Finances By The Book - Discipleship Course
Chapter 1
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  • Apply four basic biblical principles of money management to your personal financial plan.
  • Determine your short-term and long-term objectives
  • Set up a budget and put it into action.

Key Scripture:
No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. Matthew 6:24

Jesus presented a choice to his disciples: They could serve God or money—one or the other—but never both. Christians are thus encouraged to hold every possession with an open hand as a testimony to the world. The amount of material goods, whether great or small, never distinguishes a believer from an unbeliever. That distinction comes from the richness of God’s presence in their midst.

How we view, handle, and use money reveals our heart attitudes. Today many people have their hearts centered on themselves as they desperately seek significance and security. These two basic needs cross the lines separating race, creed, or culture, for people in every walk of life have a drive to be recognized and to feel secure. Attempting to meet these needs through the accumulation of money and possessions, many have lost their spiritual perspective. Money, after all, is not an end in itself; it is simply a tool to accomplish God’s plans and purposes.

There is no reason to "do" or to "acquire" for the sake of security, because, for Christians, that need has already been met. "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’ " (Heb. 13:5). Likewise, the search for significance is futile, for the Creator of the universe has already declared your great worth: "You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor" (Ps. 8:5).

Often wealthy people have a difficult time acknowledging God as their source and using money as merely a tool. Such an attitude is depicted in Jesus’ parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:18-19). Only wealth toward God is what finally counts.

Others, especially those with few financial resources, believe that only the rich have a problem with greed. But a person with a low income, who hoards money and refuses to help others, worships money along with a millionaire who spends every waking minute consumed with stocks and bonds. Money itself is not the source of greed. "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs" (1 Tim. 6:10).

The foundation of personal money management is that God is in control. He is more interested in each individual than in any failure or success in the economic system. God is interested in how you glorify him wherever you live and under whatever system. As a Christian, you have been called to a unique role in an uncertain economy. Following the crash of every type of investment (collectibles, gold, oil, stock market, and real estate), even Christians may ask: "Will I ever have enough?"; "If I have enough now, will it be enough at retirement?"; or "How much is enough?"

Christians must ask an additional question: "What is the appropriate lifestyle for me as a believer?" Christian teachings regarding lifestyle run the gamut of extremes. Some believers live in a communal environment in which all material possessions are shared. Others adhere to the "positive confession" approach in which believers may claim what is due them as children of the King. Both approaches (and all the ones in between) are attempts to discover God’s views on handling money. Neither poverty nor luxury can be described as a Christian lifestyle since God has entrusted each person with different resources. The one noteworthy attribute of a Christian is the absence of anxiety over the acquiring and loss of things, even when God denies something. Christians are not possessed by temporal acquisitions, for their treasure is laid up in heaven (Matt. 6:20-21).

A Financial Planning Overview

Everyone has limited resources; yet the possible uses of money are innumerable. As a result, every financial decision made today affects any decisions concerning resources tomorrow. (Decisions determine destiny.) Once you spend a dollar, it is no longer available to purchase something else in the future. Therefore, the longer the term of your perspective, the better your financial decisions will be.

Financial planning is simply allocating your limited financial resources among various unlimited alternatives. But accumulating financial resources should never be an end in itself. In the short-range there are only five spending objectives or alternative uses for the money that comes into your household. Income can be (1) given away, (2) spent to support a lifestyle, (3) used for the repayment of debt, (4) used to meet tax obligations, or (5) accumulated. Lifestyle expenditures, debt repayment, and taxes are all consumptive in nature. Once the money is spent, it is gone forever. Only accumulation (savings) and giving are productive uses of money.

As you accumulate money from your cash flow margin, your net worth grows. This allows you to meet one or more of the six long-term financial objectives: (1) financial independence, (2) college education for your children, (3) paying off debt, (4) major lifestyle desires, (5) major charitable giving, and (6) owning your own business. If you can define and quantify your long-term goals, then you can answer the question, "How much is enough?"

Life Application:

Stewardship has been defined as the use of God-given resources for the accomplishment of God-given goals. This definition declares that god is the owner and you are the steward of his resources. The owrds "use of" indicate that your faith requires action. On the deed that follows, list anything you formerly called "mine." Retur ownership of these items to their rightful Owner by a simple prayer of commitment. The sign the deed and date it. You now own nothing and are prepared to be a steward.

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