No one ever taught me about money. The only thing my father ever said to me about money when I was growing up was, “We don’t talk about money.” Fortunately for me, I have always been pretty conservative, which kept me from getting into too much trouble financially speaking. When I young, I always saved my allowance – something I’ve carried with me into my adult years. As I got older, I avoided debt, no matter how much I wanted something I couldn’t afford. And I never lived beyond my means. But I can remember a time in my life when I realized that even though I had managed to avoid a lot of big money mistakes, I needed to take steps to educate myself about how to be the best money manager possible. So, I began to read whatever I could get my hands on related to money. In the beginning, I read books written by Larry Burkett (How to Manage your Money) and Ron Blue (Master your Money). These books taught me about the importance of managing money with a plan. I read The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason and learned about the power of compounding interest. I read The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Staley and learned that anyone could save a great deal of money (even become a millionaire) if you spend less than you earn and invest well. Later on, I read books by Dave Ramsey and David Bach. The bottom line is, I took the time to educate myself when it came to handling money. Years later, I can tell you that it was one of the most important things I’ve ever done.
Over the years, I’ve tried to pass the things I learned and worked for me on to my children. I also made the commitment to not just preach and teach on money management (the Bible is the single best financial book available – especially the Book of Proverbs), but to make sure that the churches I served offered different kinds of practical instruction about money. We do this today at Mount Pleasant with Financial Peace University, the Legacy Journey, Budgeting Workshops and Financial Coaching. But, if I were going to sit down and write out a list of the best money management advice I could give, it would look like this (I’ll limit it to my top 5 for the sake of time).
- Take responsibility for yourself.
Proverbs 13:16 says, Every prudent man acts out of knowledge, but a fool exposes his folly. (NIV) In other words, a prudent man (a wise man) takes steps to educate and equip himself for whatever challenges he faces. When it comes to managing money, “I didn’t know” and “No one taught me” simply aren’t good enough. Take responsibility for yourself.
- Embrace the biblical truth that everything belongs to God.
Psalm 24:1 says, The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. (NIV) In this verse, “everything” means everything. That includes the money and possessions you have. And just in case you think that’s not fair because you’re the one who worked for what you have, consider these words from Deuteronomy 8:18. But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth… (NIV) Everything belongs to God. And since everything belongs to God, every spending decision is a spiritual decision.
- Be the kind of manager who acts out of knowledge.
Proverbs 27:23-24 says, Be sure to know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds; for riches do not endure forever and a crown is not secure for all generations. (NIV) I’ve counseled enough people to know that two of the biggest reasons why people have money problems are that they don’t know the condition of their finances, and they don’t have a plan for savings. You need to know how much is coming in, how much is going out, and where it’s going. And you need to know how strong your financial “safety-nets” (emergency funds, insurance policies, etc.) are. You also need a plan for savings, both short-term and long-term. Saving money doesn’t happen by accident, and leveraging your future security on lottery tickets or a big inheritance is a poor substitute. Saving money needs to be a priority in your life, even if you only have a little money to save. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Proverbs 13:11. Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow. (NIV) I mentioned earlier that I learned about the power of compounding interest in a little book called The Richest Man in Babylon. If you begin early, and you’re wise in your investments, you can turn a little money into a lot of money, but only if you have a plan. Proverbs 21:5 says, The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty. (NIV)
- Spend less than you earn.
Proverbs 21:20 says, In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has. (NIV) The simple meaning behind this verse is a wise man has plenty because he controlled his spending while a foolish man has nothing because he spent (devoured) all he had. It’s foolish to try and “keep up with the Joneses” (or anyone else for that matter) when it comes to homes, cars, vacations, etc. because the Joneses are broke. The best commitment, from a practical perspective that I ever made, was to determine the kind of lifestyle I wanted to live and stick to it, no matter how much my income increased – that decision created financial margin in my life. And as my income has grown, the margin has grown.
- Be generous.
I believe in the importance of being generous. I believe in the words of Proverbs 11:25. A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. (NIV) I believe that when we’re generous, three things happen: we imitate God, we show our love for Jesus in a tangible way, and we give ourselves the opportunity to partner with God and the work He is doing in the world. I’ve never regretted one dime that I have given to the local church or to a ministry that I believe in. And I don’t have time or space to write about all the ways God has been generous to me in return. Sometimes that generosity has been financial, but it has also come in many other forms. I don’t give to get; I give to be obedient, to be faithful and to simply be a part. I’m glad that I never let poor financial management, living a consumptive lifestyle and restricting debt ever keep me from being generous.
I hope these words will not only encourage you but also challenge you to take a long hard look at your attitude and actions with regard to the money God has entrusted to you – whether it’s a little or a lot. And I hope and pray that you will embrace generosity with regard to the ministry of Mount Pleasant Christian Church. We are currently running a deficit when it comes to our budgeted need (we’re behind by about $140,000), which, quite frankly, jeopardizes our ministry commitments. We need your help to make sure we can continue to be the church God has called us to be.