As a young girl there was something about winning a trophy or being recognized as achieving something that made all the hard work worth it. It still holds true with me today, but my achievements don’t always look the same. While I still aim for trophies in the extracurricular activities in my life, there are other achievements that you don’t receive a trophy for in a physical sense. Although our heavenly reward is truly my focus when it comes to achieving something, that’s not exactly what this article is about.
How should a Christian view the responsibility that comes with money? It’s a very serious topic because all of us need money. We may not make it our life’s ambition, but we need money to survive, therefore it’s important to know how to use it in a way that brings God glory and keeps my mind from the dangers it possesses.
Paul instructed Timothy about how to help Christians deal with money in 1 Timothy 6:9-10, “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
So that’s the objective – direct money where I want it to go rather than having it pull me down. Every time I read that passage I think of a river and its strong current. If you know where to stand in the river you’ll be fine. It’s when you wander off deeper than you thought or in the wrong spot that you begin to get yourself in a mess.
What makes our perspective different from those outside of Christ? It’s what’s on the other side that makes our perspective different. Our goals shape our journey, and the journey is defined by the commitment we have to our goals.
Money is a tool that can be used to do powerful things in the name of God. Unfortunately, there are many people that equate wealth to sinfulness. But even Paul reminds Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:17, “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.” Notice the different focus a Christian is supposed to have concerning their money. Too many people– Christians included– make obtaining wealth the goal of life. That dangerous current that will take control of you and sweep you down the river.
Fortunately, God has never had an issue with money, just the idolization of it. He enjoys blessing His children with all kinds of gifts, money included. So why would He give one person money and not another? There’s a fundamental understanding of money that needs to be practiced in order to “make sure that your character is free from the love of money.” That is “being content with what you have” according to Hebrews 13:5. Contentment comes through discipline.
You can know where the difficult parts are located in that river and you can learn how to maneuver around them. When you’re standing on the river you have four choices. You either jump in, wade in carefully, build a bridge, or give up. Which one describes your method? You might be one of the millions that simply don’t have, or didn’t know you were supposed to have a plan with your money.
It takes action to reach a goal. Building wealth is no different. And as Paul said, you must “fix your hope… on God.” In other words, make service to God your goal and then you direct your money to achieve your goal. Here are a few things that are essential to gaining control of the “currency” in your life.
You have to set some basics up in your life: you must budget. Without a budget you can’t have any control of what money comes in and what money goes out. There are lots of resources available that help you get started on making and maintaining a budget. The key is perseverance and consistency. It doesn’t always work out picture perfect but the plan will help you measure your success and identify your failures.
For a ton of resources just type in “budgeting resources” and nearly every search engine will come up with a plethora of sites to choose from. The nice thing about budgeting is that there are several ways to set up your budget. However, the more conservative budget plans will help you practice the discipline you’ll need to stay in control of your money.
There’s always the risk that once you achieve one milestone you’ll take the extra money you saved or earned and blow it on something that ends up setting you back. Many people have adopted financial experts’ (like Dave Ramsey’s) concepts to help determine how their budget should look. Ultimately, every budget needs to have an exhaustive list of all monies that flow into the household and it needs to record all monies that flow out of the household.
At this point is where some budget plans may differ. As a child of my Heavenly Father, I believe that God should always receive the first portion of anything that you’ve been blessed with financially. God has given us that money; it’s His. Deliberately avoiding giving back to God is similar to stealing (read the book of Malachi). He asks that we be generous to those in need. It’s not necessarily about avoiding His wrath, but realizing you must respect the blessings He’s given you and understand that those blessings carry some responsibilities. Are you up to the challenge?
Another thing in gaining control of your money is to plan for mishaps and emergencies. We all know things pop up that we didn’t plan on. When an emergency fund is in place it keeps you from having a financial crisis in addition to whatever else you’re going through.
Peter tells us to “prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, and fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13). Although he is not be singling out financial disasters, it definitely is included in that preparation. Did you know that the number one cause for divorce is money? That one of the top reasons for committing suicide is because of money? That a majority of crimes committed are because of money? You may not feel subject to any of those things, but the truth is that a financial crisis can suck you into the strong current faster than you think. Be prepared by planning for those instances.
Typically you can plan for $1,000 in an emergency fund. It needs to be the first thing you do to get to the other side of the river. Eliminating extra expenses, even temporarily, can usually allow you to accumulate that much money within two to three months or less. Then… don’t touch it. Period. Unless it’s a qualified emergency. Make sure it’s in a place you can’t get to on a whim, but could access in an emergency. Remember to practice self-control.
Part of sticking to a budget is… sticking to it. Take some time to develop a realistic goal. Make it obtainable. Begin slowly if necessary, then work your way into it deeper. Just like crossing a deep, fast-flowing river. Wade in until you feel where the current could be stronger than you can handle.
This is very symbolic of your faith. Paul said of himself in Philippians 3:12-14:
“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (ESV).
I hope you can see the parallel here. We strive for a prize that is defined by discipline and has to be saturated in self-control. Once we’ve dedicated ourselves to that goal then we keep working at it with as much diligence as we can muster. The more we focus on our goal, the more we realize we can actually get closer to it.
I like what Paul says in 2 Timothy 1:7 where we read about the kind of nature he’s given us, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline” (NAS).
It’s the lack of discipline that gets most people in bad financial situations anyways, so once you figure out how to exercise discipline in the way you do things, the more control you’ll realize is there. Only be sure that you recognize where that control comes from. Paul said in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” I hope that reminds you that when your focus is glorifying God in everything that you do– your money included– that you’ll be led by God in an amazing way. The reward is worth it.
That leads me to that last point for this article. Be a giver. That should be the goal of wealth. We don’t want to become people who hoard everything for ourselves or become so concerned that we may have lost a dollar here or there that we become hardened to the idea of giving back in all kinds of ways. It’s an awesome feeling to give without restraint.
I’ve heard people say, “I don’t want to be rich because of the temptation. It’s better for me to be poor to keep me faithful.” However isn’t that limiting God? Contentment is the key. It’s not about having lots of zeroes behind your balance at the bank; it’s about using every dollar to the glory of God. The more dollars, the more God MAY use that area of your life to bless others.
The difficulty is recognizing your own weakness on your pursuit to financial freedom. It’s easy to justify putting 100% of your efforts to getting rich and then claim it’s for God’s glory; however as Jesus said in Matthew 7:17, “…every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.” When you want to help people as an expression of the wonderful grace you’ll receive on the day you stand before your Heavenly Father, then whether you’re mega-wealthy or barely making it you’ll be excited about extending a small portion of that grace to other souls.
Although there are some people in this world who view wealth as sinful, I believe that with a clearer understanding of finances we can realize the tremendous blessings that God gives those who seek him like a treasure. The funny thing is that our treasures are more powerful when He’s directing their destination more than we are. Let God use you through His blessing of money that He’s put in your life.
Remember the goal is to get across the river to the biggest goal of all. How will you do it? Where will you cross? You got to get to the other side; staying on the far bank is not a choice. Three out of four choices will get you over there. Some may take longer than you think, but at the end it’s a blessing to be standing on the other side of the river in a position to help. Make an effort. Be a blessing. It may take small steps and you may have to go down the river bank to find the narrow crossings, but it’s worth the work.
By Jade Benson
Jade is a stay-at-home mom of three children and married to Kelley who preaches at the Stuart church of Christ in Stuart, Oklahoma. Before being able to stay at home, she was a high school science teacher for six years. She enjoys running, hiking, and staying out of debt.