by Ken Cooper
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. ~Matt. 6:24-26, 31, 33
For the past few weeks we’ve been looking at Jesus’ parable of the talents in Matthew 25. First, we saw that we
don’t own anything, everything belongs to God. Then we discovered that stewardship is finding out how God wants us to manage those things he has entrusted to us. We saw that ultimately, everything is to be managed for the benefit of His kingdom. That results in what is best for God and what is best for us. Then, last week, we saw that God holds us accountable for how we manage his resources. This week we are leaving Matthew 25 and going to some other scriptures that will help us see just how we can be wise stewards of God’s resources. There are four scriptural principles of good stewardship that will enable us to accomplish what God wants us to do with the resources He has placed in our care.
Principle number 1: Have a budget. The Bible doesn’t talk specifically about budgeting but it does talk about
knowing the condition of that which is in our care. Read Proverbs 27:23-24. A budget will give you a good picture of your financial health just as knowing the condition of your flocks and herds a thousand years ago would have done. Here’s how you do it. Make a written budget every month and do it together as husband and wife. Dave Ramsey says, “Give every dollar a name. Tell your money where it’s going before you get it.” Account for every dollar in your budget. First, take out your giving to the Lord. Then family needs like food, clothing, shelter and transportation are the next priority. Then pay your bills, including credit payments. After you get all your debts paid off, then put as much as you can away for the future.
Principle number 2: Giving. The Old Testament practice of tithing began several hundred years before the Law
was given when Abraham gave a tithe to the High Priest, Melchizedek, Genesis 14:18-20. God then instituted it in the
Law, Leviticus 27:30. In the New Testament the tithe is understood and the standard moves beyond the tithe to generosity, 2 Corinthians 9:7. I am convinced that the tithe should be given to the local church. Missions giving and giving to other Christian organizations should be above the tithe. However, there is nothing to prohibit you from giving more than a tithe to the local church. Remember, a tithe is 10%. Right now, giving ten percent to the Lord may seem like extreme giving. But extreme giving goes well beyond the tithe. Let me assure you, extreme giving really makes us feel alive. I really like what Sir Winston Churchill said, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” You want to feel alive? Learn extreme giving. Start with 10% but don’t stop there. Increase your giving as you are able. Make it top priority in your financial goals. You will never regret that and God will never fail to meet your needs (see the scripture at the top of the page).
Principle number 3: Saving. Read again about the ant in Proverbs 6:6-8 who stores for the future. Your first
savings goal should be to have a small emergency fund. Dave Ramsey recommends a $1,000 emergency fund to start. Secondly, save for large purchases. Stop using credit, save up for it and buy it with cash. Thirdly, save for your
retirement. After you are debt free you will need to save up an emergency fund of 3-6 months of expenses.
Principle number 4: Spending. Spending is where we get into trouble and credit card spending is our biggest
problem. We don’t establish priorities with our spending and spend on stuff we really shouldn’t. Don’t consider your
giving to the Lord as part of your spending! Here are some priorities for using what is left after our giving.
Our first priority is our family (remember the budget?). That’s food, clothing, shelter and transportation. 1 Timothy
5:8 says, “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
Another priority for our spending is paying off your debt as quickly as you can. Sell stuff in a garage sale, don’t
eat out, don’t go on vacation, don’t buy a new car. If your car payment is too high, sell the car, pay it off, and buy a
beater to get you through. Get rid of cable or satellite TV and the internet on your phone. Do whatever you can to cut
expenses. Did you know that if you only make the minimum payment on your credit card debt it will take you 20 years to pay it off? Credit is very poor stewardship. Here’s an uncomfortable truth: the rampant poor money management in our country is not a financial issue, it’s not a social issue, it’s a spiritual issue. It is the mismanagement of God’s resources He has entrusted to us to be used wisely for His sake and we squander it on our selfish desires. But there is hope. I recommend you purchase Dave Ramsey’s book, The Total Money Makeover, and follow it religiously. It will help you get out of debt, live well, and be giving generously in just a few years.