Faith and Finances

Faith and finances can be a tricky conversation to have within marriage and Christian communities in general. For many years we had to learn how to properly understand and utilize our finances. The first year I did our taxes I was extremely nervous I would do it wrong and also surprised to see that we fell well below the poverty line. God graciously allowed us this humble beginning to teach us stewardship in our finances and faith in His provision.

So let’s start at the beginning. We got married right out of college and thankfully Matt already had an entry level job in his chosen career path. I found a job at a preschool and was an after school nanny for a sweet child. We lived in a small basement apartment and were learning to navigate adulthood and marriage. All in all, our total annual income for those first couple years was under $25,000. Very quickly we realized the importance of a budget, the difference between needs and wants, and the strain finances can place on a relationship.

As we developed our budget, we began with our monthly bills including rent, health insurance, electric, and groceries. On my pretty excel spreadsheet, I also included “tithe” under bills. We knew that this needed to be a non-negotiable part of our monthly finances if we were to honor God with what He had given us. “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine” (Proverbs 3:9-10). I admit, during these early years, tithing was more of a strict rule I was almost afraid to break and not done out of thanksgiving and praise. Often I begrudgingly dropped our contribution in the offering plate and many weeks I made excuses to skip that weeks check. Buying books by Christian authors could count as using our tithe money towards church-y endeavors, right? Spending our tithe money on Christmas presents for loved ones is loving our neighbor well, right? Even with wrong motivations and unfaithful giving, God used these years to develop the habit of giving our tithes to the church while we lived in relative scarcity.

After a few years, we had moved on to new employment with higher income. This afforded the opportunity to splurge a little and save for the future. It was tempting to spend the excess each month, but our monthly bills were unchanged and we determined to hold fast to our budget. By wisely stewarding our time and resources we created a comfortable present and a hopeful future. We worked hard to develop a mindset where money was a tool. These early years fostered an appreciation for money that kept us humble in our spending.

Today we are in a much more comfortable financial situation. We realized how easy it would be to go from comfortable to complacency in our dealings with money. Life costs money and the temptation is real to put too much emphasis on financial success or meeting career goals. “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5). Health and wealth are conditional, but God remains constant and available for His people. As our finances increased so did our expenses through our growing family and growing needs. We knew that faithful stewardship required revisiting our budget and taking an honest look at how we were doing. Were we best utilizing the financial gift that God has given us?

This year our youngest child entered school and we needed to re-evaluate our budget to include his tuition and fees plus all the extras, like monthly hot lunch and field trips. By planning for our financial future, we accurately look at our anticipated expenses so we aren’t surprised when financial changes are added to our budget. Planning is essential. By understanding our financial reality we remain prepared when changes come. By planning for the future we are setting ourselves up for success and are able to live within our means.

Viewing our finances as a resource and not a reward has made such an impact on our spending habits. But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you” (1 Chronicles 29:14). All that we have is given by God so that we can fulfill His purposes in and through our lives. This frees us from the pursuit of worldly pleasure and gives us proper perspective to kingdom uses for our finances. When our church’s sponsored missionaries visit with field reports, we are blessed to enter their work by contributing to their financial needs. When an extra need arises for our sponsored children, we are able to send them aid. There is great joy in seeing our offerings to God reap eternal fruit in the lives of others. God has blessed us with much and we are so privileged to be able to steward His gift and enter into His gospel work.

Now, there is the temptation to fall into the minimalist mindset. Not the current trend of clean bookshelves or capsule wardrobes, but the mindset that we are literally called to sell all our possessions to follow Christ. This is the call for some believers, but this is not a universal call on every believer. God does not require a life of less from His people, He requires obedience in how He asks you to utilize His gifts. For some that means having a large enough table and enough food in the pantry to show hospitality often. For others that means financing a service project to better the community. For others that means donating good quality clothes to shelters for those in need. There are many ways God asks His people to steward the resources He provides and we are to walk in obedience where He leads.

I never expected to be wealthy in life. I always said I looked forward to the day when I could just buy what we needed without having to check our bank account first. Through diligent spending habits, faithful giving, and forward planning we have developed a financial stewardship mindset rather than a consumer mindset. After we started with a necessary strict budget, we now have the privilege of being more flexible with our spending. God has blessed our efforts and we pray we continue to bless others with the gifts He provides for us.

It has been a journey to feel financially secure. Not worldly security with overflowing bank accounts, but spiritual security knowing God has provided for all of our needs. We take it moment by moment and day by day because we thank the Lord for providing our daily bread. We try to be open with our finances with our children to teach them the value and purpose of money. By rooting them in the knowledge that all we own belongs to God first, our boys start with a stewardship mindset. It is hard to act selfishly when you’re focused on God.  Viewing money as a resource from God to use for His work has made all the difference.

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