There is a humorous proverb that says at the end of our lives, there will be two books that determine who we have been — the Book of Life and our checkbook. It sounds a bit ridiculous, but the fact is, how we spend our money says a whole lot about where our hearts lie. Jesus Himself told us, “Where your treasure is, there also will your heart be” (Matt. 6:21). Our actions are supposed to glorify God. How many of us are eager to show God the glory we have given Him in our checkbooks? Are we ordering our finances responsibly, and is our stewardship of treasure truly Christian?
For the majority of Americans, Christian stewardship of finances is virtually non-existent. Consider the following statistics:
- 49 percent of Americans don’t pay their bills on time.
- 65 percent of Americans don’t do a good job of staying out of debt.
- 82 percent of Americans don’t save adequately for the future.
- On average, Americans give less than 2 percent of their income to charity, and Catholics give about 1 percent of their income toward charitable causes.
- A majority of those getting divorces point to finances as one of the primary causes of their breakup.
What we do reflects who we are as persons — therefore, there can really be no separation of our personal finances and our spiritual lives and our relationship with God. As much as we would like to hide our less-than-ideal financial situation, hiding that from God would be like running away from the well when we are dying of thirst. The mark of a Christian steward is that he recognizes God as the source of everything he has and that Jesus is the answer to all our problems, including our financial woes.
In short, financial freedom consists in putting God first, and allowing Him to be Lord over all our actions. It means praying for the grace of the Holy Spirit in our financial dealings, and responding to that grace by spending responsibly.
One of the most effective ways to manage money well is to budget — to figure out what you are spending your money on and how much you are spending, to look for areas that need improvement — where you should spend more, less or not at all — and then to draw up a practical plan for spending more wisely and more Christ-like in the future. If you aren’t doing this already, now is a great time to start. The following can serve as a guide:
- Be realistic about income and expenses.
- Distinguish between wants and needs.
- Avoid unnecessary debt, especially credit card debt. If you have too much debt, make a plan of monthly payments and stick to the payments.
- Make charitable donations and savings a priority even though your first instinct may be to let them go (remember, tithing is a tangible way to show God that He comes first in your life).
- Designate a time and day each week to address financial matters, including paying bills.
- Most important: Pray for God’s guidance and grace to manage your finances according to His will.
“Every man also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and the power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and find enjoyment in his toil — this is the gift of God” (Ecclesiastes 5:19).