Recently I found myself hunting for children’s shows that won’t drive me insane and teach things completely opposite of my value structure. In my search this week, I found one where a little bear came up to his dad who was diligently working at the table. Here’s how the conversation went:
Little Bear: Dad, what are you working on?
Dad Bear: Oh, the budget.
Little Bear: What’s a budget?
Dad Bear: It’s a list of all our bills.
…and ??? Is this show funded by Congress? This ‘educational’ ditty neglected to mention planning out your expenses given an income. Sadly, this is a pretty accurate way of how most people ‘budget.’ It is normal to live paycheck to paycheck and buy anything you “need” with a credit card when the money runs out. It’s also normal to a lack plan on how to pay off debts. Not only is this a terrible way to spend money, but it’s counter to biblical finance.
Jesus said, “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?” (Luke 14:28). As Christians, we’re called to be intentional with our money – to have a plan for our money that includes expenses and income. Some might call this a budget. If you recall when God created man, the fist thing He did was make Adam His steward, to look after God’s creations and to take care of them (Gen 2:15). The question is – how do we?
First off, God calls us to live on less than or equal to what we take in. That means He’s not a fan of debt. Debt for yourself (Prov 22:7). Debt for a another, i.e. cosigning on a loan (Prov 22:26-27). Or asking others to go into debt for you (2 Thes 3:8). And if you happen to find yourself in debt, get out of it as fast as possible, which doesn’t mean sticking to the ‘minimum payment’ technique (Prov 6:1-5). Interestingly enough, did you know what 75% of the Forbes Fortune 400 (the 400 richest people in the US) said the best way to build wealth was by avoiding debt? You won’t become wealthy by accumulating airline miles, making one or two car payments, and certainly not by playing the lottery.
So, what is the Biblical way to budget? First, God expects you to give 10% of your income (before taxes) back to the Church. Though the patriarchs tithed, it didn’t become mandatory until Moses was given the law (Deut 14:22-29, Matt 23:23, Heb 5:10). This isn’t because God ‘needs’ our money, it’s because we need to be reminded where we feel it most that the money isn’t ours to begin with (Deu 14:23).
Next comes taking care of your own family’s needs (1 Tim 5:8). This is where the rent/mortgage (if you all ready have one), utilities, food, transportation etc comes in. Notice it’s your family’s needs, not wants. Shoes are a need, but the new Jordan’s are a want. A car is a need (spoken like a true American), but a $30,000 financed car is a want. Also keep in mind your ‘family’ refers to your spouse, children and those not able to take care of themselves (not to be confused with the boomerang generation or those unwilling to take care of themselves – another topic).
Scripture also reminds us that taxes are a necessary evil (Luke 20:25), so ensure your with-holding is set-up properly to avoid paying Uncle Sam on a credit card. Save up for emergencies and retirement, which will happen whether you are prepared for them or not (Prov 6:6-8, Prov 21:20). And good news for the grand kids, God thinks it’s cool to build up enough wealth to shower them with the Benjamins (Prov 13:22).
Other than that, the best I can tell, income is ours to allocate as we see fit. It’s a pretty good idea to get advice from those who understand money, but keep in mind that appearances can be deceiving. Just because someone drives a nice car and lives in a nice house, doesn’t mean the bank isn’t the one who really owns those toys.
So, what’s the key to sticking to a biblical budget? Discipline (Prov 13:18). You will need to practice saying the word that is forbidden in Congress: “No.” I’ve talked to plenty of people who think all this advice sounds great, but if you can’t tell yourself, your spouse, and your kids ‘no’, it won’t work.
How do I know all this will work? Because I lived it. We used to be normal when it came to debt. We bought into the ‘I deserve it’ culture. But once we got on a written budget, my husband and I paid off about $40,000 in a little over 2 years. In that time we also paid cash for a new (used) family car and were able to buy furniture for our growing family without any payments. Now that we are debt free, we’re able to completely focus on saving for emergencies, investing for retirement, and preparing for kids’ college. I can personally attest that God’s plan is a whole lot less stressful and rewarding than any new car or financed vacation.
(Note: Full disclosure, I’m a big Dave Ramsey advocate.)Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 3 so far )
Given the constant barrage of “debt crisis” coverage, I wondered if God had anything to say about national debt. Solomon warned, “The borrower is slave to the lender,” (Prov 22:7) and “whoever refuses to strike hands in pledge is safe” (Prov 11:15). Clearly, the Bible warns that debt is folly (as any Dave Ramsey follower could tell you). Obviously, God never said $14.3 trillion was okay but not $16.4 trillion. I didn’t see that one in Leviticus. But God created a nation in every sense of the word, so surely there had to be something.
In chapter 15 of Deuteronomy, the Lord tells Israel how His new nation will keep its fiscal house in order: “you will lend to many nations but will borrow from none.” What? Borrow from none? What about in case of emergency? What about all those wars for the Promised Land? Unfunded social liabilities? Surely being God’s chosen people means you are entitled to healthcare, and when Moses lived to 120, that could get expensive. But, as with everything God commands, it comes with a reason: “You will rule over many nations but none will rule over you” (Deut 15:6). Apparently, debt at any level creates a system of rulers and slaves. It probably wouldn’t have been such a good idea if Israel borrowed from the Egyptians or the Philistines just as it probably isn’t such a good idea for us to borrow from the Chinese or any other nation. Indebting yourself to others means you have to play by the lender’s rules. Considering no other nation completely shares America’s values, we should not be too keen on being beholden to other nations.
But wait, various American lenders such as the Fed, public households, state and local governments own most of our debt. So, that’s probably okay right? It seems the Lord is saying not to borrow from other nations. If the borrower is slave to the lender, wouldn’t that mean the government is slave to the people?
Not quite. When debt becomes so large that it has to be paid out over an extended period of time, the people become slaves to the government. Government can only raise money by confiscating it from the people. But the kicker is that government has created so much debt that it can’t be paid off by the current set of taxpayers; it will be paid by our kids and grandkids. Something told me the Lord probably wouldn’t approve of that.
Interestingly, God created a system of canceling debts every 7 years (also in Chapter 15 of Deuteronomy). Translated into contemporary vernacular, I take that to mean long-term debt is bad. While we might from time to time lend to one another, it is hard to maintain a healthy relationship with someone to whom you are indebted or with someone who owes you. God wants his people have a relationship based on love, not wondering when the brother-in-law is going to return that $1,000.
Maybe it is time for politicians to liberate this country from the influence of tyrannical governments and its children from overwhelming bureaucratic budgets. After all, good men leave an inheritance, not debt, for their children’s children (Prov 13:2).Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )