Benjamin C. Maxson, Director, General Conference Stewardship Ministries

A major factor in divorce. Jim and Diane are struggling in their relationship. Like many other couples, what started as friction over spending habits has escalated into financial distress. Each one defines his or her needs differently and their arguments now threaten the very stability of their home.

This brief scenario is not new or rare. Studies show that the majority of divorced couples list financial troubles as a primary contributing factor to their divorce. Ignoring the issue of family finances only endangers and weakens our homes. We must admit financial concerns are a major issue in far too many homes today.

Struggling to define your needs. The normal way of dealing with finances is the ?Needs Based Approach.? With this approach, we determine our spending and managing of family finances based on what we define as our needs. Often, we confuse needs with wants and desires. For example, we need transportation—a basic car. We want a nice car, and we desire a luxury or sport model. This is one point where contention can begin as each family member struggles to define their ?needs.? Then we struggle to meet our needs by working harder or investing smarter.

This ?Needs Based Approach? has several key presuppositions:

? It’s ?my? money

? I know what I need

? I can provide for my needs

? More money means greater satisfaction

? Life is about meeting my needs

The implications of this approach are serious:

? I am rarely satisfied because I never have ?enough?

? I act as owner and can easily feel threatened by others

? I can find myself trapped in materialism

? I lose interest in others and their needs

? I become more selfish and self-centered

Transforming our ?core? existence. There is another way of looking at family finances. It is the ?God’s Blessings Approach.? Looking at finances in this way, we recognize that God has already blessed us with material possessions, and it is our duty to glorify Him by how we use them. This approach transforms the very core of our existence.

The ?God’s Blessings Approach? also has some key presuppositions:

? It is all God’s money—He is the Owner

? God knows what I need

? God provides everything I need

? I am a manager of God’s possessions

? God invites me to glorify Him with what He has placed in my hands

The implications of this approach are radical:

? I learn to trust God in the daily needs of life

? I find peace of mind in financial issues

? I discover contentment with what God has provided

? I rejoice in the privilege of partnership with God

? I learn to invest God’s resources in His kingdom as I manage His money

Steps to a radical transition. So how do we move from a ?Needs Based Approach? to ?God’s Blessings Approach?? What has to happen in our thinking to make this radical transition?

Step 1. Accept God’s ownership. This means making a conscious choice. It may even mean turning ownership of your material possessions back over to God. Some people have even found it helpful to write out a ?quick claim deed? transferring their things back to God.

Step 2. Actively seek God’s guidance. No one else has the right to tell you how you should live. This should be something between God and you.

Step 3. Decide to accept God’s purposes for money. These are to provide for your family, to help others, and to fund God’s mission.

Step 4. Define your needs—how much is enough? This means you have to differentiate between your needs, wants, and desires, as mentioned earlier. Again only God has the right to define these for you, and the family should be included in the dialogue in this process.

Step 5. Invest God’s money in His kingdom. In other words, do every-thing in your financial dealings to God’s glory. Whether we provide for our families, help others, or fund God’s mission, we do this guided by His Spirit, and with an attitude of praise and worship.

Conclusion. We live in a world that is obsessed with selfish desires and material possessions. Far too many Christians find themselves in financial bondage because they have accepted the world’s priorities and values. God has blessed us with everything we need to provide for our families and fund His mission. The issue is, ?What will we do?? Will we live, based on our needs, or will we consciously choose to move into God’s kingdom and live within His blessings?

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July–September, 2003

Family Finance