Principles of Biblical Finance

27 Oct

You can listen to the podcast here.

Thanks to Dave Ramsey for the general ideas expressed here.

Money is fun … if you have it. Some people aren’t having fun. They may look like they are. They may act like they are. Some people have trouble checking the mail because of what they are going to find in there. Some sources say that 70% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. If you look down the row at the families sitting beside you right now, seven out of ten of them have too much month left at the end of the money. We have this idea that more money will fix all our problems. But that’s not true. More money is rarely the answer. More money usually just makes us more of who we already are. So if you don’t manage your money well now, chances are you won’t manage more money well. Everybody struggles with money, right? If you’ve done something silly or dumb with money, you know what that makes you? Breathing. If you’re struggling with money, if you’ve got bills piling up, if you’re worried about retirement or college expenses or just the power bill, guess what? You’re normal.

“Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Pet. 5:8) The devil wants us to think we’re the only ones with money issues. We look around at everyone else and see what they’re doing, what they’re buying and we think, “Man, it must be me.” The fact is, “normal” in these United States is flat broke. But that’s not what the devil tells us, is it? He wants us to be isolated; to be alone. Satan is a predator. If you check out any Animal Planet videos, there is something common about predators. They always try to separate their prey from the pack. When that is done, they make the kill. If Satan can convince you that it’s just you, he’s succeeded in separating you from the pack. That’s why money problems consistently rank as one of the leading causes of divorce in America.

Some quick facts: there are 307 million people in America. There are 171 million Master Cards and 269 million Visa cards. The average balance? $15,799.00. That’s why bankruptcy continues to be rampant in our country. The Office of the United States Trustee reports that from 1998 to 2008, there were 14,347,244 bankruptcy filings in the United States Bankruptcy Courts. Filings are down 14% for the first six months of the year, but there are still just over 1.3 million people that filed for bankruptcy. The problem isn’t money. The problem is a lack of hope, lack of trust, a lack of self control. The problem is our own bad behavior. We do dumb things and when we do those dumb things, we blame other people. We do everything we can to avoid the pain that comes when we do dumb things. As hard as this may be to hear, pain is a teacher. It’s instructive. Pain shows us where we went wrong and points the way back on track. If we spend all our time avoiding the pain, we’ll miss the lessons God has for us. Pain will make you open your Bible to find comfort, to find relief.

Our behavior is the key and our behavior reflects our relationship with Christ. Dave Ramsey says that personal finance is 80% behavior. It’s only 20% head knowledge. So, what behaviors do we need to examine in order to get our finances in line with God’s way of handling money? There are principles in Scripture to help us in this area. There are over 800 Scripture passages about money. Jesus talked more about money than He did any other topic, including heaven, hell, temptation, sin, and salvation. Clearly, money is a big deal. Sometimes though, people in church get confused about this. In church, we sometimes think that a sermon on money is just a plea for more giving. For Jesus, teaching about money was an essential preparation for a godly life. Show me your bank statement and I’ll show you what’s important to you. What you spend your money on is like a window to your soul. The Bible doesn’t have a complicated strategy about diversifying your portfolio. What the Bible teaches about money is shockingly easy to understand, but is really hard to do. Why? Because of our behavior. We still have this sin nature, but it is no longer supposed to control us. If I can get a hold of the guy that stares at me every time I look in the mirror, I can win with money.

So here are the Dave Ramsey’s five principles of biblical finance.

  1. Get out of debt. Pro. 22:7: “And the borrower becomes the lender’s slave.” Matt. 6:24: “No one can serve two masters.” What would it be like to have no payments? Sometimes people get confused and think they need to borrow money to do what God is calling them to do. Debt consolidation may not be the best solution either. Larry Burkett has said, “Debt is not the problem, it is the symptom.” When you are digging yourself into a hole, you can’t dig deeper to get out; you need to put down the shovel. Consolidation doesn’t fix the problem, it just redistributes it.
  2. Act your wage. Pro. 21:20: “There is precious treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise, but a foolish man swallows it up.” 1 Tim. 6:6: “But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment.” We’ve all done “stupid with zeroes on the end,” but you can learn to live on less than you make. Don’t think you have to have everything everybody else has. Don’t expect to have at 25 what your parents have at 55.
  3. Get on a budget. Sometimes people do dumb stuff and then ask God to bless it. If you’ve ever watched house hunters, they start out with a budget. They rarely stick to that budget. Luke 16:10: “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.” A loving father gives you only what you can handle. You better have a plan for your finances. Be responsible. Be intentional. Be an adult. Make a plan and put it on paper and do it before the month begins. If you’re married, talk to your spouse and get on the same page.
  4. Save. You can’t out-earn bad decisions. It’s important to save money in several different ways: save money for an emergency fund. The rainy day saving. Life is coming and you need to be ready. This will become “Murphy Repellent ” Save up and pay cash for things. Why? You spend less when you use cash. A recent study showed that you spend 47% more at McDonald’s when you use a card than you do with cash. Why? Because you actually see the money moving from your hands to someone else’s. Some studies show that in general, you spend 12-18% more when you use a card. If you have demonstrated that you cannot spend responsibly when you use a card – use cash. When it’s gone, it’s gone and sometimes when you use cash, you can get a better deal.
  5. Give. There’s nothing more fun to do with money than to give. Have you ever had a meal anonymously paid for at a restaurant? Ever leave a ginormous tip? Ever pay for the meal for the people behind you in the drive through? The reality is God doesn’t need your money. He isn’t so concerned with the money you have or don’t have, He cares about you. He’s trying to change the person in the mirror. God has a plan. He is your father and wants good things for His children.

All of these things weave together. God’s ways of handling money work every time, but it’s not always smooth sailing. There will be tough times and the natural draw will be to do things man’s way. If you follow these principles, broke people will make fun of you. This is not the “normal” way of doing things everyone’s in debt, right? Heb.12:11: “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”

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