Archives For Giving

Redefining Riches: Giveaway

Corey —  November 2, 2010 — 6 Comments

Redefining Riches       My friend Rob Kuban at Dollars and Doctrine has recently released a four lesson Sunday school series called Redefining Riches. It’s a great series and I highly recommend it if you’re interested in studying this at your church or small group. It’s an excellent value at only $3.99 as it includes PowerPoint slides, leader’s guides, handouts, and the right to print as many copies as you need for your group.

       You can see an overview of the main areas it covers in these posts on Provident Planning:


The Redefining Riches Giveaway

       If you’d like to try this series out with your group but aren’t sure about buying it, here’s your chance to win a free copy! Rob has agreed to let me give away one copy of the Redefining Riches Sunday school series. You’ll get the whole package if you win.

       To enter, simply leave a comment at the bottom of the post letting me know you’d like to enter. I’ll randomly select a winner and announce it on this post. I’ll email the package to the winner, so be sure to use a valid email address! You’ve got until 7:00 P.M. EDT on November 3, 2010 to enter.

Redefining Riches       My friend Rob Kuban at Dollars and Doctrine has recently released a four lesson Sunday school series called Redefining Riches. I’ve had the chance to review it and I can tell you it’s an excellent introductory course to the core principles of a Biblical approach to finances. If you’re looking for something related to finances to do in your Sunday school class or small group, I highly recommend this as a starting place. (I’m not getting paid to say this, and I don’t earn anything if you buy it. I just believe Rob’s put together a great resource with a heart for helping people understand Biblical truths about God’s desires for our finances.) It’s only $3.99 for all four lessons, which includes PowerPoint slides, leader’s guides, and handouts. You can print as many copies as you need for your group, so it’s a great deal.

       Today’s post is from the content in the lesson on generosity, which I’ve reprinted with Rob’s permission. I’m not devaluing Rob’s work because the value of buying Redefining Riches is in having the lessons already prepared for you along with the PowerPoint slides. You’ll get a good idea of the content by reading the excerpts I’ll share, but you’re still missing out on some additional content Rob includes as well as the leader’s guides and handouts.

Generosity: A Labor of Love

       Generosity is the result of a transformed heart.

       “Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)



       God loves a cheerful giver and if we let Him, He will cultivate a joy in generosity within our own hearts. This is how we learn to give with pure motives and pure hearts. We are wasting our money and embittering our hearts when we give out of guilt or obligation. As we allow Christ to transform our hearts, we joyfully give first, proportionally, secretly and sacrificially. (See Also: Proverbs 3:9-10, 1 Chronicles 29:5-9, Acts 11:29)


       Generosity is a lifestyle of giving and loving fully.

       “Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35)



       The call to generosity is hardly limited to the offering plate. We are called to be generous people. We should gladly choose to be generous with our money, time, energy, talents, gifts, and on, and on. Generosity, when understood Biblically, is a way of life. (See Also: Galatians 1:3-4, John 15:13)


       Generosity is a spring of life to those who give Biblically.

       “Instruct those who are rich in this present world…to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share…so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.” (1 Timothy 6:17-19)



       The Bible teaches that it is better to give than to receive. We are told that generosity is one component of taking hold of “that which is life indeed”. When we give, we live as Christ calls and love others well. When we withhold, we follow the world’s idolization of consumption and love ourselves well. (See Also: Luke 6:38, Philippians 4:17, Proverbs 11:25, Proverbs 22:9, Proverbs 28:27)

       Poverty has been on my mind for some time now. What is poverty? How do we measure it? How do you overcome it? How do you live in it? Each of these questions (and more) warrants a post or several posts of its own. But that last one is what I want to talk about today.

       I’ve been wondering what it would look like if my wife, Michelle, and I had to live in poverty. What would we have to give up? What would we spend our money on? What would life look like living in poverty?


Poor Family from the 1940s
 

Defining Poverty

       In this case, I’m going to define poverty according to the 2009 U.S. federal poverty level guidelines. For two people, the poverty level is $14,570/year. This level applies regardless of where you live in the U.S., which doesn’t make much sense to me since the cost of living varies so much by location. But perhaps the areas with a higher-than-average cost of living adjusts the poverty level guidelines for their assistance programs. That’s something I’ll have to look at in another post!

       I could use a different measure for poverty – a global measure, for instance. But the disparity between the global poverty level guidelines and the U.S. poverty level guidelines is extreme. Based on a $2/day/person poverty guideline (World Bank threshold), we’d be looking at $1,460 or 1/10 of the income for the U.S. poverty level. I can tell you right now that would mean giving up everything except food. No shelter, no transportation, no clothing purchases – absolutely nothing but food…and not much of that.

       So for this article, I’m going to use the federal guideline of $14,570/year which is pre-tax. I’m not going to include food stamps, federal/state health coverage, or tax refunds (namely, the Earned Income Credit). Some studies have shown that the poverty level income would be 30-40% higher if such benefits were included, but I’m going to stick to the $14,570 number for the sake of simplicity.

What Would Our Spending Look Like?

       If our annual income were $14,570, our monthly income would be just over $1,214. Here’s what I think our monthly budget would look like. Some of these numbers are based on actual expenses now and some are based on what I estimated after making changes to our lifestyle. I’m assuming we keep our current jobs.

Category Amount
Income $1,214.17
   
Giving $130.00
Saving $106.70
State & Local Taxes $39.46
Health Insurance $76.93
Rent $400.00
Renter’s Insurance $11.08
Groceries $150.00
Utilities $120.00
Auto (Gas, Maint., & Ins.) $130.00
Other (Household & Personal) $50.00
   
Total Expenses $1,214.17


What We’d Have to Give Up

       So the next question is how would this differ from our current lifestyle? Well, first we’d have to move. We’d have to find a place for 2/3 of the rent we’re paying now, and it would need to be closer to Michelle’s job to cut down on gasoline costs. A different place would also likely cut down on our utilities. This would be a major change since we’d have to move away from our family, friends, and church but not very far – just far enough to make it inconvenient but doable. We’d also likely be living in someone’s basement or sharing a place with another family for rent that cheap.

       We’d have to give up the excellent health insurance we have through Michelle’s work and buy a no-frills $10,000 deductible plan that doesn’t cover office visits or prescriptions. It would only cover serious catastrophes like cancer. In contrast, our current insurance has a very low deductible ($150/$300, I think?) and covers office visits and prescriptions for a low co-pay. We’d also be giving up our dental insurance, though I’m not sure that’s much of a deal anyway.

       Speaking of insurance, we’d have to decrease the coverage on our auto insurance to the state minimum levels and increase the deductible on Michelle’s car to $2,500. We’d also have to think about selling my car but that wouldn’t be completely necessary. Decreasing the coverage limits could expose us to some serious risks if we were to have an accident – likely resulting in bankruptcy if it’s a major accident.

       I don’t mind that we’d be paying less in taxes. But our giving would have to go down and that wouldn’t be so great. We’d have to make some tough choices there. All of our saving would most likely be short-term savings to cover the deductibles for our insurance policies.

       We’d have to spend less on groceries but not much less than we currently spend. I don’t imagine there would be any problems there. We’d just have to limit our meat intake and replace it with beans instead and shop a little more carefully. Eating out would be out of the question. We’d also need to cut our household and personal spending in half.

       Beyond that, we’d have no cell phones, no Internet connection, and no TV (that last one’s not any different from now, but I’m just saying). We wouldn’t be able to pay my student loans unless we gave up saving or giving (or some of both), but forbearance or an income dependent plan would be an option at that point. We’d have no money for entertainment or travel of any kind, and every dollar would need to be meticulously tracked and spent with care. As it is now, I don’t track what we spend our ATM withdrawals on completely so that would have to change.

       So while it wouldn’t be easy or “fun” to live on this budget, it would be possible. But we’d have no chance of saving anything for retirement, buying a house if we wanted to do that, or doing anything that required money outside of this budget. (That means no more sewing or jewelry making for Michelle. My hobbies don’t really require any money right now I think.)

Living Off Uncle Sam (or You, Rather)

       I didn’t include government benefits in that budget, but if I had things would have worked out quite a bit better. Between Section 8 housing, tax refunds, food stamps, health coverage from Pennsylvania, and utility assistance programs I think we could live at pretty much the same standard we currently enjoy. (Except for the housing part…that would likely be a major decline.)

       These benefits would probably comprise at least 25-40% of our budget in this scenario. At that rate, we could probably afford cell phones, an Internet connection, auto insurance at our current coverage, our normal household and personal spending, my student loans, and even some entertainment. Or we could choose to save that money, invest in ourselves (to increase our income), or give to people in more need than ourselves.

Possible But Not Enjoyable

       I’m not making light of this scenario. I’m certain it would still be stressful and emotionally draining, but it wouldn’t be impossible to live this way. (Though I’m having difficulty convincing Michelle of this. :))

       I think the reason I can say this is because Michelle and I are pretty content. We don’t have to have the latest gadgets or fashions. We are naturally frugal people who don’t enjoy spending tons of money. We have low-key hobbies, can entertain ourselves, and know how to cook. We’re also disciplined enough to say no to ourselves on the non-essentials. All these factors combine to make it easier for us to live on less than most people in America. (I don’t say this to boast but to simply point out facts. Many people get sucked into the culture and go with the flow without question. Neither Michelle nor I have ever been ones to follow the crowd.)

       I’m thankful we’re in a situation where we don’t have to make these choices. God has blessed us with all that we need and then some. But I struggled with creating a sample budget for this scenario, and I now have a slight understanding some of the choices people are forced to make when they’re living on so little. I say slight understanding because I don’t think you can truly comprehend what it’s like to live on that kind of income until you’ve done it.

Your Thoughts

       Do you think you could live at the federal poverty level? What would have to change for you? What would you have to give up? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Bible with Cross Shadow by knowhimonline on Flickr       Today’s Personal Finance Bible Scripture comes from Luke 6:30.







       30Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back.

Luke 6:30 (NLT)

This passage is also found in Matthew 5:42.



       Jesus tells us to give to anyone who asks of us. The Amplified Bible further clarifies this as those who are in want of necessities. I’m not sure He meant for us to give money to an investment banker who is worth a few million just because he asks. But to anyone who is in need, we are to give—generously, freely, and without condition.

       The second part of this verse would have meant more to the Jews at that time. Romans could demand just about anything they wanted from the Jews and there was no legal recourse. Jesus tells His followers that if someones takes away their possessions they are not to demand them back. I don’t know about you, but that would be so far beyond my human nature that I know I couldn’t do it without God working through me.

       Jesus’ point here is very clear. We should be generous in our giving and in our forgiving. Living out extraordinary generosity in our lives is a huge testament to the faith and an excellent example for all.

       On Monday, I wrote about the three methods of making money. Tuesday, I talked about three reasons why Christians should not think about earning more money. And today, we’re continuing the discussion by looking at two reasons why Christians should think about earning more money.

       While I had three reasons why we shouldn’t think about making more money, I’ve only thought of two reasons why we should be thinking about how we can earn more. The lack of a third reason does not mean much though. I think these are two powerful reasons why Christians should be looking for ways to make more money.

1. You Want to Meet Your Needs and Your Family’s Needs

       As I wrote in my Bible study on work, God uses the results of diligent work to bless us and meet our needs. I recommend you read the article in that last link to learn more about this aspect of work.

       God is certainly able to meet our needs by any means He chooses, but we have a clear call in the Bible to work diligently. God uses our work as a means of blessing us and meeting our needs. The fact that this requires action on our part does not take away from the divine blessings that follow – for everything was created by God and all that we have comes from Him. Our working is simply a fulfillment of our responsibility.

       If you’re doing what you can to lower your expenses but still find yourself lacking what is needed to care for yourself or your family, then thinking about ways you can earn more money can certainly honor God. However, if you simply desire to spend more on your wants and desires, please go back and read my post about reasons why Christians shouldn’t think about earning more.

2. You Want to Be More Generous

       One of the ways we can witness to the power of God’s love working in us is through irrational generosity. God can give us such a heart for the poor that we give far more than anyone could reasonably expect. When extreme generosity is evident in our lives (not through our boasting, but through our choices), non-Christians have no easy way to explain it. This gives us an opportunity to testify to the love of God and the teachings Jesus gave us.

       If you want to be more generous, I commend you! There are two ways you can give more. You can either spend less on yourself, or you can earn more and give it away. Spending less works up to a point, but you can’t spend less than $0. And getting to that point would be extremely difficult!

       On the other hand, you can always look for ways to earn more money. And theoretically, there’s no limit on how much you can make. That also means there’s no limit on how much you can give away either. For someone who wants to be more generous, that’s great news!

       Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:28:

       Let him who stole steal no more; but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing that is good, that he may have something to give to him who has need.

Ephesians 4:28 (WEB)



       This isn’t just a call to a change of heart and actions for those who used to steal. It’s a call for all Christians to use their abilities to work and earn money so we may give to those in need. While we can certainly have the wrong motives for earning more money, increasing our generosity is certainly not one of them. I can’t think of any better reason for wanting to increase your income!

Your Thoughts

       I really tried to come up with three reasons for this article. I thought it would be nice to have an equal number of reasons why we should or shouldn’t think about earning more money. As I said before, it doesn’t matter that I didn’t come up with a third reason because these two are quite powerful.

       But maybe you can think of a third reason why Christians should think about earning more. You can let me know what you think by sharing your thoughts in the comments below!

       Yesterday, I posted an article called “The Three Methods of Making Money“. Kevin from Christian Simplicity shared his thoughts in the first comment:

Conceptually, I agree with the ways of earning money. I have done all of the above. I’ve got 20+ years of experience chasing the answer to “expanding my opportunities” to earn more. I have lived too long in the world of trying to figure out ways to earn more money.

Now I am trying to keep my focus on asking how can I take part in what God is doing? How can I love God and my neighbor more? How can I know God better and be content trusting him to provide what is right?

It was a lot easier coming up with answers to the questions I was asking about ways to earn money. But the joy and moments of rest when “I get it” are a lot more peaceful with the new questions I’m asking.



       He makes a good point in questioning how much Christians should be focused on making more money. There are good motives for wanting to earn more and there are bad motives. I thought it would be interesting to look at this idea in a little more depth than comments on a blog post allow. So today, I’m going to look at why Christians shouldn’t think about earning more money. On Thursday, we’ll talk about why Christians should think about earning more.

       Here are three reasons why Christians should not think about earning more money:

1. You Love Money More Than God

       If you’re currently struggling with the love of money, it would be unhealthy to spend your time thinking about how you can earn more. You should treat money (and the things that make you love it) like a drug addict would treat drugs during rehabilitation. You’ve got to stay away from the snares that can pull you back into the habit. Clearly, thinking about how you can earn more isn’t going to help you break free from the love of money.

       There are two very clear passages in Scripture that warn against loving and serving money. First, Jesus warns us in Luke 16:13-15 that serving money prevents you from serving God:

       13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to one, and despise the other. You aren’t able to serve God and mammon (Money).” 14 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things, and they scoffed at him. 15 He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts. For that which is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.

Luke 16:13-15 (WEB)



       Then the apostle Paul warns against greed and the love of money in 1 Timothy 6:6-12:

       6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we certainly can’t carry anything out. 8 But having food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 But those who are determined to be rich fall into a temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful lusts, such as drown men in ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some have been led astray from the faith in their greed, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows. 11 But you, man of God, flee these things, and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of faith. Lay hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you confessed the good confession in the sight of many witnesses.

1 Timothy 6:6-12 (WEB)



       Finally, James admonishes those who ask for wealth simply because they want to spend it on themselves:

       You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

James 4:3 (WEB)



       Taken together, along with numerous other verses that teach against greed, hoarding, and selfishness, we see that it would be wrong for Christians to think about how to make more money if:

  1. They’re not concerned with loving & serving God.
  2. They love money and simply want to hoard it up for themselves.
  3. They desire only to spend it on themselves.

       All of these indicate a clear love of money. If you have these symptoms, seek God and follow Paul’s instructions in 1 Timothy 6:11-12 instead of thinking about how you can make more money.

2. You Think More Money Will Make You Happy/Secure

       Satan loves to feed us lies, and I think this is one of the most common lies we face. More money will not bring you security. And more money will only bring you more “happiness” if you’re living at or below the poverty line. As Christians, we must understand that God is our fortress and security and we must trust only in Him. We also need to realize that we can only have true joy in Christ and the salvation and eternal life He gives. Money can never satisfy that need or provide eternal security.

       Proverbs 11:4 and 18:10-11 warn against thinking of our wealth as our security:

       Riches don’t profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.

Proverbs 11:4 (WEB)

       10 The name of Yahweh is a strong tower: the righteous run to him, and are safe. 11 The rich man’s wealth is his strong city, like an unscalable wall in his own imagination.

Proverbs 18:10-11 (WEB)



       And Jesus asks in Matthew 16:26:

       For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his life? Or what will a man give in exchange for his life?

Matthew 16:26 (WEB)



       Then Jesus admonishes the church in Laodicea:

       17 Because you say, ‘I am rich, and have gotten riches, and have need of nothing;’ and don’t know that you are the wretched one, miserable, poor, blind, and naked; 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, that you may become rich; and white garments, that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see.

Revelation 3:17-18 (WEB)



       Thinking about how you can make more money is dangerous if you believe it will bring you security or happiness. As Christians, we must learn to let God transform us and our mindset so we can understand the fleeting nature of wealth and the imaginary security it boasts.

3. You Want to Impress People

       Worrying about how others value you with the world’s standards ignores the value you have in Christ. It also perpetuates socioeconomical discrimination, which does not honor God. God does not respect people based on their wealth, power, or success in this world and neither should we. We should avoid thinking in those terms as well. Consider these passages from the Bible:

       17 If you call on him as Father, who without respect of persons judges according to each man’s work, pass the time of your living as foreigners here in reverent fear: 18 knowing that you were redeemed, not with corruptible things, with silver or gold, from the useless way of life handed down from your fathers, 19 but with precious blood, as of a faultless and pure lamb, the blood of Christ;

1 Peter 1:17-19 (WEB)

       9 But let the brother in humble circumstances glory in his high position; 10 and the rich, in that he is made humble, because like the flower in the grass, he will pass away. 11 For the sun arises with the scorching wind, and withers the grass, and the flower in it falls, and the beauty of its appearance perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in his pursuits.

James 1:9-11 (WEB)

       1 My brothers, don’t hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ of glory with partiality. 2 For if a man with a gold ring, in fine clothing, comes into your synagogue, and a poor man in filthy clothing also comes in; 3 and you pay special attention to him who wears the fine clothing, and say, “Sit here in a good place”; and you tell the poor man, “Stand there,” or “Sit by my footstool”; 4 haven’t you shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brothers. Didn’t God choose those who are poor in this world to be rich in faith, and heirs of the Kingdom which he promised to those who love him?

James 2:1-5 (WEB)



       And if you’re concerned about keeping up with the Joneses, consider this verse from Proverbs:

       There are some who pretend to be rich, yet have nothing. There are some who pretend to be poor, yet have great wealth.

Proverbs 13:7 (WEB)



       Instead of being concerned about what others think of us, let’s focus on what God thinks of us. Rather than looking to impress people, let us honor and glorify God by seeking to serve Him in all things.

Your Thoughts

       What are some other reasons why Christians should not think about making more money? Are you struggling with any of these reasons right now? How are you dealing with it? How can we encourage you? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Conformed or Transformed?

Corey —  June 15, 2010 — 1 Comment

       If someone were to look at your bank or credit card statement, would they see a Christian? Are the choices you make still following the pattern of the world? Or have you been transformed by the renewing of your mind and presented your body (and your money) as a sacrifice to God?

       1 Therefore I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. 2 Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God.

Romans 12:1-2 (WEB)



       These verses encourage us to live changed lives in light of God’s overflowing mercy toward us. I would not begin to imply that it relates specifically to finances. However, the choices you make with the money God has given you can clearly reflect where your heart is focused. When you make your money decisions are you thinking in terms of God’s will, or are you continuing in the patterns of the world?

       This doesn’t mean that you are perfectly holy and good if your account statements show that you give all your money away (or even live on very little and give the rest away). Outward appearances are not necessarily an indication of the heart. Jesus spent most of His time teaching this exact idea. If you do not have God’s love and your actions are not motivated by that same love, then your pious actions will help you in no way.

       The challenge I want to present to you (and myself) is simply this: In your earning, spending, and managing money, how are you presenting yourself as a sacrifice to God and seeking His will? In other words, are your money decisions in alignment with God’s principles and values?

       It’s very easy to live just as the rest of the world does. In many ways, Christians are indistinguishable from non-Christians. But we are called to live differently. This doesn’t necessarily mean rejecting everything the world does, but it will often look that way. Rather, we must give everything over to God (as a response to the gift of salvation) and seek His will.

       A transformed life may not look very different from the world. Much personal finance advice is good regardless of your faith (though the motivations may be quite different). On the other hand, it may be the exact opposite of the world’s ways. Giving is one example. It simply doesn’t make sense if you look only at the numbers.

       How your life will look is not the point. A transformed life could look different from one Christian to another (though there will be some similarities). The point is whether or not you are seeking that transformed life, seeking God’s will, and striving to persevere until the end. A life of following Jesus is not marked by the absence of sin. It is marked by striving against sin, by denying your own will, by giving up those things that keep you from God, and by taking up your cross each day. If you’re willing to do that (you’ve counted the cost), then God will transform your mind and your life as you grow in the likeness of Christ.

       So take time (at least each month, if not more frequently) to ask yourself this question as you review your finances: Am I following Jesus, or am I following the world?