By Pardon Mwansa, Associate Director, General Conference Stewardship Ministries

Summary: Money management is as essential to good life as wood is to a good fire.

One cold, wintry night, I sat in front of my fireplace. I watched the fire in fascination. Bold and bright. Furious and consuming. Yet, all the power of the fire was soon reduced to mere embers and soot. To keep the fire in its forceful strength, I had to feed it with firewood. Without the wood, there was no fire.

Acquiring the skills of and biblical counsel on money management is as essential to good life as wood is to a good fire. Jesus said it well: Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, This fellow began to build and was not able to finish (Lk 14:28-30).

There are three critical principles in this story of the man wanting to build a house: (1) Know what you want; (2) Assess your ability to get what you want, and (3) Avoid the obvious. These three principles apply to us today as well. Whether you are unable to pay your bills, worried about your child’s tuition, or unsettled about your retirement, the solution is in these principles.

Know what you want. In this story the man knew exactly what he wanted—He wanted to build a house. For most of us the wants are basic needs: food, clothes, utilities, and a place to live. Some of us want more: maybe a better car, a big-screen television, a vacation home. Whatever you want, the first principle in managing your finances is to know what you want. Stick to what you have decided are things you need. Stay focused. Without focus, you are likely to be discontent, wanting more and more.

Assess your ability to get what you want. Begin by quantifying your goals in figures. Create a budget. Ask yourself How much money will I need to feed my family? Do I have enough money to meet this need? If you are not responsible for the food preparation, then consult with the person who is.

Avoid the obvious. Money management requires common sense, rational thinking, and a prayerful life. There is no room for impulsive or emotional action. For example, sometimes the right decision could mean not having a third child, not buying a second car, or not eating out as often—when there is no room in your budget. Avoiding the obvious avoids embarrassment for if he . . . is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him. Debt is not God’s alternative for His children. Rather his counsel is Be content with what you have (Heb 13:5).