What comes to mind when you hear the words budget or managing money? I suspect your initial reaction depends on your current state of finances; those will little will view those two terms far different than those who have plenty.
My Brief Financial Testimony
When My husband and I were first married, we were desperately poor. I am talking wandering the grocery having to figure out how to feed a family of 4 for a week on $25.00, riding a bike to work because we didn’t have gas money or the car broke down, rolling pennies to pay for diapers, missing birthday parties, and family functions because we didn’t have money for gifts or extra food to contribute, losing friends because we couldn’t afford to do the fun family outings they frequently wanted to do.
We were almost as financially low as you can go (“almost” because although a few of our homes were questionable, we were never homeless). We were constantly working our tails off to turn our situation around. But working in our own strength using the worlds financial principles just seemed to keep up buried.
During this time, Mike and I got saved. One of the first things God did was to put a craving in my husband to seek out what the Bible had to say about finances. As we learned God’s principles, we began to intentionally make changes. It wasn’t always easy mostly because Mike was 100% on board but I was slower to release my tightly held grip on the world’s ways.
At one point during this time period, Mike and I had a big blowup over money. That was over 26 years ago and I still remember it like it was yesterday. In a nutshell, I am not a money person. Numbers give me hives. I really don’t do well with abstract concepts and was determined that we had to have a budget and record where our money was going. I needed to SEE it in black and white. But I tend to get lost in details with overwhelm chasing after me.
But just as strongly, my husband disagreed with my plan of attack. He is amazing with numbers and has been blessed with a mind able to see small details and the big picture at the same time. Mike admitted it was too overwhelming for him to see in black and white how buried in debt we were. He wasn’t being irresponsible. He could always tell you to the penny about our finances. Besides, as he rightly pointed out, managing money we didn’t have wasn’t possible. We had nothing to record in black and white.
God used those very statements as my turning point. I began to see that God sees money and owing someone far different than I had been taught. Take a look at what I mean:
“Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.” (Romans 13:7-8 NLT)
Baby step by baby step we moved forward to conquer the financial giant in our life. It was that simple and that hard. Positive changes didn’t happen overnight. In some cases, things seemed to get worse before getting better. It took months and years of hard work, dedication, and faithfulness to reach the point God had directed us to be: the financial freedom of being debt-free.
A Slave To Debt is Not God’s Plan For His Children
Regardless of having a little or a lot, as a Christian, we have to handle our finances God’s way if we want to see his blessings in this area. I’m not talking Prosperity Gospel here. Not even close. If you’ve not heard of it, Prosperity Gospel is a popular teaching in some circles. Among other things, the basis of this teaching that God blesses those he loves. If you aren’t financially blessed, you aren’t in God’s favor. That is so wrong on so many levels.
But what I want to share with you is God’s biblical principles for managing money. These principles apply to all Christians regardless of your financial status or where you are in your walk.
You have a choice to follow the word of God even in this. When it comes to money, the world says you should follow your heart and do what makes you happy because “you deserve it”. Encouragement to indulge and splurge is everywhere. If this is the path you choose to follow with managing money, you will never be in a position for God to break the stronghold of financial bondage.
(Just a quick note: Financial bondage doesn’t just apply to the poor. You can be in financial bondage regardless of how much money you make. Having more is almost like a sickness with some people. They never think they have enough and worry constantly about keeping it and getting more.)
Managing Money God’s Way
Your Money Isn’t Really Yours
Your money isn’t yours to do with as you wish; you are a steward of this gift. This is a mindset that only God can help you with. He isn’t interested in your hoarding your funds so you can have the biggest bank account when you die (Matthew 6:19-21). He doesn’t even want your money. What he wants is your heart, your obedience, and to see how you bless others with the gift of money he blesses you with.
Money is nothing to God. You can’t buy your way into salvation, buy a single one of God’s blessings, or buy your way out of death (Psalm 49).
Regardless of the amount of money you have, release it back into God’s hands to do with as he will. You do this by asking God to create in you a new heart. A heart that isn’t seeking money but him. Ask him to reveal who he would like you to bless. Sometimes he will want you to bless someone financially and sometimes he will want you to bless them with other gifts he has given you. The point is you must be open to his leading and willing to obey.
Where Is Your Focus, Your Vision
Once you understand that your money isn’t yours, you have to have a vision, an idea, a direction. Without knowledge (vision), the people are destroyed (perish) (Hosea 4:6 and Proverbs 29:18). But you can’t just pull a vision out of your pretty little hat. Ask God to reveal to you his vision for your finances. Then listen for his gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:12). We expect our answers from God to be of earthquake, windstorm, or firestorm proportions but that’s not always the case. Get alone with God, get quiet, and listen.
Ask God for details of his vision for your family. He wants you to be wise with knowledge and understanding so don’t be surprised at the amount of detail he shares. Then share your vision with your spouse. You need to both be on board (Luke 11:17). Pray over your vision together; pray that God would help you to have open hands to receive AND give. Don’t forget to pray to resist temptations to stray from the vision.
Write your vision down (along with any verses God gives you) so that you can refer to it when doubts creep in and your faith is low. Because you have determined to manage your finances God’s way, the enemy will attack, tempt, and distort God’s truth. Base your financial decisions on whether or not it will help you reach your God-given vision.
You Will Reap What You Sow
Reaping and sowing is one of God’s principles that you can’t get around. It plays into all his other principles (2 Corinthians 9:6-8). A perfect example is “give and it will be given to you” (Luke 6:38). This verse is used a lot just before the plate is passed at church but this verse doesn’t just apply to money. It applies to all things in the spiritual and physical.
If God blesses you with something (like money, possessions, or spiritual gifts) and you refuse to use your blessing to bless others (James 2:15-16, Luke 3:11-14), you will suffer consequences. Read the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30.
This doesn’t mean you should give everything away out of fear of God’s hammer coming down. Remember, God is detailed and has a plan already in place for your family. Just because someone has a need doesn’t mean God wants you to fill that need this time. He may have picked someone else to do it. This is where prayer and discernment come into play. Giving (and receiving) begins in the heart and mind then flow into your actions.
Tithing And Offering Aren’t Dirty Words
Tithing and offerings are another financial principle God uses to bless. Who you tithe to or where you give an offering is between you and God. But as we already learned, the money is not yours. God has blessed you with it so that you can do his will. You need to be open to God and allow him to show you who (and how) he wants you to bless (1 Timothy 6:18). You are to give because he has given to you. Period.
God has used tithing to demonstrate to Mike and me his principle of sowing and reaping. Many are taught that tithing is only to be given to your home church. There is some truth to that but please don’t limit your giving to the church. All money is God’s to do with as he wishes, and God isn’t contained to a church building. Just be faithful to give tithes and as the opportunity presents, give an offering.
Don’t get caught up in thinking that tithing and offerings are a way your Pastor wants to take your money so he has more and more. Don’t even let your thinking go down that lie of a rabbit hole. Quite frankly, what your Pastor does or doesn’t do with your tithe (or offering) is not your business. You don’t get to dictate what happens with that money.
Once you spiritually and physically release those funds (regardless of who you give it to), it is no longer your business. God is not ignorant or blind. If they misuse the funds, God knows and will deal with them just as he will deal with you if you choose to steal from him.
If God impresses upon you to bless someone, don’t worry if they don’t appear to be a Christian. God may be using your blessing to get their attention and draw them to him. Let the Holy Spirit do his mighty work. You focus on obeying because complete obedience to God is not optional.
When you are out in public, find ways to bless others even if you think you have nothing to give. There are always those who have less than you have. But don’t just hand money off. Always pray over it first.
As you are out to eat, look around and ask God if there is anyone present he wants you to bless. It could be your waiter, the old couple sharing a meal, the young couple outnumbered by their kids, the lonely man off by himself…don’t discount anyone regardless of their outward appearance. God knows what is going on in their life and who needs his blessing at that very moment.
Anyway, quietly talk to your waiter and tell him that you want to bless this person. Make it clear that you want it done quietly. Ask the waiter to pass on to them whatever message God puts on your heart specifically for this person. Make it short and sweet (God loves you and is thinking of you for example). Leave the waiter money for their meal and maybe even the tip. Or pay for them to have dessert added to their meal…whatever you feel led to do. Then pay for your own meal and quietly leave. Let God do what he does best.
Please, please, please don’t be like some and tell others what you have done or put it on social media! I know everyone likes the pats on the back when you announce you “paid it forward” but you know what friend? DON”T DO THAT! Read Matthew 6:1-4. God has his reasons for wanting to bless this person and for choosing YOU to bless them. No amount of fist bumps can come close to the blessings God will bestow on you because you obeyed his desire to bless.
Little Things Matter And Take Time To Grow
The Bible talks a lot about seed time and harvest. A seed is small. Harvest time varies according to the seed. But if tended to properly and allowed to grow to maturity, that little seed can produce a mighty harvest. That harvest has the ability to produce many more fields of crops down the road. All from one tiny seed.
God adds to and builds upon as you show yourself faithful and obedient. Again, this is a godly principle that applies to more than your finances. For example, God will test your faithfulness in little ways. If you aren’t obedient with the little God gives, he will not bless you with more (Luke 16:10-11). Your faith is another area that starts out small and takes time to grow.
Your financial blessing can seem so small, like a handful of coins. But that handful of coins can quickly add up to be much more significant. It’s not the amount of change that God is looking at, it is your obedience and faith in his process. What if God blessed you will a lot of change and you collected it. Then when your bucket became full you turned it into the bank to pay off a bill, or better yet, you used that bucket full of money to sow into someone’s life.
As God blesses you, don’t run out to spend what you have. Pray over it. Look at your vision and plan. If you run out to spend it because you’ve had a hard week and you deserve a reward, your little will not develop into a lot. You will be digging that seed up out of your own field before it can become harvest.
Live By Faith
Things of God are considered strange and confusing to the unsaved (1 Corinthians 2:14, Isaiah 44:18, John 1:5, Luke 8:10). Even Christians who have not sought God for a revelation on how to manage money his way will be confused by your actions. But don’t let that bother you. You just do what God has told you to do, how he has told you to do it, and he will take care of the rest.
I know first hand how hard all this is because it takes faith and conviction to go against the grain and manage your money God’s way. Satan will always send someone to attack what you are doing. Or he will use your own thoughts to torment you. This is why God tells us to put on our armor. When you don’t see immediate results in your finances, you need to be able to walk out your faith by your actions. (James 2:14-17)
In 1 Kings 17, God sent birds to feed the prophet, Elijah. It took faith to take off on his own. Do you think he thought he was out in the sun too long when God told him to eat what the birds brought him? But God provided.
Also in 1 Kings 17, God told the widow to feed the prophet he was sending. He gave her a vision (instructions and a plan). She was at the last of her supplies and instead of making food for herself and her son, she was commanded to make that food to feed the prophet. She obeyed and (v15) she, Elijah, and her son continued to eat from her supplies for many days.
But no matter how much they used, there was always enough left over for next time. I’m sure God’s plan didn’t make sense to this woman but she made the choice to live in faith. And God provided.
Your real life application will be specific to you and your circumstances. It could be that God is calling you to quit your job and stay home with your children. That may not make sense to you financially but you will have to seek God and walk it out in faith trusting him to provide.
He might be speaking to you about stepping out in a ministry of some sort. Or a potential move across the country, or homeschooling your children…the way God wants you to walk out your faith is between you and him but have no doubt he has made a way along whatever path he is calling you to.
Be Content In All Situations
Being content means to be in a state of peaceful happiness. It doesn’t mean you will settle or never move forward. It means you learn to enjoy the season you are in and not overly stress over the next (or last) season. The “secret” to doing this is putting your focus on Christ and trusting that he will take care of you regardless of what is going on around you (Matthew 6:31-33).
You will become a slave to whatever masters you (2 Peter 2:19). You can chase after money and never catch enough. It can become your god controlling your every thought. Sweet sister, money will come and money will go. That’s life. If you are always scrambling to get it or hold onto it, you aren’t living the life God has intended for you. You will not prosper, grow, or be a blessing to others.
When you are content you take time to enjoy life knowing that someday, when God has everything the way it needs to be, he will grow and prosper you. In the meantime, you need the confidence to know that he will provide. Your hope and peace rest in God, not in money or possessions that may be stolen or moth-eaten.
It’s like waiting impatiently until your kids are older to begin enjoying your life. Suddenly they are grown and out of the house and you realize you don’t have a life because your world focused solely on them, you let your friendships and hobbies lapse, and surprisingly, you somehow aged too.
The mindset to be content in all situations is a mindset you can (and should) pray for. You can have an empty bank account and still enjoy life. Your current life situation is like Ohio’s weather…unpredicatable and never the same for long. And don’t forget, your kids will quickly pick up on your attitude towards money and life.
Ask God to help you learn to live at or below your income. Ask him to help you with your impatience and discontent. If you need to, ask him to help you gain control of your shopping habits and bless you with wisdom and understanding in this area. As your income grows (and under God’s authority it will), continue this practice. You don’t have to force yourself to do without or suffer.
Some Final Thoughts
No two journeys are the same. However, God’s financial principles do not change. All throughout the Bible, God has always been more interested in prospering the hearts of his people, not showering them with wealth. If he so chooses, God could bless each of his children with immeasurable wealth right this very second. But how then would we learn to lean on God in our need? How would our faith have a chance to grow? How would we learn to love those who have less than (or more) than we have?
In my case, I wouldn’t trade what my family went through for anything. God was our only hope and he had to teach us about managing money his way. By setting aside our pride and allowing God to take us from desperate to debt-free, he taught us to rely on him in all areas; jobs fell through, illness happened, our families had problems of their own and couldn’t help, and more than our fair share of trouble came our way no matter how hard we worked to get ahead. Early in our marriage, we were dirt poor but throughout the past 26 years, God never left our side or left us without (Philippians 4:11-13). How amazing is that?!? And my family is not unique. What he did for us, he longs to do for you.
Although I share tidbits of my financial journey with you, I strongly encourage you to get in the word for yourself and ask God to show you what he has to say about finances, particularly how to manage money his way. God will meet you where YOU are at and take you where HE wants you to be.