
Do marriage and money mix? Why sure, just like bread and butter or biscuits and gravy. The better the mixture, the better the taste.
Article adapted from Contact magazine, October 1987.