A Plan for Financial Freedom
Last week we learned that our money matters to God. Jesus looks at how we manage our financial resources to determine our level of spiritual maturity (Lk.16:1-13). To manage our finances well requires having a ‘budget’, which is simply a plan for earning and spending our money. Firstly, you need to know what you’re earning. This is the INCOME side of your budget. Most people will earn millions of dollars in their working lifetime. However, what we do with that money is what is most critical. That brings us to the second part of our budget which is our EXPENSES. We need a plan for doing three things with our money - Spending, Saving and Giving. Most people only do one thing with their money - spend it! In fact, a lot of people spend more than their income and as a result they’re drowning in an ever-enlarging pool of debt. Consider starting with something like the 10-10-80 plan.
- GIVE - first, give at least 10% to God. God has established a very clear and practical financial plan for his people. He gives us our very breath and the power to acquire wealth (Dt.8:18) All that we have comes from him and therefore belongs to him (1 Chron.29:14-16). He simply asks us to honour him with the “first fruits” of all our increase (Prov.3:4-9). We are to take the first 10% and give it to God’s work. In doing so, we honour him as our Lord and as the source and owner of all of our resources. Tithing (giving 10%) is a matter of obedience and trust.
God reserves a part of everything he creates or gives us for himself - one tree in the garden, the first city in the Promised Land (Jericho) and the tithe of all our income. He uses this to test us as to whether we will obey him and whether he can trust us with further blessing. The tithe is holy to the Lord and not to be used by us (Lev.27:30), lest we be guilty of robbing God (Mal.3:6-9). It is to be brought to the “storehouse” where we are fed and cared for. God then promises to bless us and watch over our possessions (Mal.3:8-12). God feels so strongly about the tithe that he says, “Test me”! This is the only place in the Bible that he says this. In addition, he encourages voluntary offerings to various good causes as our heart moves us (Ex.35:21. 1 Chron.29:1-9).
This principle of tithing was followed by Abraham 430 years before the law (Jacob too – Gen.28:20-22) and then reinforced under Moses as part of the requirements of the law. Jesus affirmed the principle of tithing (Mt.23:23. Lk.11:42) and grace actually brings us to a higher law - a place where we give not because we have to but because we want to. Remember that Old Testament was the early church’s only Bible. For us today, everything that was abolished from the Old Covenant is clearly made reference to in the New Testament (Sabbath Days, ceremonial washings, etc). Interestingly, there is no Scripture that says tithing is no longer relevant to New Covenant believers. Citing the lack of references or examples of tithing in the NT as a proof that it is no longer relevant is as bad a hermeneutical error as saying that we shouldn’t use musical instruments with our worship because they are not mentioned in the NT (except for the book of Revelation).
The subject of giving can be approached from two different perspectives - human wisdom or the wisdom of God. The natural mind says, “Giving means I make a loss.” The truth is when you give or invest in the God’s work it is not a loss but it is actually a deposit in your heavenly account. God records it and there will be return for you (Mt.6:19-21. Lk.6:38. Phil.4:10-19). God can make your 90% go further than you can make your 100% go without his help and blessing. Secondly, the natural mind easily says, “I can’t afford to give” or “I’ll give when I’ve got some surplus.” However, God challenges us that when we give in faith even when we are in a time of need, his miraculous provision begins to come our way. He only asks us to give of what we already have, not what we don’t have, and as we go first, in faith and obedience, we release his blessing into our life (see 1 Kgs.17 and Mk.12:41-44).
- SAVE - secondly, take at least another 10% and pay yourself by putting this in a savings or investment account. Prepare for the future by adopting a savings and investment plan (Prov.21:20). Savings creates freedom, reduces pressure, enhances joy, is a powerful witness and enables you to give. Make a decision to become a saver and get a plan to make it a reality (Prov.13:11; 21:5). Spend less than you earn, then save and invest the difference over a long period of time. Ants have small bodies and small brains but they are very smart (Prov.6:6-11)! They store up (save) for the winter months. We humans have bigger bodies and bigger brains but sometimes we’re pretty foolish. We have nothing saved up for the future. Growth financially takes time and continued effort. If we are faithful with what we have, God will give us more (Mt.25:21).
Investing is about getting your hard-earned money to work for you. There are a lot of ‘shonky’ investment schemes out there that promise you a fast track to wealth (Ecc.5:13-14). If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. However, there are many investments that can yield good returns. Do your research, get good advice and learn about different investment types - both their potential returns and risks.
- SPEND - use the remaining 80% or less to pay everyone and everything else. This is for the rest of your normal living expenses – food, clothing, housing, transportation, debt reduction, entertainment, holiday, extra giving, etc. You’ve already honoured God and paid yourself. You can now enjoy life a little because you’re on plan. You’re living wisely.
Beware of the major “budget busters”, especially “impulse buying”, which refers to unplanned expenditures based on emotion. Just because you can afford it doesn’t mean you should buy it. If you buy something on sale, you are not saving, you are spending! Advertising motivates us to buy things we often don’t need and seeks to make us dissatisfied with what we have now. Material things always oversell themselves and rarely deliver on their promises over the long term. Avoid situations that encourage you to spend. Be satisfied with what you have. Focus on what you’ve got not on what you don’t.
Use debt strategically (to increase your assets) not destructively because debt puts you in bondage (Prov.22:7), it puts you under pressure (Prov.23:4), it can sabotage your peace and joy (Ecc.4:6), it can damage your Christian witness and it hinders you from being able to give (Lk.10:25-37). If you are in debt, make a decision to get out of debt, get a plan, get some help and don’t give up (Prov.3:27-28. Rom.13:6-8).
If you can’t live on 80% of your income you have to make some changes: Either earn some more income – get a higher paying job (upgrade your skills if necessary to make yourself more qualified), work extra hours or start an extra job (possibly part time). They’re all possible options but consider the ramifications of each choice. The only other option is to reduce your expenses, which may require you to ‘down-size’ your living standards (Ecc.4:6). If your standard of living is creating great pressure and stress in your life and relationships, why not lower it. Right-size your living expenses to match your income.
Most people think that the solution to their financial problems is to earn more. However, it’s not what you earn that matters - it’s how much you spend. If you consistently spend less than you earn, and save or invest the rest, you will gain financial freedom. It has nothing to do with how much you earn. Overspend just a few dollars a day and you can be thousands of dollars in debt in a number of years. On the other hand, put aside a few dollars a day into savings and you’ll save thousands of dollars in a number of years.
There are many things in life more important than money. In fact, you can have an enjoyable and fulfilling or outstanding without having a lot of money. There’s a whole lot more to life than money and possessions including pleasing God by living right (Prov.11:4; 16:8; 28:6), enjoying quality relationships (1 Cor.13:13), as well as experiencing inner peace and contentment (Prov.15:16; 23:4-5. Phil.4:11-13. 1 Tim.6:6-10).Conclusion
It may take time … but having and working a financial plan is the path to financial freedom and God’s blessing whatever your situation. Notice the plan is not the 80-10-10 plan! The order is important. Put God first in your finances. Then change ratios as you’re able - 15-15-70, etc. This is pretty simple - a 10 year old could do it! Then, why isn’t everyone doing it? Every person’s financial situation is unique. What is right for you may not be relevant for someone else, but these principles can work for just about everyone.Sample Discussion Questions
- Why do you think some Christians struggle with the concept of ‘tithing’ (giving 10% of their income to the church)?
- Share some testimonies that illustrate how giving can release God’s blessing in your life.
- What are some things you would like to do in the future that will require money?
- Why is saving so hard for most people?
- What are some lessons about financial investment people in the group have learned (including both successes and failures) that may be helpful to others?
- What are some questions we can ask ourselves before buying a particular item (good ‘shopping tips’)?
- What are some ways we can reduce our expenses so we are living within our means?
- Finish with praying for financial blessing on each person’s life as they honour God with their finances.