Finances By The Book - Discipleship Course
Chapter 3
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Key Scripture: Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. - James 1:22

While it is important to hear God’s words, it is equally important to act on them. Otherwise, as James points out, people merely deceive themselves. Christians are required to act as stewards in five areas:

Supporting God’s work on the earth. "The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it" (Ps. 24:1). Believers must acknowledge that God is the owner of all they possess. Tithing ten percent of earnings to the work of the gospel reinforces the principle that God owns everything. You give out of an acknowledgement of God’s ownership and a heart filled with love for the Owner. You do not give because God needs your money or because you are a generous person. Supporting God’s work should become a very practical part of your Christian life.

Supporting and maintaining your family. "If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever" (1 Tim. 5:8). The failure to provide for your family is a denial of the Christian faith. As the head of the household, you—not the church or state—are responsible to financially support your family.

Investing for growth. "Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest" (Matt. 25:27). The parable of the talents has obvious application to the stewardship of your financial resources. Your stewardship of God’s assets includes investing them for growth. You will be held individually accountable to what God has revealed and entrusted to you.

Paying taxes. "After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax came to Peter and asked, ‘Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?’ ‘Yes, he does,’ he replied" (Matt. 17:24-25). God expects his people to pay all legal taxes. However, paying more taxes than you owe is actually giving Caesar what belongs to God. It is your responsibility as a steward to find legal and righteous ways to minimize your taxes. Thus the maximum amount of your assets can be utilized to fulfill your household responsibilities and, ultimately, to spread the gospel over all the earth.

Planning for the distribution of your assets. "A good man leaves an inheritance for his children’s children" (Prov. 13:22). Your divine stewardship responsibility does not end with your death. You are to ensure that the property God has entrusted to you is used for his purposes long after you have gone. For that reason, you are not to lay up an inheritance for the IRS. The Internal Revenue Code permits taxpayers to use specific regulations to avoid all estate taxes. This is not illegal tax evasion; rather it is tax avoidance, which is totally permissible.

A Plan of Action

God has called you to be a faithful administrator of your finances, time, and assets. As you listen to his voice, he will direct you. But complete obedience is necessary to remain in the center of his will. As a rule, God will not bless a person in rebellion. But he does honor the efforts of the faithful and provides a way for them to succeed.

One question that Christians must be sure of God’s answer is: "Should a wife and mother work outside the home?" Many couples with children believe that they cannot live without two salaries. This may be true. However, some assume that there is no other alternative. Parents faced with this dilemma need to ask themselves some intensely personal questions: What is my real motive for working? Do we need the money for necessities or for "extras"? What resources do I have? What are my capabilities? Will it really pay to work?

Often a woman has no choice. Her husband may be incapacitated, or he may insist that she work. Or she may be a single mother with young children to support. There are also single fathers raising families on their own.

Stop here and look over Chart 3-A, "The Cost of a Married Working Mother." While the specific figures may vary (and indeed do, since the average yearly income for a working mother is just over sixteen thousand dollars), the factors needed to calculate the actual cost of employment remain the same

Many Christians hold the mistaken belief that they must stay in the same financial rut—never getting ahead and never saving any money. It is important to realize that small expenditures of energy, time, and money eat away your financial security. The following are some timely tips to help you be a good steward.

Food. One of the greatest expenses is food. Finding food bargains and planning and preparing nutritious meals is a challenge for everyone, whether they work or not. It is easy to fall into the "fast food" or "convenience food" trap. Here are some tips on food shopping, storage, and preparation that may prove helpful in saving money and time:

Shopping. Always make a shopping list and stick with it. Determine how much you need for the weeks ahead. Fewer trips mean less exposure to advertising, less time shopping, and less fuel used.

Calculate how much everything will cost. Use grocery tapes from the past month and take only that amount with you.

Use a calculator while shopping to determine how much your total bill will be. This allows you to spend only your estimated total.

Always eat something before shopping. If you are hungry, everything looks good.

Shop for groceries only. Many items such as paper products may be bought cheaper at a discount store.

Warehouse food stores may be cheaper. So carefully compare their prices for items you normally purchase.

Use coupons. Check the newspapers for double coupon offers. Trade coupons with friends. Many stores have exchange boards where you can pick up coupons. Beware of buying an unneeded item simply because you have a coupon.

Read labels. Packages are deceptive in size and content. Also check the ingredients, which are listed according to the amount in the product.

Buy day-old bread at bakery outlets.

Never be hooked by advertising. Remember that stores place their most expensive items at eye level. And the aisles are planned in such a way as to direct you always to the most expensive items such as meat.

Use discounted food coupons, if available. Some food stores offer these through charitable organizations. You may save around five percent using them.

Storage. Buy in bulk, either supermarket specials or wholesale. Staples can be divided into manageable parts and stored in containers. Large-size institutional cans are much cheaper.

Use freezer space wisely. Put newly frozen food in the back, moving older food to the front.

Stockpile food as your grandmother once did. Keep a dated inventory list so you can replace anything that is used. As with the freezer, use older food first to avoid spoilage.

Save leftovers in microwavable containers, which can easily be reheated for future use.

Preparation. Plan menus at least one week in advance. To begin your system, find twenty favorite main dish recipes. These can be old family recipes, family favorites, or something new. Put each one on a 3 x 5 card in your recipe file. On other cards, copy side dishes or desserts. Using these cards, decide on your meals for the next week. Such a meal schedule will also help in your grocery shopping.

Learn to make casseroles. Add a salad for a nutritious meal.

Prepare several meals in advance. Soups, casseroles, and stews may be frozen in individual containers and served later. Remember that labeling avoids "surprise" meals.

Compile several easy-to-follow recipes for your husband and children to follow. Children will enjoy cooking if you approach it as an exciting activity. Let them practice by allowing them to cook one day a week.

Transportation. These costs take a huge bite out of your spendable income. The following are some ideas for saving money in this area:

Get a tune-up twice a year. Although your gas mileage will not increase, you will keep it from decreasing. Change your oil and filter regularly as well as your air filter. Your engine will last longer, and you will pay less for repairs. If you can do the work yourself, you will save much of the cost.

Use a higher octane gasoline. While your car will run on a lower octane, the better grade will cause less engine wear. Periodically use a gas treatment to keep your carburetor or fuel injectors clean.

Pump your own gasoline. You may save five to ten cents a gallon over full-service pumps.

Inflate your tires to their maximum safe pressure. Check the side of the tire, or ask a tire salesman for the correct amount. Improper inflation damages the tires, and underinflation decreases gas mileage.

Cut out short trips of one mile or less. Fuel efficiency is greatly reduced because the engine does not have time to warm up. If possible, walk on short errands.

Consolidate several trips into one. Careful planning will help you eliminate many trips, thereby saving gasoline. Perhaps you and a friend could shop for groceries together. This would halve your gasoline usage as well as reduce wear and tear on your car. But be careful that you don’t purchase items just because the other person does.

Get the maximum benefit from an older car. If you must purchase a second car, consider an older car. Many have a lot of mileage left in them. Even rebuilding one may be incredibly cheaper than buying a new car.

Use a car pool, ride sharing, or a shuttle service. All will save on your car expenses.

Use public transportation. Buses, subways, and rapid transit systems not only save on car expenses, but also provide time to work or relax between home and the job.

Organization. Since there never seems to be enough time in the day, the following tips on organization should be helpful:

Develop a master plan using a large calendar page. Note all appointments and events for the month. Place in a prominent place.

Get everything ready the night before. Pack lunches (a good way to save on food) and lay out clothes. For smaller children, make up bags containing clean socks, underwear, matching jeans and shirt, etc.

Include your family in household chores. Assign different tasks for different days. Each member should be responsible for certain tasks. If they don’t know how to do a task, teach them. The time taken for instruction will pay great dividends later.

Plan time alone with God, your husband/wife, and your children. Sometimes you need to set other things aside in order to build these important relationships. Putting your family before work, errands, or housecleaning is being a good steward of your time.

Clothing. Another expensive item in your budget is clothing. Every family member needs to know how to save money on clothing.

Never use the popularity of a brand as a standard for purchasing clothing. Designer clothes become popular primarily through advertising and are not necessarily of better quality.

Buy some items in bulk. Purchasing socks of one color guarantees that you will always have a pair.

Buy quality. Items that are well made will last longer and the cost per use will be less.

Shop at outlet stores. Often name-brand items will be less expensive than in a shopping mall.

Always purchase clothing out of season when it is on sale.

Buy used clothing. Consignment shops, thrift stores, yard sales, and neighbors are all excellent sources for good used clothing.

Day-care. Parents—married or single who have to work—must find suitable day-care for their children. Several things must be considered before making this important decision. The most critical is to find a person whose values are like your own. Convenience and cost are also important factors. Consider the following:

If the husband has to be at work early, the wife can drop the children off, and he can pick them up in the evening. This gives precious time with the children to both parents.

Neighborhood parents with different schedules may form a co-op and take turns keeping the children. No money changes hands for this short-term arrangement.

Some employers offer day-care or a day-care subsidy as part of their fringe benefit package. A few employers may permit parents to adjust their work schedules so that one parent can be home with the children.

A live-in nanny whose sole purpose is to look after your children is the ideal. But the cost is prohibitive, and it is often difficult to find a person totally compatible with the family.

Choosing a Christian day-care provider with values like your own will provide a homelike atmosphere for your child and more peace of mind for you. As a rule, their rates are comparable or lower than a day-care center. Many churches offer affordable day-care.

While it is usually best for a mother to be at home caring for her children, this is not an option for many women. These suggestions are thus meant to help those who must work. The decision to work or not is a personal one between you, your family and God. Each person is individually responsible for handling God’s resources, whether possessions, time, or children, and will be rewarded accordingly (Matt. 25:14-30).

Options. If you decide that you should remain at home but still need added income, consider some of the following helpful suggestions:

Become a family day-care provider.
Turn a hobby into money.
Start a small family business such as baking bread.
Deliver birthday cakes and balloons to students away from home.
Entertain at kids’ parties as a clown.
Cater weddings and parties.
Use a computer to do bookkeeping or other personal services.
Start a referral service for baby-sitters, lawn service, home repairs, pet-sitting, etc.
Shop for other people.
Run errands for a fee.
Start a small plant nursery.
Houseclean for other families.
Hang wallpaper; paint rooms; do interior decorating.

Life Application: Prayerfully make the "Faith Giving Pledge" in Worksheet 3_B. Then watch what God does to make it a reality.


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