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Today is Mother’s Day which in many ways is the unofficial start of Spring ... at least in my mind. The days are longer, the weather gets warmer, and the spring flowers start to bloom. May is one of my favorite months of the year.
We’re also entering wedding season. Matt and Megan and Jen and I have been doing quite a bit of pre-marital counseling with excited couples who are looking forward to their big day. Matt will actually be doing two weddings this month.
And as part of our pre-marital counseling we help couples develop a biblical budget. We feel strongly that married couples need to be on the same page when it comes to handling their finances. Arguments over money are still the number one cause for divorce in North America. And we don’t want to see that happen to couples that we marry.
CNN reported recently that couples with $10,000 in debt and no savings are twice as likely to divorce then couples with no debt and $10,000 in savings. Debt can take its toll.
So today we conclude our series called Spent: In ____ We Trust with what I call a biblical budget. We’re going to give you what we give the couples we marry around here. This morning we’re going to get real practical. We started this series with a confession and then we focused on our hearts because Jesus said how we handle money is really a heart issue.
Then we spent two weeks talking about materialism. The first week was all about the seduction of greed and then last week we talked about giving as God’s tool to break the power of materialism in our lives. But as managers of God’s resources we have more responsibilities with money than giving it away. And today we want to look at those in their proper order.
Now, as we’ve said all along, we recognize that we’re all at different places when it comes to stewarding our money. For some this series has come as a great encouragement because you’re doing it and have been for a while. You could get up here and tell your own stories about how God has blessed you.
For others this is brand new stuff. You can relate to what Matt said last week or what Mike and Laura said today. No one ever sat down with you and explained how money works. You feel like you’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way and now you want to get it right. That’s great.
Some of you started out right, like Kimberly shared last week, but then got a little careless in handling your resources. So this is a much needed tune up when it comes to money management. Whatever. We all want to take another step towards financial freedom and a biblical budget is a huge step in that direction. It will help us love God and love others well with our wallet.
This is a budget that works no matter how much money we make or how little money we make. Because it’s not about the amounts, it’s about our priorities. It’s about our values. And if you’re married and can agree on a value system when it comes to money you will experience a depth of unity and oneness that you can never experience any other way. Couples, we need to be on the same page when it comes to finances.
So let’s get started. Here are your total earnings. For us, it’s what I make pastoring Valley View Community Church and what Jennifer makes as a substitute school teacher.
And the first priority with our money is to give to God and to the poor. The Bible makes it clear from cover to cover that our first obligation is to God. Our first fruits belong to him. Proverbs 3:9 says, Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops.
We give to God not because he wants our money or because he needs our money. We give to God because he wants our hearts. He wants us to trust him to take care of us. He doesn’t want us trusting in ourselves or in our stuff. And when we get that right we are well on our way to financial freedom.
Last week, Matt and I shared a number of reasons to give. Let me add another one which is perhaps the most basic. John 3:16 says, For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
God loved and God gave. We give because God’s a giver and we’re made in God’s image. We are hard wired to give. And when we give, we become more like our Maker. Giving transforms us into unselfish people and unselfish people make better husbands and wives, parents and children, friends and neighbors, employers and employees.
(Budget Slide) So we give God our “first fruits” which in our house means that every month the first check we write is to God’s work here at Valley View because this is our church community. In the Old Testament you gave a “tithe” which meant 10% of your earnings.
In the New Testament the percentage is lifted. Instead, it’s a regular, proportionate, generous amount that we give. It may be 10% or it may be more or it may be less. That’s for each of us to decide. And we do it joyfully not because we’re being forced to or shamed into. No. God loves a cheerful giver.
Giving to God first, no matter what the amount, says that, “God, you’re number one in my life.” Even if you’re digging yourself out of a mountain of debt give God something first and allow him to bless you. Get God on your financial team. So we give to God first and we also give to the poor and to other needs that arise.
Proverbs 19:17 says, Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done. God always aligns himself with the poor and the needy. Giving to them is like lending money to God. And God always pays his debts with interest!
This is where we can give to causes or to missionaries or to short-term trips like some us did recently for Thea or Ben or Curtis. This is where we sponsor a child through World Vision or give a shoebox to Operation Christmas Child or a gift to the Laurel House or Humankind Water or an extra gift to our Community Care Fund that helps people in need. The causes are endless.
Jesus said, “The poor you will always have with you. Giving to them is like lending me money and I will make sure you get repaid.” That’s an incredible promise. Test God on it. After giving God our first fruits and helping the poor we pay our taxes. In other words, first we take care of God’s kingdom work and then we take of this kingdom called the United States of America. As believers we are citizens of both.
Jesus said in Matthew 22:21, Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's. The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 13:7, Give everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes.
For most of us paying our taxes comes easy because they’re deducted right out of our paycheck. So we pay them, even to a government we may not completely agree with. I don’t think Jesus and Paul voted for Caesar! I don’t think they agreed with everything the Roman Empire did. But they paid their taxes.
Now from time to time I hear people joke about getting paid under the table. That’s no joke. Don’t be deceived. God won’t bless you for that. I don’t think Jesus took money under the table as a carpenter. Be honest. Report all your income. Claim all your exemptions. Take all your deductions. Get a good tax accountant if you need to. But pay all your taxes.
Third, build up a savings account.
In other words, after paying God and paying the government, pay yourself. That’s what savings is. It’s paying yourself before you pay anybody else.
Proverbs 21:20 says, The wise person saves for the future, but the foolish person spends it all.
Living by faith does not mean living paycheck to paycheck. Living by faith does not mean you’re not saving for emergencies, which are sure to come, or for a car, or a house, or retirement, or your kid’s education, or even for your grandchildren should you have them.
Proverbs 13:22 says, A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children.
The Bible encourages saving. It’s not in conflict at all with living by faith. Hoarding is discouraged in Scripture because that’s trusting in our stuff, but not saving.
(Budget Slide) If you take the Dave Ramsey course you’ll learn that the first thing we need to do with our money after giving and taxes is to save $1,000 in an emergency fund, just for emergencies, car problems, house problems, health problems.
Money magazine says that 78% of us will have a major negative financial event in any given 10-year period. Emergencies happen. Count on it. Eventually the goal is to have 3-6 months of expenses saved in the bank, but start with $1,000. The Bible encourages a savings plan and a money market account or an online savings account is a good place to put our savings.
Savings is not the same as investing. Our savings needs to be secure and liquid. In other words, it needs to be easy to get to and kept in an insured bank account.
Investing ties up our money in stocks, bonds, mutual funds or real estate for long-term gain. Investing differs for every one of us depending on our income, our time horizon, our goals, and the level of risk we’re willing to take. That’s where a good financial advisor who shares your values can be helpful.
But savings comes first and then investing or getting out of debt if that’s where you’re at. And if it is, you need to get out of debt as fast as you can. That’s a top priority after giving, taxes and saving. Getting out of debt, except the debt of your house, comes before investing.
Proverbs 22:7 says, The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender. Debt makes us financial slaves.
And if you find yourself in debt Proverbs 6:5 says, Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the snare of a fowler. A big emphasis of Financial Peace University is getting out of all debt, except your house, as fast as possible. And the course has some great strategies on how to do that. We’ve already heard how it’s helped couples in our own church community.
So now that we’ve given to God and the poor, paid our taxes, and put money away for savings we live on what’s left. That’s what we call our working money.
Christian financial expert Ron Blue, who wrote the book Master Your Money, says the key to financial success is to “spend less than you earn and do it for a long period of time.”
Do you see what’s happening here? We are living on less than we earn if we approach money this way. In a biblical budget, we are living below our means. Not at our means. And certainly not above our means which is the pull of our culture, but below our means. We’re spending less than we earn over a long period of time and that’s the key to financial freedom.
Our working money is divided into two categories. The first is fixed bills. Fixed bills are for the most part, fixed, like our mortgage or rent payment which of course can change if we downsize or move up. But it’s fixed unless we move. Our utilities, water, sewer, electric, oil costs are fixed. Insurance payments and groceries are fixed. In other words, we can’t live without these things. The amounts may change month to month, but there’s not a whole lot of wiggle room here.
Proverbs 3:27-28, Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act. 28Do not say to your neighbor, "Come back tomorrow and I'll give it to you"—when you already have it with you.
In other words, pay your bills on time. Pay your fixed bills on time. Pay all your bills on time. So under our working money we have fixed bills and then we have lifestyle expenses. And these can vary a lot. And in our materialistic, credit driven culture these are often what get us into trouble financially.
Lifestyle expenses are things like entertainment. How often do we go out to eat? Television. What’s our monthly plan? Do we need all the channels we have? Vehicles. What kind of cars do we drive? Do we buy new cars or pre-owned cars? Recreation. What kind of hobbies do we have? What kind of toys do we buy? How do we furnish our home? Vacations. Do we have the funds to afford them or not? These are all expenses that we can control and change if we need to, especially to dig ourselves out of debt. Coupons are a must here. My kids think I’m coupon crazy. They say I’m going to be clipping coupons in heaven! I say, of course!
When it comes to lifestyle expenses we need to think moderation. Proverbs 25:16 & 28, If you find honey, eat just enough – too much of it, and you will vomit. 28Like a city whose walls are broken down is a person who lacks self-control.
Moderation, self-control is so important if we’re going to live financially free. We have to live below our means to stay out of debt. And if we’re not living below our means we need to ask ourselves why?
I don’t believe debt is a sin. But I do believe debt is often a symptom of a deeper issue. It can be a symptom of greed, selfishness, impatience, fear, insecurity, a poor self-esteem, lack of discipline or something else.
So when we’re working our way out of debt we need to ask two questions. “How do I get out of it?” and “How did I get into it?” And when we can honestly answer that question then getting out of debt and staying out of debt is a lot easier.
So this is a biblical budget that works with any income. It’s not about the amounts. It’s all about values and priorities. It fills in the blank with the word “God.” In God We Trust. Not In Money We Trust. This is a budget that keeps God number one in our finances.
Is it wrong to be rich? No. Not at all. In fact, by the world’s standards all of us are rich which is why Paul commands us all to be generous and rich in good deeds.
In 1 Timothy 6:17-19 he says, Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
That, my friends, is true financial freedom. And it all begins when we put God first with our finances. Let’s stand for closing prayer.