Money stresses people out more than anything else. The debt load we carry has a direct impact on our emotional health, spiritual health, and relational health. Debt eats away at our peace and causes us to feel insecure and in bondage. This is why we have chosen to make reducing personal debt 50% in five years part of our vision. We know that if we can help people handle money better, they will ultimately live better and be more able to follow God’s plan for their life.
When our kids were young they could be rather possessive at times. Often we would treat our kids to McDonald’s after a fun time playing at Safari Island. One time I took everybody to McDonald’s and began handing out the happy meals. As soon as I finished I caught a whiff of Josh’s fries and realized I was hungry. So I picked one out of his pile and he got angry at me. He said: “Dad, don’t take my french fries!” All of a sudden I realized that he had no idea where those fries came from. He didn’t know that I worked hard to earn the money so I could take him in the car to McDonald’s. He didn’t understand that I was the one who took my money out of my pocket and bought him french fries. He didn’t have any concept that if I wanted french fries I could have gone up to the counter and bought more. Since I bought all the fries I could have claimed them all as mine, or I could have brought him to the counter and buried him in fries if I wanted. Everything on his plate and even the clothes on his back came from me. All I wanted was for him to share with me what I had already given him. But he didn’t get it. In his mind they were his french fries.
Before we can be better stewards of our money we need to determine who our master is. If your master is money then no matter what your vision is, you are not going to change. You will never have enough money because you will always be chasing more: more stuff, more things, more upgrades, more entertainment, more stuff to clutter up your closet.
Jesus says: “24No 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.” Matthew 6:24
Everything that we have comes from God and belongs to God. It’s all His. We are His creation living on His earth playing in His sandbox. You and I are called to be stewards of what God has given us. Once we understand that God is our savior, and not money, we can accept the very next thing Jesus says in Matthew 6.
“25Therefore 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?” Matthew 6:25
Why are we constantly struggling financially? Because we don’t trust that God will provide for us. This is why “tithing” or proportional giving is so important because it says, “God, I trust you.”
“8Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’
“In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” Malachi 3:8-10
Make the pursuit of God your first priority because then everything else will fall into place. This is the only area of our lives where we are told to test God. When you put God first and give to God first, he will bless you. Getting more margin in our finances isn’t always about getting more money. It’s about setting priorities and it comes back to trust.
I will say that some of you simply don’t make enough to make ends meet. You work really hard and live without all the bells and whistles and it’s still tight. I get this. When we started Freshwater it was tight. We had a new baby and not much money coming in, so it was tough. But this is not the case for everyone. Most of us are stressed about money because we have created our own mess. I know I have. I have bought things I could not afford and held onto things that cost me way more than they were worth. And every time I get in financial trouble, it impacts almost every other area of my life.
So how do we handle money better? Here is some simple advice that will save you a ton of struggle if you follow it.
1. Know how much money you make every month. Do you have any idea how much money you actually make? Most people don’t. The first step you need to take is get an accurate number of what comes in. This will help you set a budget and your standard of living.
2. Know what goes out. Every month you have fixed expenses. It might be rent or a house payment, car payment, and taxes. You also have your phone bill, insurance, Netflix, gas, and other bills. Add up all that goes out every month then figure out where all the rest is going. One latte a day at 4 dollars equals about $120 per month plus the gas to drive there. One pack of smokes a day at 6 bucks equals $186 per month. If you go out to eat twice a week for lunch at 12 bucks a shot is $100 a month. All this stuff adds up quick, especially is you drink lattes, smoke, and like to go out to eat. These little extras will set you back $406 a month plus maybe another $60 in gas. That’s $466 a month. This is the stuff that we don’t want to count but need to consider.
3. Live below your means so you can live above the stress. When you live below your means it will help you lower your debt. Eventually you will be able to save more money every month than you spend. The key to success here is commitment. You need to commit to living below your means month after month after month. Chances are you won’t get out of debt in a day, it’s going to take work and commitment.
As a church we are committed to help you to lower your debt so that you can live a better life. This is why debt reduction is part of our vision. This is why we keep talking about it. If you need some financial counseling, we have free counselors who will meet with you, and help you create a budget that will enable you to get ahead every month instead of falling further behind.
May this be your prayer: “Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God” Proverbs 30:8-9 NIV