BIBLICAL BUDGETING FOR FAMILIES WHO PUT GOD FIRST
by Hiskia Missah
Here are some reasons why family budget planning is important:
- It provides an accurate perspective of our financial situation within God’s world.
- It makes us wiser in our spending.
- It helps us avoid getting into debt and not making ends meet.
- It creates the opportunity to support God’s work more generously.
To get the complete picture of our financial situation, two major components are essential in a typical budget spreadsheet: Income and Expenditures. (See Slide 4 on the PowerPoint presentation and Spreadsheet 1 via the links at the end of this article.)
The income column on the budget spreadsheet includes one’s salary or wages, as well as any additional income or extra earnings. (See Spreadsheet 2 via the link at the end of this article.)
PERSPECTIVE ON INCOME
But whose money is it really? We tend to think of our income as our own, but who really owns the world and all its wealth? Let’s take a closer look: It is said that the 32 states where Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II reigns, make up one sixth of the earth. The rest of the land on earth “belongs” to the next 15 biggest landowners/territory leaders. They may be seen as the legal owners or rulers, but according to the Bible, they are not the absolute owners. Psalm 24:1 says: “The earth is the LORD's, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.”
God is the absolute Owner of everything, because He is also the Creator of everything. Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” In the original Hebrew, the word for “created” is a unique word, used exclusively of God in the Bible and indicating divine activity. How did He create the earth and everything in it? Psalm 33:9 says, “For He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm” (NIV); and Psalm 24:1 echoes this: “The earth is the lord's and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.”
As He created the earth, the Creator God simultaneously established a stewardship program on earth. He created human beings and established them as stewards of His creation. God assigned humans to rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and every living creature that moves on the ground (Gen. 1:28), and to dress and keep the Garden (Gen. 2:15).
What about the natural wealth of the earth in various countries? God is the Owner of everything in nature, absolutely. God confirms what He owns in Haggai 2:8: “The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the lord of hosts.”
CHINA: Coal, iron ore, petroleum, natural gas, mercury, tin, tungsten, antimony, manganese, molybdenum, vanadium, magnetite, aluminum, lead, zinc, rare earth elements, uranium, hydropower potential (world's largest), arable land.
SOUTH AFRICA: Gold, chromium, antimony, coal, iron ore, manganese, nickel, phosphates, tin, rare earth elements, uranium, gems, diamonds, platinum, copper, vanadium, salt, natural gas.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Coal, copper, lead, molybdenum, phosphates, rare earth elements, uranium, bauxite, gold, iron, mercury, nickel, potash, silver, tungsten, zinc, petroleum, natural gas, timber, arable land. Note: The U.S. has the world’s largest coal reserves with 491 billion short tons, accounting for 27 percent of the world's total.
Our generous God created this natural environment for us so that we can flourish as we help it to flourish. All He asks is that we don’t forget who He is and what He stands for.
In Deuteronomy 8:11-13, 17, 18, we are entreated, “Beware that thou forget not the LORD thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day: lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein; and when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied; …and thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth. But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day.”
"Our generous God created this natural environment for us so that we can flourish as we help it to flourish."
Does God have the right to ask us to put Him first? Absolutely, Yes!
Knowing that God owns everything, whenever we receive our earnings we need to acknowledge it. How do we do that? Proverbs 3:9,10 says, “Honour the lord with thy substance, and with the first fruits of all thine increase: So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.” Also, Malachi 3:10 promises, “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”
There are some strong rebukes for those who do not return what belongs to the Lord. Malachi 3:8, 9 says, “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.”
The family that decides to honor God and to put God first, will have columns for God’s tithe (10 percent) and our offerings (at another promised regular percentage of income), plus even some other funds set aside for mission projects or helping those less fortunate. (See Slide 41 on the PowerPoint presentation and the Family Budget Spreadsheet via the links at the end of this article.)
When we return to God what belongs to Him, we do not need to worry about the future, because God has miraculous and inexhaustible supplies from which to sustain us. There are so many Bible stories where God has shown His providence, such as the manna in the desert (Ex. 17:14-34), the ravens that fed Elijah (1 Kings 17:2-5), Elijah and the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17:7-24), Jesus feeding the 5000 with five loaves and two fish (Matt. 14:13-20), the miraculous catch of fish by the disciples (John 21:1-9), and the coin in the fish’s mouth (Matt 18:24-27). Many modern-day disciples can also tell us stories and testimonies that increase our faith in God’s providence when we are faithful stewards of our finances.
Now, let us look at the Expenditure columns in the God-first family budget. (See slides 44, 45 on the PowerPoint presentation and the Categories Spreadsheet via the links at the end of this article.)
Expenditures may be budgeted according to money available after God’s tithe and our offerings are deducted from our total income. Expenditures consist of taxes and deductible items, basic necessities, luxury items, and future plans.
Making categories for the expenditures may be a good way to not overspend on the budget. Keep a copy of the budget spreadsheet handy, on a mobile device for example. If working with cash, a simple way to allocate funds to categories of expense is to use envelopes. Simply make envelopes for Tithe, Offerings, Rent/Bond, Car Payments/Transportation, Insurance, Utilities, Groceries, Medical Expenses, Clothing and Personal Supplies, Social Expenses, Extras and Other Miscellaneous Expenses, and an envelope marked “Savings” for any money left over. Put the budgeted money inside each category’s envelope. Don’t spend more than allocated (or placed in the envelope) per category for that period of income. (See slides 62-64 on the PowerPoint presentation on the link at the end of this article.)
Here are some tips for wise spending:
Keep within the budget: Make a shopping list and stick to it, and to the budget.Do not buy things that are not on the list.Be especially careful not to overspend if using cards.Don’t be tempted by advertisements, “specials,” and those shopping with you.Don’t shop for groceries on an empty stomach.
Before buying items, ask: “Do I really need that product?”
“Have I bought the same thing before and not used it?”
“Is this an impulse purchase rather than a planned one?”
“Do I have enough money and space for it?”
“Will it cause buyer’s regret later?”
“Am I being a good steward of God’s money?”
“The Lord has been pleased to present before me the evils which result from spendthrift habits, that I might admonish parents to teach their children strict economy. Teach them that money spent for that which they do not need is perverted from its proper use” (The Adventist Home, pp. 374, 375).
Stay Out of Debt: Can you relate to the following imaginary story?
You bought your 40” Smart TV when it was the biggest one on sale. You are satisfied with it. Recently, however, you saw a 55” Smart TV on sale, and you were tempted to have that one too. Do you want to buy it? Your first impulse is “Yes,” because it has more features, and “bigger is better.” And you still have an available balance on your credit card.
This story will repeat itself whenever something new and exciting presents itself. But at what cost to your financial well-being and peace of mind? While credit cards can be helpful if used prudently, they can threaten your financial safety and family happiness. Also practice care when shopping online. It’s so easy: just one click and there go all your efforts to stay within the budget.
“All must practice economy. No worker should manage his affairs in a way to incur debt” (Manual for Canvassers, p. 65).
“All should learn how to keep accounts. Some neglect this work as nonessential, but this is wrong. All expenses should be accurately stated” (The Adventist Home, p. 374).
We have come to the end of our budgeting and spreadsheets for the family that puts God first. Let us reflect on what we have accomplished and how it will affect our lives:
We have understood that all we have is a gift from God, because He is the Creator and Owner of everything. If we put Him first, He has promised to sustain us. Careful budgeting and cautious spending will help us maintain a healthy financial status and create the opportunity for us to be more generous. Finally, we understand that having put God first means that we have the great privilege of contributing financially and otherwise to the gospel work.
Are we going to have less if we put God first in our giving? Ellen G. White tells us, “It is not returning to the Lord His own that makes men poor; withholding tends to poverty”(Counsels on Stewardship, p. 36).
MONEY, TIME, AND TALENTS
Is putting God first only about money? No. Our gracious God has not only provided what we need to live, but He has given us gifts that will enable us to participate in the work of spreading the gospel.
“God gives more than money to His stewards. Your talent of imparting is a gift. What are you communicating of the gifts of God, in your words, in your tender sympathy? The knowledge of truth is a talent.... All natural gifts are to be sanctified as precious endowments.... All social advantages are talents.... The gift of correct example is a great thing....The gifts of speech, of knowledge, of sympathy and love, communicate a knowledge of Christ.... The talents you possess are given you of God to make you efficient colaborers with Christ” (Our Father Cares, p. 140).
“In commissioning His disciples to go ‘into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,’ Christ assigned to men the work of extending the knowledge of His grace. But while some go forth to preach, He calls upon others to answer His claims upon them for offerings with which to support His cause in the earth” (Counsels on Stewardship, p. 272).
Why then the emphasis on money and budgeting? Once again, Ellen White tells us that “money is a constant test of the affections” (The Adventist Home, p. 372).
“He has placed means in the hands of men, that His divine gifts may flow through human channels in doing the work appointed us in saving our fellow men” (Ellen G. White, Counsels on Stewardship, p. 272).
The Bible promises that if we put God first, He will sustain us. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33). How do we seek first the kingdom of God? Put first the priorities of God’s kingdom.
What are those priorities?
1. Advancing God's work; 2. Sustaining His workers.
“To accomplish this work, means is needed. I know that times are hard, money is not plenty; but the truth must be spread, and money to spread it must be placed in the treasury” (Counsels on Stewardship, p. 39).
Missionaries should be sent out to all the world. “Although books and publications upon present truth are pouring out their treasures of knowledge to all parts of the world, yet missionary posts must be established at different points” (Counsels on Stewardship, p. 39).
“If every church member were thoroughly imbued with the spirit of self-sacrifice . . . there would be no lack of funds for home and foreign missions. Our resources would be multiplied; a thousand doors of usefulness would be opened; and we should be invited to enter” (Counsels on Stewardship, p. 275).
May your family enjoy a blessed future with peace of mind and joyful heart as you put God first!