Sunday, September 23, 2012

A Penny Saved

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."

Can you relate to that? After all, ours is 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 set aside the first portion of our income for God's purposes, we also need to follow that by paying ourselves. This involves regularly depositing predetermined amounts into a bank account, rainy day fund or perhaps toward investments like stocks, bonds and annuities. If that sounds boring and too much like work, maybe it is. But think of common sense money management as being like regular workouts at the gym. There's always some pain starting out. But practice it long enough and you'll likely see the gain.

During His brief 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.

And what do the Scriptures tell us about savings and fiscal discipline? 

One biblical principle 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 for always meeting our needs. What's more, our Creator can do more with the remaining 90 percent of our income than we can do with all of it.

Another precept 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. And next, we need to attack debt and anticipate tough times. This means developing a budget, spending less than we earn, paying off those credit cards (particularly the ones with sky-high interest rates) and setting money aside to cover unexpected expenses. Following these steps can help your savings accumulate little by little over time--especially when it earns compound interest.

Above all, let's be rich toward God and invest in the eternal. Saving for the future is obviously important. But also look for ways to put your money to work promoting God's interests. This might involve giving toward a special church initiative, supporting overseas missionaries or maybe even starting your own community ministry. Whatever it is, 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.

"'Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,'" says the LORD Almighty, "'and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.'" 

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