If you are a Christian, you probably realize that God has called us to be good stewards of our finances, as with everything else in our lives. What does that mean? The word “steward” means “caretaker.” We are called to take care of our possessions for God – because they all belong to him! Everything on Earth is His, and your home, car, cash, credit cards (!), and checkbook are not exceptions. If you want to know how this affects your life, keep reading.
The first thing you have to do, if you’re serious about being a steward of your money, is figure out how much you have and keep track of it! There are many easy-to-use (almost idiot-proof!), high quality, software packages which will make it easier for you. My recommendation is Quicken 2007 Premier. Get it and use it – you can even set it up to download your statements and track your purchases automatically.
Next, set a budget. Then, stick to it. Again, Quicken can help with this. A good way to think of budgeting priorities is this: your money is “GOD’S.”
- God gets the first share everything you have. Set a percentage from your regular income, called a tithe (10% is a good starting point, but is not your “obligation” – if you can, you should give more!). Give to your local church, missionaries and missions organizations, other groups serving God before you do anything else, and God will bless your efforts!
- Others are another priority. Remember Jesus’s words in Matthew 22:34-40? He said the greatest commandment is “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind…. The second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'” God expects you to care for others around you – from malnourished children in underdeveloped countries, to the homeless people of your hometown, to your family members with the same care you give to your own needs and wants.
- Debts must be eliminated. The Bible mentions in many places the slavery imposed by unpaid debts – but we are not to be slaves to money! You need a plan – once again, Quicken or other software can help you develop one – and you need discipline. Decide how much you can afford to spend paying off your debts – if it’s just the minimum payments, you may need to take drastic steps such as rearranging your lifestyle or even selling a car or home!
- Save! Saving is just good planning: for the unexpected (your car breaking down, a medical emergency), for retirement, even so you can give more! Investing counts as a form of saving (in fact, most of your money should be invested somehow – stocks, bonds, commodities, a CD, or even a money market savings account will give a better return than stowing cash under a mattress or even an interest-bearing checking account).
When you follow GOD’S priorities in this way, you will have the joy of following God’s commands, the joy of helping others, freedom from debt, and even more to give!
When you save, you need to look at all your options. You may want the help of a CPA (Certified Professional Accountant) in determining your savings goals and plans, maybe even on an ongoing basis. Be sure you don’t just bury your money under a mattress, or even put it in a low-yield savings account! Find investments which match your needs, and pursue them. To get started, look at Investopedia.com, or for an even friendlier introduction, Fool.com.
If you have comments on this material, please contact me.