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Manage Money

Taking control of finances involves trusting God with your finances.

According to research, of all the promises you'll make on your wedding day, the "for richer or poorer" part is likely to cause the most problems. The Association of Bridal Consultants reports that 67% of newlyweds say the most serious conflict in their first year of marriage is over money. Other research shows that more than 50% of divorces are caused over money. It's a fact of life that if you aren't in control of your finances, you will have a hard time controlling other areas of your life as well.

We can't escape the fact that money is a source of stress in our lives. Whether you have a little or a lot by our societal standards, you will have to learn to handle financial pressure.

No matter what their income, most people feel they need more. Years ago, it used to frustrate me to hear my brother-in-law complain about how tough it was to live on his meager income, when I knew he and his wife made a combined total of more than $60,000 per year. You see, at the time I was a full-time pastor earning about $13,000 a year, supporting a wife and three preschool children. I thought when it came to financial pressure I had the corner on the market. What I didn't realize then was that there are millions of people in the world who would consider a $13,000 salary wealth beyond their wildest dreams.

It's all a matter of perspective. Whether you have a little or a lot, you're going to have to learn to manage money, or it will destroy your chances for happiness. And though I can't tell you how to increase your income today, I can tell you what the Bible says about managing your money. If you do these things, you will experience a level of peace and prosperity that no amount of money can replace. Proverbs offers five principles of money management, and we'll take a look at each one. First of all, the Bible tells us we should...

1. Keep track

A question we have all undoubtedly asked ourselves is, "Where does it all go so fast? I just broke a $20 yesterday and now it's gone, and I don't have anything to show for it!" This is common for most people, but you can prevent this kind of financial amnesia by keeping records of what you buy.

When I began keeping track of my spending, I made an amazing discovery. I was spending more than $40 a month on soft drinks. (I won't tell you how much I was spending on pizza.) Every time I stopped in front of a coke machine I thought, "It's only fifty cents; it doesn't really matter." But fifty cents at a time adds up. I realized I was spending $500 a year on something that wasn't really contributing to making my life better. I decided, "If I'm going to waste $500 a year, I would rather 'waste' it on something more meaningful than soda. I could buy season tickets to the Titans' games for less than that. I could take my kids to Disney World. I could buy a new guitar..." You get the idea. But it wasn't until I started keeping track of where my money was going that I began to realize I was missing out.

Solomon said,
(27:23–24) Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds; for riches do not endure forever.

What's he saying? He saying, Know what's going on in your life financially.Know where you are. Know how much you have and how much you're spending.

Keeping track of your finances doesn't really require a lot of work; it just requires consistency. Many people make it more difficult than it has to be. They get legalistic about it and take it too far. I did this. I would come home from Wal-Mart and spend an hour going over my receipt, creating categories for every item. I realized I had taken it too far when I created separate categories for dishwashing liquid and dishwashing powder. You don't have to make it that difficult. Besides, it's impossible to keep up that level of intensity long-term. You only have to track in general terms how much you're spending, and this will enable you to keep on eye on where your money is going, and will help you spot a problem area.

Keeping good financial records makes it possible for you to manage your money from a position of strength, because there will be fewer surprises along the way, and you'll be able to prepare for what lies ahead. Solomon said...

(13:16) Every prudent man acts out of knowledge.

So, know where you stand financially. Know how much you have, and know how much you spend.

An article at Bankrate.com said that one of the most difficult adjustments for someone who has experienced the death of a spouse is in sorting out the financial details. Most of them don't know what they have, where the records are, or how to go about putting them together. I hope I don't sound morbid for bringing this up, but keep in mind—if you keep good financial records, you'll make things a lot easier for your family if something unexpectedly happens to you. So, keep track of where you are financially. Get your financial affairs in order. You will find, even if you're in horrendous financial shape right now, that there is power in knowledge. There is power in knowing where you are financially. Keep track of your finances. Secondly...

2. Plan Ahead

Based on what you earn and how much you have, decide where you want your money to go, and develop a plan to spend it that way. Some people refer to this as a budget, but I hesitate to use that term. I realize it's just a matter of semantics, but for some people the word "budget" connotes limits, hardships and doing without; the term "financial plan" connotes goal-oriented possibilities. Decide what you want to do with your money, and begin making plans for it.

Some things you need to plan for are: your retirement, the kid's college tuition, the purchase of your home, car maintenance and repair, dental expenses, Christmas and birthdays, and so on. None of these things are emergencies; we know they're going to happen, but too often we treat them as though they were. Many people wait until December 10 and suddenly say, "Yikes! I've only got two weeks! Where am I going to get the money to buy toys for the kids?" Then they decide the only way they can have a good Christmas is to go deeper in debt. Sadly enough, just as many people work their whole lives and suddenly, at the age of sixty-four they think, "Oh man, I'm retiring next year. How am I going to live?" You've got to develop a plan for how you will spend your money. Solomon said...

(21:5) The plans of the diligent lead to profit, as surely as haste leads to poverty.

Make plans for your financial future. This is something that should be done thoughtfully, carefully, and prayerfully. In the process, you should seek out advice from others. There are a number of good, biblically based books on the subject, written by well-respected, responsible Christian leaders, such as Financial Peace by Dave Ramsey, or the Financial Planning Workbook, by Larry Burkett. Since we know that "every prudent man acts out of knowledge," make an effort to become knowledgeable in this area, and then develop a plan for your financial future. Next, Solomon advises us to...

3. Save Consistently

Just like spending fifty cents here and there on a soda can add up to thousands of dollars over the course of a decade, saving even a small amount on a regular basis can accumulate into a significant amount of money. Solomon said,

(13:11) He who gathers money little by little makes it grow.

I have a friend who manages a financial fund with a minimum investment of $250,000. What I found so amazing when I first met him is that the vast majority of his investors are plain, ordinary, working-class people. Over the course of their lives they put back a little money on a regular basis until they had accumulated enough to participate in his fund.
Begin the habit of putting aside some money each month. Even if it seems to be a ridiculously small amount now, it will grow over time. What's more, saving consistently teaches you discipline. If you develop the discipline in the area of savings, it will help you develop discipline in the area of spending. Solomon said...

(21:20) In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has.

Today, we hear the phrase "choice food and oil" and may think it refers to a disposable luxury. In reality, in Solomon's day this would be a considerate a liquid asset (no pun intended). He's saying, "A wise man puts something back for the future. He plans ahead." In fact, I want to read that same verse to you from the Living Bible. It says...

(21:20 TLB) The wise man saves for the future, but the foolish man spends whatever he gets.

You may say, "I wish I could save, but I can't afford it. I have all these bills to pay, obligations to meet, expenses to take care of. The money should go to my creditors and my kids." Of course, you do have to pay your bills and take care of your family, but you also have a responsibility to plan for the future. Even if you can save only a small amount, if you do it consistently it will accumulate. Fourthly, in learning to manage our money, Proverbs encourages us to...

4. Eliminate Debt

It is no coincidence that there are four letters in the word debt, because, if you are or ever have been in debt, you know by experience that debt is a four-letter word. I can say without any doubt that nothing in the world has caused me as much misery as being in debt. No good can possibly come from being in debt. Now, I'm not talking about having a mortgage on a house. I'm not even referring owing money on a vehicle—as long as the pay-off is less than the value of the car, and the pay-off continues to decrease at a rate faster than your automobile depreciates. That way, if you face an emergency, you can sell your car and get out from under the obligation with no damage.

The kind of debt I'm talking about is what is commonly referred to as "consumer debt", i.e. credit card debt. It's non-secured, non-collateralized debt, and if you get into it, it can haunt you for the rest of your life.

According to the Consumer Federation of America, the aggregate credit card debt for Americans more than doubled between 1990–1997. It will double again the end of next year. What people are buying with their credit cards is most often not things with long-term value; they're buying groceries and gasoline, and taking months to pay it off.This kind of debt leads only to misery.

Have you seen those MasterCard commercials that portray using their credit card as the key to the fulfillment of your dreams? They say things like, "Air fare for two to Paris, $1800. Rental for your private chalet, $650. An evening meal for two at a sidewalk café, $50. Sharing it all with the one you love...priceless." When I see those ads I wish they'd use the tag, "The stress of having to pay off the card at 17.5% interest—not anywhere near worth the cost." There's nothing wrong with going to Paris, but if you can't afford to travel without going into debt, you might consider staying home.

Solomon said...

(6:1–5) My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, if you have struck hands in pledge for another...then do this my son, to free yourself...Go and humble yourself; press your plea with your neighbor! Allow no sleep to your eyes, no slumber to your eyelids. Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the snare of the fowler.

Solomon is talking specifically about what we call "co-signing" a note for someone. He is very specific: don't do it. And his words can be applied to any kind of debt at all. If you owe someone money, they have a subtle form of power over you, and you become, in many ways, their prisoner. If you owe tons of money in consumer debt, you are no longer free to do what you want to do; you are no longer working for yourself, you're working for them. This is why Paul said...

Let no debt remain outstanding except the continuing debt to love one another. (Romans 13:8)

In managing your money, I encourage you to set your top priority as eliminating your debt, specifically credit card debt. And choose from this day forward to not incur more debt. If you can't afford it, don't buy it. I'll admit doing without isn't fun. In fact, it can be rather painful at times, but not nearly as painful as being a slave to someone else.

The fifth thing Proverbs teaches about managing your money is...

5. Give Habitually

We have a tendency to give only when it is easy to give. When things get tight, what we give to God is often the first item we cut. That's a bad habit to get into for at least two reasons. One, it shows a lack of gratitude to God for all he has given us in the past. Two, it shows a lack of trust in God for his ability to help us through the rough patch. Whether things are easy right now in your financial life, or whether they are difficult, make it a habit to give to God first, before you spend your money on anything else. Solomon said...

(3:9–10) Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.

In the same way that practicing discipline in the area of saving helps you practice discipline in the area of spending, being consistent in your giving will help you become consistent in other areas of your financial life. Plus, it opens the door for God's blessing on you. Solomon said...

(22:9) A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor.

In the Bible there is a direct connection between what you give and what you receive. Now, there are dozens of guys on TV that misrepresent this biblical truth and exploit it for their own gain, but just because they're out in left field on a few things doesn't mean we shouldn't believe what the Bible says about giving. If you give, God will bless you.

Someone once said to me, "Are you implying that God is some kind of spiritual slot machine?" My answer is: No, absolutely not; because slot machines don't pay off most of the time. God, on the other hand, does. He has promised that if you give, he will bless you. In the last book of the Old Testament, he said...

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. (Malachi 3:10)

Control of your finances begins with trusting God with your finances. If you give to him, and trust him to take care of you, he will do it. People ask, "How much should I give?" The biblical guideline is a tithe, or ten percent. That should be your goal. Most people, by making only a few minor adjustments, could start giving 10% of their income to God right away. If you currently don't tithe, but you want to take control of your finances, then I encourage you to begin making an effort. You may not be able to give as much money (in total dollar amount) as some others give, but whatever you give to God will be honored and you will be blessed by him. Paul said about giving...

If the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have. (2 Corinthians 8:12)


Jesus taught that your attitude toward money says a lot about your attitude toward God. He said...

If you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? (Luke 16:11)

Managing our money is not an option. It's something we all have to do. You will have the most success doing it if you follow the biblical guidelines for money management. That means we should keep track, plan ahead, save consistently, eliminate debt, and give habitually. It comes to this: Taking control of finances involves trusting God with your finances. When God is the Lord of your pocketbook, it is easier to keep track, it is easier to plan ahead, it is easier to save, it is easier to get out of debt, it is easier to give. It is easier, because you're not doing everything on your own. You're doing it all with his blessing and strength behind you all the way.

(c) Steve May


A resource of Christianity Today International

Steve May has been a pastor to pastors for more than 20 years, helping preachers and teachers to become more effective communicators of the gospel.

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Sermon Outline:


If you aren't in control of your finances, you will have a hard time controlling other areas of your life as well.

I. Keep track of your spending

II. Plan Ahead

III. Save Consistently

IV. Eliminate Debt

V. Give Habitually


If you trust God with your finances, then you will have his blessing and strength behind you the whole way.