Monday, May 5, 2008

What does FAITH really look like?

The Lord has taught me a lot about faith and dependence on Him through our finances. I know that God provides in many different ways. Sometimes He shows us a way we can cut wasteful spending, sometimes He gives extra income or an unexpected gift from family or friends. I believe He even provides coupons & sales where we can save money on groceries or other needed expenses. I have heard the idea from so many people that "God's math is not always like ours. Sometimes the numbers may not work out on paper, but God is faithful to provide." I can testify to that myself. I know I had some months a few years ago when I was sure I wouldn't have enough to pay all of my bills and yet I did.

But I am trying to understand what exactly it means to walk by faith in the area of your finances. For example: If I have looked at my budget and reduced expenses in every way I can and I come up with say, $5000 in monthly expenses, and my income after tithing and taxes is exactly $5000, can I even consider another expense, or even more generous giving? Do you go ahead and give maybe an extra $100 a month to the poor (or a missionary, or building fund, etc.) knowing that you will be $100 short for your bills, trusting that somehow God will provide, but not having a plan yourself for where that $100 will come from? Is that what faith looks like? Is that how you learn to depend on God more? Even when the math DOES work, I know it is God who provided my job and who gave me wisdom to cut my wasteful spending or to resist impulse buys or to sacrifice some of my wants in order to avoid debts. But am I limiting my faith to what is logical?

Does "trusting God to provide" mean that He will give you new insight and wisdom in where you could earn extra $ or reduce your expenses? Or does it mean you take a step of faith not having any idea how it will work out, and you don't necessarily DO anything, you just trust that when the bills are due, you'll have what you need, even though the math doesn't work? I really am trying to get a handle on this, so I'd love some wise insight...

3 comments:

Erik said...

Some tough questions, my opinion is that your responsibility is to plan a budget that works and not rely on God to provide more than you have planned for. I base these of verses such as Proverbs 21:5 which says, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, but everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty.”

Another verse is Luke 14:28-30 which says, “For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.'”

So, instead of planning to be $100 behind your bills (which may take money from savings or create debt), I believe you should plan to be ahead and push to honor God with your money, and when He blesses you with abundance, you can respond faithfully through giving more back to Him.

I believe that trusting God in finances is that you first honor God as the owner and provider of your money through your tithe, then offer sacrificially other money as you are able and from the abundance God has blessed you with. We build money above our tithe (10%) into our budget that will be used as God brings things into our lives. In our case, some of this is given to our church, to missionaries that are in need, or other needs God lays on our hearts. Above that, we may decide to sacrificially give money we have saved to something God has brought to us. We try to take time to make the decisions (Psalm 37:7) and let God lead us.

Another thing is that although God will provide, that does not mean He is not providing today for some future expense. For example, Proverbs 6:6-8 and another verse I can't recall which talk about saving ahead for times when resources are scarce. We should save money that God is providing us with in case we have a need in the future. This isn't being unfaithful, but rather following God's plan for dealing with finances.

Also, God's plan is of course for us to not be in debt at all. Without debt, we would have even a lot more freedom to give as God calls us.

Here is a great article from Crown financial ministries about why we should budget, tithe, avoid indulgence and snap decisions, as well as other issues.

I highly recommend checking out a Crown or Dave Ramsey class where they cover all these concepts :-)

The Wellingtons said...

Erik,

Thanks so much for taking the time to share that with me. I really appreciate the insight. We are actually in a Crown class right now which has been very good. And I have always understood it as you pointed out from Scripture. I have just heard people along the way suggest this idea that the math doesn't matter if you're trusting God... and while I agree that the Lord can provide in ways we could never dream up, and that He is faithful to supply what we need when we are seeking Him first, I don't believe that He calls us to this "blind or reckless faith" where we test Him to show up.

That's exactly how people get into debt: spending now what they believe they will earn in the future. It's enslaving, and dangerous. I've been there and I know that is exactly what the Lord warns against, not leads us into.

Sometimes it can feel that budgeting and having a plan is simply human wisdom, but I know that it is godly wisdom which teaches us to get out of debt, to save, to be responsible and not indulgent.

Erik said...

I have heard others say the same thing. Amazingly, we are told to test God by offering our tithe (Malachi 3:10). So, tithing becomes the only place in scripture where it says to test God. But, that is saying to be faithful with your money, give back to God, and God will prove it to be a blessing to you. That doesn't mean He will make you rich for it or anything, just that you will be blessed.

My opinion based on this verse and the budgeting ones is that you are supposed to plan and budget your offerings. Giving away money you have already spent (bills are money that is already spent, you don't pay for your utilities until after you use them generally and debt is of course money you spent) or that you need to survive (eg food) is, I believe, putting God to the test as Jesus reiterates not to do in Matthew 4:7. On the other hand, I am all for sacrificial giving...giving beyond what was in your budget. The key is just that you have the money to give before you give it by taking it out of savings for food, clothing, cars, etc.