As 2021 begins, this may be the year to kick bad money habits and take ownership as a steward of finances. Over the coming weeks and months, let’s do that together! We are going to look at some practical pillars of a financial plan. For those who call the U.S. their home country, there will also be brief tips called “Applications for Americans”.
Knowing what you want in life may come easy for some. While for others, choosing what movie to watch can feel like the decision to move overseas all over again. Foundational to every financial plan is the ability to engage with what’s important to you. Take time to prayerfully explore vision and hopes for the future. Goals provide the framework for building a financial plan. The technical insights we will explore in the weeks to come are merely the tools one can use to get there. Here are three questions to help you dive further into the “Why?” for your money plan this year.
Who does it belong to?
Whether you live in a culture priding itself on self-sufficiency or one that demands prosperity to benefit those close to you, the source of wealth is key to the decisions we make about money. A revelation of whom the ownership of treasures eternally rests upon can alone shift our view of money and how we use it. This understanding is at the core of the word “steward.” A “steward” implies that you are responsible for the management and care of something that belongs to someone else. If our goal is to be faithful stewards of what God has entrusted to us, let us understand that it is not our own.
Bible verses like Luke 18:25 (camel and the needle) and 1 Timothy 6:10 (love of money) can often be interpreted that money and wealth are a deterrent to God. But, we know that the promises of God are for the man and the women, the native and the foreigner, and the rich and the poor. The challenge then, is to examine our beliefs around money and allow them to be renewed. It is the rich man who thinks he can earn his way that is denied entrance into the kingdom of God. It is the love of money that is the root of all kinds of evil. Money itself is just metal and paper. Whether rich or poor, may we seek to be faithful servants of what belongs to the Master.
For deeper reflection: If it all belongs to God, how does that impact my view of having little or much? How do you respond when support is down for the month? Is there entitlement when a supporter event leads to increased giving?
What is it good for?
No, not absolutely nothing 😄. Dave Ramsey is known for comparing the morality of money to a brick. “In the hands of the right person, a brick can be used to skillfully build a home for a family. But in the wrong hands, a brick can be used to break your car window and steal your wallet. It’s all about whose hands it’s in. The brick doesn’t care!” His point is that money is amoral. It doesn’t have a defining character of its own. Money does, however, augment whatever is already at the heart of the one who possesses it. So, with a healthy view of money and who it belongs to, money can be good for a lot of things.
Determining your “Why?” for money management can be more easily achieved as you discover its purpose. Really, money is good for accomplishing those things that are important to you and your family. Though a family in transition, we are able to continue to use money to be a tool for accomplishing our goals, thanks to our financial plan. Despite being unable to spend our time serving the people of the Himalayas in this season, we are still able to use our money to see that vision accomplished. By not personally defining intentions for money, it’s all too easy for the world around to decide where it goes next. And remember, “reactionary financial management is no way to run a money marathon.”
For deeper reflection: What aspects of my money management are “building houses” versus “bashing windows”?
How much is enough?
A former teammate shared a unique illustration about money that has stuck with me. He likened God’s intentions for the distribution of wealth in a broken world, to a waiter pouring champagne down a pyramid of glasses. There are some who are seemingly “at the top” continually getting more and more. Each glass receiving up to capacity. But at that point, it begins to fill the other glasses below it. This is possible because each glass has a capacity for what is “enough.”
This is not an easy question, but worth asking. The Bible, and Jesus himself, talked a lot about the rich and poor. To the listeners of the time, those demographics may have seemed clear. But in applying these lessons today, withhold the urge to immediately assign a dollar amount. Resist the response of comparison. You may discover it’s less about money and more about motives. Are you half-filled, unable to pour out to others? Withholding, never receiving enough? Or have you received His abundance and discovered that it is truly more blessed to give than receive?
For deeper reflection: What’s my capacity in this season? How might it change a year from now?
Seeking God to define these values and desires will do more for your financial plan than any dollar amount, tax break, or stock option. For those of you seeking to have a plan for financial stewardship in 2021, please share with us your “Why?” in the comments section below.
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The thoughts and opinions shared in this article are for general information and thought provocation only, and do not take into consideration your personal financial circumstances. I am not a financial, investment or tax professional, but someone who wishes to share what I’ve learned through managing finances as a cross-cultural worker. For professional financial advice, please consult a licensed professional.