The Biblical Budget

Posted on February 26, 2012. Filed under: Culture, Money | Tags: , , , |

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.)


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3 Responses to “The Biblical Budget”

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Thanks for posting! I love Dave Ramsey. At 21, I’m trying to follow his advice because I never want to find myself in thousands of dollars in debt. Living like nobody else so I can live like nobody else!

I wish you all the best Jennifer. It’s a challenging life-style, especially in college (that’s where we accumulated most of our debt), but I promise you it’s worth it in the end!

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