Recently our church ended a six-week series on money using The ABC’s of Financial Freedom. This book pretty much rocked my world.
But now that I did, I feel like Chris and I need to reread it once a year to make sure we’re on track with our finances and to help us stay focused. It’s that good, guys, really.
I know as a Christian I’m supposed to tithe. I got that lesson in VBS way back in elementary school. And while I also understand about being good stewards with our money, sometimes I felt that we needed some specific instructions. I’m a pretty straightforward person and I like you to tell me exactly what you want from me. It just makes sense in my very black-or-white mind.
And this book was a no-holds-barred slap in the face for me.
And I loved it.
Here’s what I learned or had reinforced from this book:
-Everything you have is God’s so giving him back ten percent shouldn’t even be a second thought. It should be the first check you write. He gets the first, not the leftovers. (Malachi 3:10)
-Anything above ten percent is an offering. When the Bible says “tithes and offerings” those are two separate things. A tithe is your ten percent and an offering is anything on top of that that you give. I didn’t know or understand that before.
-You can not tell God what to do with your tithe. You’re required to give it and trust that it will be used for His purpose. Which is where the church and the leaders of your church come in. If your church is lead by Godly leaders (truth: not all churches are), then they get to decided–with God’s leading–where that money goes.
-Any debt is bad debt. Owing anybody anything is not what God intented. If you owe someone money, they own your paycheck. (Proverbs 22:7) And when you owe money to others you have less money to bless others with. (Proverbs 11:24-25; 2 Corinthians 9:10-11) I was always told that some debt, like my student loans and my mortgage, are not “bad debt”–everyone has those! But that’s a worldview, not a God view and it’s the wrong thinking.
-All debt should be paid off within seven years. Did you know the first mortgages were for a length of seven years? That’s straight from the Bible (Deut. 15:1). But in our greed, we keep buying bigger and better and needing more time to pay for it since we can’t really afford it to begin with. Again, that’s the world getting in the way of God’s way.
-I saved the best for last: do you know who is keeping you in debt and barely making ends meet? God. Shocking, right? When we take our eyes of God, when we aren’t giving back what He’s given us, when we aren’t being good stewards of our money, why in the world would God give you more? That’s like giving a 16 year old a brand new car and after they total it, giving them another brand new one. If you can’t make good, God-honoring decisions with what He has given you, why would He give you more? Yikes, that one was a rude awakening for me. (Deut. 8:19-20)
(Side note: when I say “give you more” I don’t necessarily mean money. More blessings from God doesn’t only come in the form of financial blessings. Health, happiness, children, safety, family, peace, those are all blessings too. Sometimes while reading this book, I got distracted by the idea that most people [myself included] think of blessings in only the financial sense. And then I would think about those TV evangelists that convince people to send them money, claim that God wants you to own big houses and yachts, and then later are convicted of embezzelment. So I just thought that might need to be said since I thought it. I guess I’m just hoping I’m not the only one that thinks things like that.)
As I was hearing this sermon series, I was moved to write about it. You know I have a powerful reaction to something if my first reaction is to write about it. For me, writing makes sense of the jumble that’s in my head. So that’s what I’m doing, sharing how this applies to my family and our finances. I think as a Christian, I’m accountable for how I live my life, how I use my resources, and how well I love others. And our finances play a large part of that.
So I’m going to be transparent with you. Tell you what we’re good at, what we’re not good at, and where we struggle the most. In hopes that it makes you think about your finances differently, using your resources for God’s good and glory. Money is a touchy topic and I get that completely. It makes me slightly uncomfortable thinking about some of the things I’m going to tell you. But God doesn’t call me to be comfortable. And I’m trying to listen more.
So join me Thursday for part two. I’m going to tell you about our debt. It’s going to be super fun.
(see part two here)