Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Saving Grace

Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow.

-- Proverbs 13:11

“Money in the bank is like toothpaste in the tube,” writer Earl Wilson once observed. “Easy to take out, hard to put back.”

Isn’t that too true? The fact is that we live in a buy-now-pay-later culture. Millions of Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck and spend their money as soon as they get it. And if an unexpected expense (or the latest electronic gadget) comes along, it’s second nature to put it on the trusty MasterCard or American Express and worry about the bill later. So with such an unrealistic approach to money and finances, is it any wonder that foreclosures and bankruptcies have reached unprecedented levels?

Deep down, we know the importance of saving for the future. Just as we need to purposefully set aside the first portion of our income for God’s purposes, we also need to follow that by paying ourselves. That means putting predetermined amounts in the bank, rainy day funds or perhaps toward investments like stocks, bonds and annuities. If that sage advice sounds a little boring and a bit too much like work, it can be. But think of common sense money management as like regular workouts at the gym. There’s always a certain amount of pain starting out. But practice it long enough and your bank account will definitely see the gain.

During His brief but world-changing ministry, Jesus taught His first followers about the proper relationship with God, family, neighbors and even enemies. But Christ also spoke extensively about money-related issues. In fact, the Bible is full of financial wisdom that’s as applicable today as it was centuries ago. So what do the Scriptures tell us about savings and fiscal discipline?

The first step is to give the first 10 percent or more of our income to the church. This honors God by actively promoting His purposes on earth and demonstrating our faith in Him to always meet our needs. Never forget that God can do more with the remaining 90 percent of our income than we can do with all of it. The second step is to appreciate all that God has already given us. If we foster an attitude of gratitude, we’re unlikely to spend what we don’t have on unaffordable material possessions that we don’t really need in the first place. Next, we need to attack debt and anticipate tough times. That means paying off those credit cards with their sky-high interest rates and setting money aside for the tough times and unexpected expenses. These steps can help your savings accumulate little by little over time – particularly when your money earns compound interest.

Above all, be rich toward God and invest in the eternal. Saving for the future is certainly important. But also look for ways to put your money to work promoting God’s interests. That might mean giving toward a special church initiative, supporting overseas missionaries or maybe even starting your own community ministry! Ask God in prayer to show you what to do and clear a path to let you do it. He knows our motivations and rewards those who honor Him.

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