If you take a quick view of both traditional personal finance and Christian personal finance, they really don't look that much different from each other, at least on the surface. When I speak of "traditional person finance," I am really defining that as wise personal money management. There are numerous Christian personal finance blogs that embrace much of the same advice that you also read on other personal finance blogs.
Similarities Between the Two Approaches
Wise handling of personal finances is a distinctive of both approaches. Avoiding debt, spending money wisely, developing a budget, employing the cash envelope system, and strategic investing are all similarities in approach. Christians can learn much by reading the wise "secular" advice that is given in many personal finance blogs and books.
Although there are many similarities between the two approaches, there are also a few, key distinctives that sets Christian personal finance apart from traditional personal finance wisdom.
5 Characteristics of Christian Personal Finance
Christian personal finance recognizes that:
- A Christian's money is really God's money. Christians who are serious about handling their money God's way must first acknowledge that it's not really their money to begin with. Psalm 24:1 says, "The earth is the Lord's and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it." In 1 Chronicles 29:11-12 we read, "Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all." While there are many today who are on a journey to do smarter things with their money, a Christian's journey should be about handling money in such a way that will be pleasing to God, because the money we have is His money, not ours.
- Christians are simply God's money managers. In the Christian personal finance world, we often use the terms "steward" and "stewardship" in order to define the Christian's role in handling money. A steward is simply an old English term that means "manager." If you were a manager of a restaurant, a store, or a business, you would not own it. You would have been hired by the owner to run the business in an effective manner. The same is true of a Christian's finances. God is looking for disciples who can manage His wealth in an effective manner. In Matthew 25:14-18 we read these words from Jesus as He told His disciples the Parable of the Talents: "Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money."
- One day, Christians will give an accounting of how they have handled God's money. If you are an effective manager of a business, then the owner of the business will be extremely pleased with your results and give you even more responsibility. If you are an ineffective manager, then the owner will give you fewer responsibilities or even fire you! You are expected to produce the results for which you have been hired. Returning to the story of the Parable of the Talents, we see the master's return and his calling to account his three servants and how well they have managed his financial resources."After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.' His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!' The man with the two talents also came. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.' His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!' Then the man who received the one talent came. 'Master,' he said, 'I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.' His master replied, 'You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth'" (Matthew 25:19-30). Christians who are serious about managing God's money effectively understand that each and every day, they are demonstrating whether or not the Lord can trust them with His wealth. They know that if they are faithful in the little God has given them to manage, then God will bless them with even more opportunities and resources to manage in an even greater way. Ultimately, all believers should realize that they will give a final accounting one day in heaven after their life on earth has ended. Our time here on earth is very short and eternity is what really matters. We need to have a long-term, eternal outlook with God's money and look forward to a heavenly reward that will last forever. We can't take our money or possessions with us when we die, but we can certainly "send it on ahead" through investing in God's Kingdom purposes.
- God's money has greater purposes. God blesses us with money for a number of reasons. First, He knows that we and our families have physical needs while we are living here on the earth. Titus 3:14 says, "Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives." God gives us the ability to work in order to provide for our daily needs as well as live productive lives. Second, God wants us to enjoy the financial blessings that He gives to those who love Him. 1 Timothy 6:17 states, "Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment." Third, God blesses His children in order that they may learn the value of generosity. He wants us to be a blessing to others by giving back through our local churches, missions, and the poor. In 1 Timothy 6:18 we read, "Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share." God wants us to learn the value of generosity for the sake of building His Kingdom here on earth. He calls all of His followers to join Him in His Kingdom mission through generous giving.
- A Christian's financial priorities should reflect God's priorities. In Financial Peace University, Dave Ramsey stresses the need to put charitable giving right at the top of our family's budget - "on paper, on purpose." He says that if we don't make our giving a priority, it will never get done. Giving will drop further down in our budgets becoming crowded out by other needs and desires. We will end up serving God our leftovers instead of the very best of His provision. As a Christ follower and student of God's Word, I believe that I personally should give a minimum of the tithe or 10% of all of my income sources. In order to accomplish this, I must have a prioritized giving plan by budgeting for at least this amount. If Christians truly believe that God has greater Kingdom purposes for His wealth, then they can give generously and joyfully that which is already His to begin with.
Are you a Christ follower? If so, how are you handling your finances? Have you adopted a traditional approach to your personal finances, or are you pursuing a Biblical approach to handling money God's way? I challenge you to prayerfully consider managing God's money in such a way that will be pleasing to Him.
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