Archives For Contentment

       I’ve written a good bit of material designed to free people from the idea that the tithe is something they must do under threat of a curse from God. The giving standards in the New Testament are very different (and actually much more challenging) than those in the Old Testament. The teachings and example of Christ guide us into a mindset of giving that’s based on love for God and others – not just promises of blessings or threats of a curse.

       But I also understand why some people like to use the tithe as their standard of giving. It’s simple, straightforward, and gives you a guideline you can start using right away. (Assuming, of course, that you don’t try to set up a ton of rules to help you figure out how to tithe just right.) Freewill, sacrificial, generous giving motivated by love just isn’t quite as easy to figure out as a flat 10%.

       I came across a concept that I think can be helpful as a starting point – a way to think and pray about giving that will help you figure out what God wants you to do in your situation while also protecting yourself from lifestyle inflation. It’s called graduated tithing. The name aside, I think it can be a good way to think about your giving. Coming up with your own plan gives you an opportunity to consciously seek God’s will for your giving. Let’s look at it in more depth.

The Graduated Tithe

       I first came across the idea in an article that Craig wrote at Money Help for Christians. The concept of the graduated tithe seems to have originated with Ronald Sider in his book Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger: Moving from Affluence to Generosity.

       Ron explains it this way. First, you start with a base amount. His family decided on a base figure that includes the current poverty level for his family’s size, plus costs for Christian education and college expenses, plus taxes, plus genuine emergencies. His family tries to give 10% of that base amount. Then, for each $1,000 of income above that base amount, they give an additional 5%. An example will help you see what I’m talking about.

       Let’s say you choose a base amount of $40,000. Here is what your graduated tithe (or giving system) would look like:

Income % to Give $ to Give Total Income Total $ Given Total % Given
$40,000 10% $4,000 $40,000 $4,000 10.0%
next $1,000 15% $150 $41,000 $4,150 10.1%
next $1,000 20% $200 $42,000 $4,350 10.4%
next $1,000 25% $250 $43,000 $4,600 10.7%
next $1,000 30% $300 $44,000 $4,900 11.1%
next $1,000 35% $350 $45,000 $5,250 11.7%
next $1,000 40% $400 $46,000 $5,650 12.3%
next $1,000 45% $450 $47,000 $6,100 13.0%
next $1,000 50% $500 $48,000 $6,600 13.8%
next $1,000 55% $550 $49,000 $7,150 14.6%
next $1,000 60% $600 $50,000 $7,750 15.5%
next $1,000 65% $650 $51,000 $8,400 16.5%
next $1,000 70% $700 $52,000 $9,100 17.5%
next $1,000 75% $750 $53,000 $9,850 18.6%
next $1,000 80% $800 $54,000 $10,650 19.7%
next $1,000 85% $850 $55,000 $11,500 20.9%
next $1,000 90% $900 $56,000 $12,400 22.1%
next $1,000 95% $950 $57,000 $13,350 23.4%
next $1,000 100% $1,000 $58,000 $14,350 24.7%



       After you reach a total income of $57,000, you’ll be giving away 100% of any additional money you earn. If your income was $75,000, you’d be giving $31,350 under this system – a little over 40%. At $100,000, you’d be giving away $56,350 or just over 56%.

       To use the graduated tithe (or giving system, I just like that better), you’d want to update your base amount every year. This will help account for changes in your personal situation, taxes, and most importantly – God’s will. He may lead you to give more in some years by choosing a lower base amount or to give less by choosing a higher base amount.

A Few Caveats About the Graduated Tithe

       I share this idea with you not to enforce a legalistic standard but to offer an alternative that will help you focus on giving more and not becoming greedy as your income rises. If you decide to use the graduated tithe, you should be very careful if it makes you begrudge giving and takes away the joy of sharing. If you don’t have love and give cheerfully, it’s not going to matter how much you give. In that case, you’re going to have to seek God’s heart and ask Him to help you have His love develop in you.

       Also, you should use this example as a guide – not a law. If your family is in a situation where this can’t work for you right now, then adapt it to fit God’s will for your giving. You’ll need to go through this planning process with a lot of prayer and request guidance from the Holy Spirit, but it can be something that helps you give generously in your situation.

       I really want to emphasize the fact that you need to seek God’s will on this. You shouldn’t use the tithe, the graduate tithe, or any other giving system as a replacement for prayer and discernment. God will guide you as you seek to please Him. Make that your primary goal and He’ll help you figure out what the right amount is for you.

Your Thoughts

       What do you think of the graduated tithe? Let me know in the comments below!

This article was included in the Carnival of Personal Finance as an editor’s pick!

In several Christian traditions, there is a recent phenomenon of a devotion method known as SOAP. It’s a nice acronym that stands for the following: Scripture, Observation, Application, and Prayer. For those who are unfamiliar with it, it is a devotional method. It is the structure used for people to engage the Bible. Here’s how it works. Someone will select a scripture, and write it down next to the ‘S’. Then, they will make an observation from that scripture. It can be something simple or complex. Based on that observation, you apply it to your life – make an application. Then, say a prayer in a way that incorporates the rest of what has been covered.

There are many great things to say about this devotional method. It’s easy to remember and encourages people to read their bibles. What it is really directed at is making it personal. It is a post-modern take on reading the bible because it emphasizes that everyone can make different observations and applications from the same scripture verse. It isn’t saying that there is one way to read each and every verse.

Yet, at the same time, it is doing the Christian community a disservice. While I agree that ordinary people can have a valuable perspective from reading a part of scripture, it often entails taking things out of context. Not only is the scripture selected as a part of a larger context (that is, a couple verses instead of the whole chapter or book), but it often fails to incorporate historical context. The stuff that is not explicitly said in the passage. When reading the bible, there are just as many important things that are not said as there are things that are written. Another horrible thing it is doing is misapplying the context of the Bible to current day settings. In other words, people are believing that the context in the Bible is similar to their own, when it really isn’t.

What happens, as a result, is a Christian community that is uninformed, under-educated, and most importantly, emphasizing the observations or applications over the scripture itself. In other words, people remember what you should or should not do as opposed to the story that they read in the Bible that communicated that moral wisdom. In case you can’t tell from my previous 390 word rant, this is an injustice to the Christian tradition.

It Happens With Finances As Well

This type of injustice isn’t just something that happens within the Christian communities. It also happens within the financial realm. With the increase in technology and especially social networks, it is much easier to learn of other people’s financial situations. Whether it is someone buying their first home, having a baby, paying off debt, or whatever. It is easy to learn of other people’s financial situations. Much easier than it used to be.

With that increased awareness comes, unfortunately, increased judgment and inappropriate comparisons. For example, a friend of mine recently asked me to help her lease a car. Me, being the person who obsesses over numbers, I tried to figure out if it was the best financial decision available to her. I quickly pointed out that financially, it would make more sense to buy a slightly used car (or fix her current one) than lease a new car. That’s what I would do. Yet, what I failed to consider is that her life situation (or context) is much different than mine. While we are still friends (she understood my intentions were good), I have come to realize that it isn’t a bad decision based on her life. While I don’t need to go into the specifics of her reasoning here, suffice it to say that I learned that I had made large assumptions. I failed to realized that our finances were different. In a manner of speaking, I let me finances become to “soapy.”

People make these false assumptions about similar contexts all the time. When people see friends buying a home and instantly feel jealous, they fail to understand that it’s more complicated than it seems. The friends may have worked second jobs or went to graduate school to get a good-paying job to afford a nice house. Or it may be that they are buying too big of a house and they won’t be able to afford it. Before you feel jealous of their “success,” you need to realize that it’s hard to make comparisons. Period. There is never enough information to make a 1-to-1 comparison, and even if you get all the facts, there are going to be life differences that influence the financial decisions.

Therefore, before you jump to assumptions or develop feelings of jealousy or hatred over other people’s finances, remember that it’s not as easy to compare yourself to them. Everyone’s life is different and we have to learn to accept that fact.

For one of the first times in my life, my future career is uncertain. I remember as a child thinking that I wanted to be all sorts of things, including a police detective, architect, religious leader, etc. It’s amazing how our childhood dreams always change, isn’t it? I am convinced it’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just a fact of life. We grow up, we change as we experience life in new ways, and we learn more about ourselves.

My Career Change

As it turns out, my career path has been on a roller coaster in the past 2-3 years. I started graduate school thinking that I would continue on to get a Ph. D. in religion, but that has since changed. While I dreamed of being a professor of religion one day, reality has caught up with me. I realized that I would not make a great professor and to make matters worse, that job has become increasingly competitive with fewer job opportunities available. I realized that I while I may be able to get into a Ph.D. program, it would be hard to get a job after 5 years of studying.

Around this same time, I came into some opportunities to pursue some business ideas. The business opportunities were small, but it got my feet wet in applying some of my business ideas. Once I started making a few hundred dollars on the side, I realized that there was potential to make this a long term thing. I could make a living off of running a small business.

Is Self-Employment for You?

While running a business may sound great on paper, I have learned that there are many small things that could make it annoying to the wrong person. You have to keep a close eye on your finances (or pay someone to do that for you). This could mean utilizing some sort of merchant services or hiring an individual to do your taxes. Not everyone likes to do all of these things. Being a successful business owner means being able to manage diverse tasks.

Running a small business also means putting in the work at the beginning to make it successful. I don’t know about you, but it’s easy to lose hope. It’s easy to become discouraged and lose confidence in your service or product.

While it may not be the best option for everyone, I think I will give it a shot in the future. There is something about making something successful from nothing that intrigues me. There’s something about being able to be my own boss. While it may mean more work and less pay for a while, I think it will give me the freedom to pursue my passions and not be stuck in a dead-end job.

Have you ever considered self employment?

On the About page, I state that Provident Planning is dedicated to exploring God’s Provident Plan for the personal finances of Christians. But what does that mean? What is God’s Provident Plan? It’s God’s clear Biblical message that through contentment in Christ, diligent work, and good stewardship Christians can prosper so we can give generously in the name of Christ. By following the Provident Plan, Christians can glorify God through their finances.

This message is what I discovered as I have studied personal finance in the Bible. As a Christian and someone who studied financial planning in college, I wanted to know how I could give sound, Biblical advice, but I found so many conflicting opinions that I felt I should find out for myself. After searching for all the Bible verses I could find about personal finance, I began to see God’s wonderful plan for a Christian’s personal finances.

It’s not a plan focused on making Christians rich, or how we can retire early, or the things we can do to make us feel good about ourselves or our money. No – just like every other part of God’s plans for Christians it brings glory to His name and strengthens the witness of Christ in the world. If all Christians followed God’s Provident Plan for their finances, we would radically change the Church and the world. And while it involves how we handle our money – it’s all dependent and focused on the transformation that occurs when we fully give ourselves to Christ and realize the power of His death, resurrection, and the life we have in Him. Let’s take a closer look at each part of God’s Provident Plan.

Contentment in Christ

Once we have decided to follow Jesus, He becomes everything to us. We are in a continual struggle against Satan to keep other things (especially money) from taking the place of Christ. When we find contentment in Christ and Christ alone, the importance of money in our lives diminishes and pales to the value we place on Jesus. We learn the secret to being happy in all situations – whether we’re full or starving, rich or poor, employed or jobless, single or married – nothing in this life matters at all when compared to the glorious gift of Jesus and the fact that no one and no circumstance can take that away from us. We see everything in light of eternity, and we find that nothing on earth is of more value than our faith in Christ. We come to fully believe and trust that God cares for us and will provide everything we need.

Once we have this habit of always finding our contentment in Christ, the Spirit will teach us to place much less importance on material things. We will no longer be focused solely on our own needs and wants – an early retirement, a bigger house, a nicer car, and so on. Instead, we’ll be consumed with a desire to focus on the needs of others – to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, and show God’s love to the world through our faith and our deeds. We’ll spend less and less on ourselves as we give more and more to others.

You can read more about contentment in the Bible here or by downloading a free copy of Contentment Is Wealth.

Diligent Work

Where contentment helps us to spend less on ourselves, understanding God’s call to work diligently helps us earn more money. As the gap between our spending and our income grows, we are left with more to manage wisely, prosper, and then give generously to the needs of others. The attitude and spirit we have as we approach our work can also glorify and honor God’s name. His witness can be seen in how we deal with people in our businesses and our motivation in our work.

You can read more about hard work in the Bible here.

Good Stewardship

While the Bible says little about financial planning as we know it today, God has shown us the value of using wisdom and prudence in managing our affairs. There are verses that speak to planning ahead, saving, avoiding debt, and other practical matters we will encounter in our personal finances. By wisely managing the blessings God provides (that gap between our income and our spending), we can be good stewards and have even more to give in His name.

Prosperity

As we follow God’s teaching on contentment, diligent work, and good stewardship, He will bless and prosper us. When we think about prosperity our focus needs to be on having God’s view of prosperity and its purpose. Prosperity can come in many other ways than just material blessings, and God wants us to use our prosperity to honor Him – not just make ourselves more comfortable. When God prospers us, it’s so we can further glorify Him as we give more and more to those in need.

Giving

Giving is the purpose of God’s Provident Plan. All other aspects of His Provident Plan are a means to this end. Through our contentment in Christ, we spend less so we have more to give. Our hard work provides more income so we will have more to give. Through good stewardship we avoid wasting what God has given us so we will have more to give. Our prosperity comes from God not so we can make ourselves richer but so we can give even more. God’s Provident Plan is completely focused on others – on how we can glorify God by laying down our lives and our wants for the needs of others. We live simply so others can simply live.

At the same time, we’ll realize that God’s Provident Plan gives much to us as well. Peace beyond understanding, joy beyond description, and happiness beyond compare are all ours as we trust ourselves to God’s care. When we first begin following God’s Provident Plan, we hardly realize the potential benefits it will have for our own lives because we were still mired in the views of the world. But as we follow Jesus and see that He is trustworthy and faithful, we become aware of the indestructible treasures in heaven that He has taught us to accumulate.

When we fully grasp God’s Provident Plan, we’ll see that giving in the New Covenant has nothing to do with tithing or percentages. It’s not about requirements, rules, obligations, or blessings or curses. Our giving is to be completely motivated by love – joyous and cheerful as we realize that our sacrifice is not loss but gain in Christ. We give freely, generously, and sacrificially not out of compulsion but out of our joy and contentment in Christ. Such giving is a sign of our total commitment to Christ and His teaching, and it’s a very powerful witness to the world.

Following God’s Provident Plan

Following God’s Provident Plan for our personal finances has huge implications for our lives. It goes against every motive the world gives us for why we should manage our finances well. Instead of focusing on what’s in it for us, we look at what’s in it for God and others. But we know that the rewards God has for us far outweigh the deceitful and false promises of worldly riches. If you feel God calling you to follow His Provident Plan for your finances, please browse around the website and sign up for free updates through email or your favorite feed reader!

There are thousands and thousands of people out there living lives of quiet, screaming desperation who work long, hard hours, at jobs they hate, to enable them to buy things they don’t need to impress people they don’t like.

- Nigel Marsh


Buying Things to Impress People

Are You a Trader?

Corey —  July 18, 2011 — 6 Comments

       I’m not talking about stocks or bonds. Are you willing to trade in the pursuit of the “American Dream” and instead pursue God’s Kingdom and His Ways? Check out this video:



       So, are you a trader? Let me know in the comments below!

       On Wednesday, I had the pleasure of interviewing Chuck Bentley, the CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, about his upcoming book The Root of Riches: What If Everything You Think about Money Is Wrong?. The book will be released in the next week or so, but if you’d like to get a 20% discount you can go to http://www.crown.org/rootofriches and sign up to pre-order the book and get a free sample chapter.

       I had the chance to read the book before the interview and I highly recommend it to all of you. Chuck does a good job of getting to the heart of our issues with money by highlighting how being rooted in Christ is the only way to receive true riches. The interview below will give you a good overview of the central ideas in the book and help you determine if it’s something you’d want to read.

       I’ve included the audio here which you can listen to on the website or download for later. I’ve also transcribed the interview for those of you who prefer to read. I’d be interested in your feedback on how well you liked this because it’s the first time I’ve tried doing an interview/podcast. (I was quite pleased with how my intro and outro music turned out!) Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments at the bottom of the page, and if you have any questions I’ll do my best to answer them.

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Download the audio by right-clicking here and choosing “Save as…”.
Credits: intro and outro music for the audio is from “Bucolique Utopique” by David on Jamendo

Note: I was not paid anything to post this interview. I only agreed to it after reading the book because I believed Chuck’s message in The Root of Riches is excellent and needs to become more prominent in Christian personal finance.

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