The war in Ukraine, soaring inflation, credit card debt is at an all-time high, is there a recession coming? The news is filled with noise that affects our wallets, and when we are not careful, our hearts.
Dealing with money can be a tricky thing, and yet it is one of the things Jesus talked the most about, reminding us we cannot serve both God and money (Matthew 6:24). How do we avoid becoming the “third soil,” whose heart is so distracted by the world that we fail to mature and bear fruit (Luke 8:14)?
Decades ago, I was told by Pat Gempel that I needed to get out of debt in order to participate on a mission team. It took me a very long time to learn how to deal with money properly.
Since then, my husband and I (mostly me) racked up over $80,000 of non-mortgage debt of car loan, credit cards, second mortgage. We then learned how to manage our money and paid off all our debt, and now I work as a money coach helping Christians to get focused, gain control and make a plan for their money.
Here are four important steps to gaining control over your finances:
Remember the Lord
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” – James 1:17
Everything we have is from God – it’s all his, and he delights in blessing us. He chooses to provide for our needs (and many of our wants) because he loves us.
Make giving a part of your mindset and lifestyle
My personal favorite verse about giving is in Psalm 116:12, “What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me?”
I love this verse because it reminds me that when I give to God, I’m really just saying, “Thank you for all my blessings.”
When we give to support our local church or missions or HOPE worldwide, we are giving back to God what he has already given to us. I love being able to encourage God when I make my missions goal or give faithfully every week.
But giving needs to go beyond just our weekly contribution. Just as God has blessed us with spiritual gifts so that we can encourage and build up others, our material possessions and money have been given to us by God to bless others.
Make a budget/spending plan
“But the noble make noble plans, and by noble deeds they stand.” – Isaiah 32:8
A budget or spending plan that you follow is your best defense against financial uncertainties. When you make a budget before payday, you are telling your money where to go. It doesn’t mean that you have to cut out all fun, luxuries and non-essentials. It does mean deciding in advance how much you are going to spend on the necessities and the discretionary items, so that you are doing all that you can do to be able to give, save and not overspend.
This is the simplest and most effective thing to do to make whatever money you have go farther. It may not be easy, and most of us were not taught how to budget in school, but it is a skill we can learn.
If you don’t make a plan, then you might get all your bills paid (or you might not), but there is often a lot of money spent on frivolous/unplanned items.
It took me a long time to be willing to make a budget, as I always felt that a budget was a big meanie telling me NO all the time. But learning how to build a budget my husband and I both felt great about changed our finances, as well as our communication, our marriage and our ability to be effective in the Kingdom of God.
Get a conviction about debt
“The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.” – Proverbs 22:7
Until I took a financial wellness class, I had never really considered what our credit card and other debts were doing to us. But we were enslaved by it – we couldn’t plan vacations, coming up with money for Special Missions was a challenge and we felt broke all the time, even though we had enough money coming in.
But my favorite perspective on debt comes from Deuteronomy, where Moses tells the Israelites his last words before they enter the promised land. In two different places (Deuteronomy 15:6 and 28:12), Moses describes the future prosperity of Israel with the words: “…you will lend to many nations and borrow from none.”
If this touches you or speaks to your situation, take heart! Learning how to deal with our finances is not difficult, but it does require diligence.
You could ask your church ministry staff or your Bible Talk leader to arrange for teaching on the basics of budgeting and finances. A short class on the spiritual and practical aspects of topics addressed in this article can get many people moving in the right direction. There are also plenty of financial wellness/budgeting classes available online.
Making finances a part of your discipleship times is a great way to be accountable. This may be all you need if you already have a budget and just need help sticking to it.
If you think you need one-on-one help, consider hiring a money/financial coach to help you. A coach will come along side you as you build your budget, help you see blind spots and help you set your spending priorities and build long-term plans based on what matters to you.
Sandy Meindersma is a member of the Worcester Church in Massachusetts. She loves helping people with their money so that they can honor God with their finances and be more giving. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.