There are so many places that our money can be directed so it is important to set our priorities. One priority already set for the majority is tax, since the income tax act requires that taxes are deducted at source before we receive our pay. The more one makes, the more gets deducted.
One of the more challenging areas is our lifestyle because we always seem to want a larger lifestyle. We like to have a newer car, the latest cell phone, another toy and the list goes on. For this reason, limiting our lifestyle spending is never easy.
It has been said that lifestyle spending accounts for 40-70% of where our money goes. Please note that lifestyle spending is different than “living expenses” because lifestyle is about what we want, not just what we need to live.
Have you ever calculated how much of your monthly expenditures is directed toward lifestyle and these other areas? There is a simple tool in the form of a pie chart that I have used to determine the percentage of money that goes to each piece of the pie.
Your tax return can provide some of this data: start with your gross income, then subtract the tax you pay, then take off the amount you save (if it’s in your RRSP, you can find this on your tax return) and subtract your charitable giving (also on your tax return if given to a registered charity). Finally, subtract what you pay annually in debt (which typically is an extension of your lifestyle). What remains is your lifestyle. (Income – tax – debt – saving – giving = lifestyle).
In the Kingdom Advisors Study Group this month, Founding Director, Ron Blue shares the story of a couple who desired to give more than 10%. Might that be a goal for you?
This couple was spending 52% on lifestyle and 15% was going to pay on the debt. The reason for the debt was paying off things like an RV, motorcycles, boats – the toys or the extras. The toys are great to have but maybe not used as much as when first purchased.
This couple made the decision to sell the toys (for what they were worth – less than the purchase price) and eliminate the debt. They allocated this 15% to their giving, so they now gave 25%! This in turn reduced their taxes by 10% – that’s a definite win! This 10% allowed them to boost their savings and even add to their lifestyle boosting it to 59%.
Just think about that result for a minute: paying 10% less in tax, saving 3% more, giving 15% more and spending 7% more on lifestyle; who can argue with that? Most importantly, this couple was more content than they were previously. It came by eliminating the debt.
As a couple, we have calculated this in the past few years and have found it extremely useful, because like this couple, we were not 100% content and wanted to make some adjustments in our pie chart. In particular: decrease (or eliminate) debt, give more and pay less in tax.
July 24th was special in 2021, not because I went on a 100 kilometre bike ride, but because of “why” I did that bike ride. It was a “Ride to Thrive” in order to raise funds for International Missions. For my ride, I was so thankful to have friends and family who donated from BC, AB, ON, QC & NL.
It helped me realize that there are all sorts of ways to give. The riders all gave their time and energy to ride for almost 4 hours. Volunteers gave their time to meet us at the halfway point and provide us with drinks to fuel us for the last half of the ride. They also volunteered to do a BBQ for us hungry riders at the end. Then there are others, like some reading this post, who chose to support financially. We all contributed to a great cause.
I have been cycling now for 15 years and I have learned a few things when riding:
1) It’s easier to ride when you have someone directly in front of you and
2) Stay as close as possible to the back wheel of those riders.
There’s a great life lesson here: stay close and ride with someone on this journey of life.
This reminded me of when I did the cycling portion of the Iron Man triathlon in Corner Brook back in July 2008. (My average speed for that race was 29.8 kph). The difference in that race and this ride is that the triathlon was an individual race. You had to keep your distance from the rider in front of you or pass that rider; you could not ride in another’s slip stream. That was not the case in our Ride to Thrive journey. It was a joy to be able to take advantage of someone else’s strength, even when your own strength is wavering.
“If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.”
Galatians 5:25 ESV
The cycling journey exemplifies this truth. The energy you gain by being close to someone else is more valuable than you realize. You can go at a faster pace for a longer time than you can on your own. “In step with the Spirit” means you get the advantage of the Spirit’s activity in your life and you can go further and accomplish more than you ever can on your own. If however, you are out of step, the effort becomes more of your own and you end up accomplishing a whole lot less than you might desire.
Ottawa is friendly to cyclists and the McDonald Parkway is closed to traffic on Saturday’s and Sunday’s during the summer to give bikers the road. On the ride back, I watched two of the stronger riders in our group begin to accelerate and I realized quickly that I needed to get on the wheel of the second rider or I would be gapped and left behind. The speed began to increase from 32 kph to 36, to 40, then 42 until we had to slow for a stop light. It felt good to exert that energy and keep pace with those riders (believe me, I was not always able to do that).
If you are not attentive on a ride, these gaps can form and you can be distanced. That happened at one point with Murray Cornelius, the Executive Director for Missions with the PAOC and ride organizer. He shared with me after that he was able to catch us, but was not able to maintain the speed because he had exerted so much energy to reach us. He did keep up with us for the rest of the ride but for that short time, he ended up being gapped.
I’m reminded of this verse:
I have not yet reached my goal, and I am not perfect. But Christ has taken hold of me. So I keep on running (cycling) and struggling to take hold of the prize.
Philippians 3:12 Contemporary English Version
Keeping attentive to the working of the Spirit will ensure that we are not gapped. Even Christ Himself, while on this earth, kept a-tune to the will of His Father. We can know how the Spirit is directing us day-by-day and feel the strength of being in His slip-stream.
Just like in 2008, I finished the course completing the 100 km ride. Thanks again for all those who donated.
In most cases when you hear a sermon on the topic of money, the message is about giving, which which tends to focus on the 10%. The tithe (10%) was part of the law in the OT, and there is even a reference to it before the law.
Probably the most quoted portion of scripture for this topic is from Malachi 3:7-10 where the instruction is clear: “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse …(vs.10)” A closer examination of what comes before and after this verse reveals more than I had previously considered.
7Ever since the days of your ancestors, you have scorned my decrees and failed to obey them. Now return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.“
But you ask, ‘How can we return when we have never gone away?’
8“Should people cheat God? Yet you have cheated me! “
But you ask, ‘What do you mean? When did we ever cheat you?’
“You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me.
Malachi 3:7-8 NLT
9You are suffering under a curse, yet you — the whole nation — are still robbing me.
10Bring the full tenth into the storehouse so that there may be food in my house. Test me in this way,” says the Lord of Armies. “See if I will not open the floodgates of heaven and pour out a blessing for you without measure.
11I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not ruin the produce of your land and your vine in your field will not fail to produce fruit,” says the Lord of Armies.
12“Then all the nations will consider you fortunate, for you will be a delightful land,” says the Lord of Armies.
Malachi 3:9-12 CSB
What Comes Before:
The context of this verse is about drifting away from God without even recognizing that we have done so. The “drift away” is demonstrated in finances. The question is posed: “Will a man rob God?” and immediately answered: “Yet you have cheated me!” Then a more specific question follows: “How have you robbed me?” We know God owns everything so if we believe this to be true, how exactly can we rob God? The answer seems clear enough: “By not making the payments of the tenth and the contributions” (Mal. 3:8 CSB). However, we need to consider more fully what is being robbed from God.
What Comes After:
What follows the return and “bringing the tithe” is the promise of
Heaven being opened
The rebuke of the devourer
Your fields will not fail to produce
Every nation will talk about how God has blessed you and about your wonderful land.
Why would these things happen? The results are directly connected to our returning to God and more importantly, His return to us. It seems our drifting away, as evidenced by our lack of giving, keeps God from returning to us. This reminds me of the parable Jesus shared about the prodigal son. The father was waiting for the son’s return and was unable to bless the son until he returned.
How We Rob God
God is describing how he desires to bless his people and is saying that his people are robbing him of that opportunity. We put the emphasis of these verses on the giving of 10% (we rob God by withholding the 10%). In fact, the robbery is actually more about the 90% (or better still, the blessing of 100%). When we give we are learning to trust God, so these verses are about the whole of our financial well-being.
Where Jesus focused – How did Jesus talk about money?
Jesus seems to confirm the importance of the 10% but clearly rebukes the religious leaders because they have neglected some of the more important matters of this life.
23“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You pay a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, and yet you have neglected the more important matters of the law — justice, mercy, and faithfulness. These things should have been done without neglecting the others.
Jesus – Matthew 23:23 CSB
Considering the matter of faithfulness and finances, it is required that a steward be found faithful in their management of all.
Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.
Paul – 2 Corinthians 4:2 NIV
Two Parables About Money
Jesus told many parables and at least a third of them involved money. Money played a significant role in the story of the prodigal son, but not 10% only. The parable that follows (in Luke 16) is the about the dishonest manager who is being fired for his mismanagement of the owner’s assets, not 10% only, but 100% of what he managed. The word “squander” is used in both these parables. The son wanted ownership so he could make his own decisions. The manager did not have ownership but was empowered to make financial decisions. Upon the shock of being fired, the realization hits the manager that the financial books are now going to be audited and he is losing his respectable job.
Maybe the foundational principle to understand is simply that we are “managers or stewards” rather than owners. We must treat everything that we receive as a sacred trust, but the sad reality is that it is far too easy to “squander” what comes into our hands (as both parables illustrate). When it comes to our finances, the starting point for the Christ-follower should be this: God owns it all.
It’s easy to focus on the 10% as an obligation, feeling guilt if we do not give to that level, rather than seeing giving as an opportunity to act in the interest of the owner of the 100% that has been entrusted to us. When we act in the interest of the owner, the owner is then positioned to act in the interest of the steward.
Here is the lesson for our lives: one day our management of the resources entrusted to us will come to an end and the books will be audited. What we do with the 10% is important but when the books are audited, it is the 100% that will be reviewed. Will we hear this statement? “Well Done …“
At the beginning of this year, many referenced 2020 using the analogy of 20/20 eyesight – an ability to see clearly. In hindsight, did anyone see what the year would actually bring?
It’s interesting that two people can view the same circumstance yet, have two very different perspectives. Even reflecting on the US election in November, it has shown a nation that is divided by so many issues whether political, racial or religious. Without a mind shift, we are typically unable to see or understand a different perspective. The fact is our vision is often not as clear as we might think.
Jesus made this statement:
The context of this verse is about storing up treasures in heaven, and not storing up treasures on the earth (Matt 6:19-24). The reference to “the eye” (in verses 22 & 23) almost seems to be out of place and off the topic of storing up treasure, whether on the earth or in heaven. If we examine more closely, we will see more clearly.
The word clear can be translated healthy or generous which helps us understand better what Jesus meant. He was really saying that generosity (or lack of generosity) is more impactful than we realize. He was helping us make a connection between what we do with our money here on earth so it can help us store up treasure in heaven. If our eye is generous, we have a longer term perspective.
Jesus described the kingdom of heaven in Matthew 20 by explaining how a landowner hired labourers for his vineyard. He hired them for an agreed amount for the entire day and also hired others throughout the day, meaning they worked less hours than those hired in the morning. The landowner paid all of them a denarius (equivalent of a days wage). Those who were hired first then complained when they discovered that others who worked less hours received the same pay as they did for working the entire day. After hearing the grumbling, the response of the landowner is most interesting:
In other words, Jesus was saying your eye is not healthy or generous, but rather jealous. Why did Jesus reference the eye? Take a look at Proverbs 28:22, “A man with an evil eye hastens after wealth …” which explains what Jesus was referencing when he shared this story. He said they had “an evil eye” or were jealous because of their perceived wage discrepancy. Through this story, Jesus was teaching that having a generous heart is preferred, rather than a heart focused on greed. None of us would be quick to admit we are guilty of greed, but the message of the kingdom of heaven is always toward generosity. “He who is generous (has a good eye) will be blessed …” (Prov. 22:9).
Regarding the phrase in Matthew 6:22, “your whole body will be full of light,” means that if your eye is generous:
“all (your) actions will be influenced by this noble principle; (your) whole life will be illuminated, guided and governed by it; (your) mind will be cheerful and pleasant, and (your) estate and condition will be prosperous and successful.”
Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible
Generosity extends beyond finances.
When considering social media, it is not difficult to find an “evil eye” or lack of generosity when it comes to our words and interactions with one another. I’ve read how one person accused another of being like an ostrich with their head stuck in the sand as it relates to a particular issue. These people have never met, yet, the words are anything but generous toward the other and the exchange does not focus on trying to understand the other person’s perspective.
Back to the story of the landowner; it ends with: “the last shall be first, and the first shall be last.” In the kingdom of heaven, the focus is on generosity, on putting others ahead of ourselves, the opposite of greed or an evil eye. Proverbs 22:9 says, “He who has a good eye will be blessed, for he gives some of his food to the poor.” A bountiful or generous eye is the great differentiator!
I read a post that said, “Our Lord describes the eye as a lamp which lights the entire body. Our eyes are the entrance to our hearts and minds and, as such, they provide a doorway to our very souls.” It goes on to say “The Bible tells us that Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. That’s his great deception—to make people think they’ve found the light when in fact it’s the darkness of false light (2 Corinthians 11:14). His intention is to blind us to truth and corrupt our minds, and he uses our eyes to gain entrance to our hearts.”
The goal of Jesus telling this story is to expose the darkness that is often present in our hearts. One of the reasons we celebrate Christmas at this time of the year is because it is literally one of the darkest times of the year (the shortest days of the year are in December). Light is most visible in the darkest of times. We can be a source of light to those around us if there is a light that is within us. We can only share what we possess.
“The lamp of the body is the eye …”
May we display that light when others look into our eyes. When people look into your eyes, do they see light or darkness? When others read your posts on social media, do they see generosity or not? Are we focused on the accumulation of wealth here on earth or riches toward God?
These are very sobering questions and the answers reveal that “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
Last weekend was a little frustrating at our house since the kitchen sink would not drain. My first instinct was there must be something clogging the pipes directly below the sink. I purchased a 15-foot long snake or auger that I could put into the 1 1/2 inch line. I was feeling confident that this would solve the issue. After using the auger, we ran the water and there was absolutely no change; the sink still did not drain. I plunged the sink several times but with no success. With the pipe being more than 25 feet long, I reluctantly decided to cut the line, use the 15-foot auger in either direction which would, no doubt, reach the blockage. A joiner could be used to reconnect the line.
I knew this was going to be messy! I cleared the area, put down plastic and had a few buckets on hand. I began the cut knowing the line was filled with water that was bound to spill from where I was cutting. I’m sure a plumber would have been able to do this more efficiently but I was determined to solve this problem myself. As I cut the line, the water began to squirt out and as the cut went deeper the smell and food particles coming out was absolutely gross.
Sure enough, as I put the auger into the line, I could feel the resistance; the line was clogged right at the very end. The line had a very gradual slope over the last 14 feet which would easily cause debris to build up. Time to rejoin the line and hope for the best! Run the water; how could this be? It still was not draining! After a few plunges and to my great relief, the line opened up and the water began to flow freely. What a satisfying sense of accomplishment.
That got me to thinking about the purpose of that pipe; it was to have the water from the sink drain flow through it. The clogged line defeated the purpose of the pipe! We are all meant to be like a pipe or conduit where things flow through. In other words, what comes to us like gifts and talents, wealth and resources are meant to flow through rather than be stored up. The more we hold things and keep them for ourselves, the more there is an opportunity to have our pipes become clogged. Just this week, there was a financial need that we became aware of and I thought about that pipe; we could choose to keep the money in our account or we could help someone else by giving.
Think about the Dead Sea and compare it to the Sea of Galilee (which is just North of the Dead Sea).
Both the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea receive their water from the river Jordan. And yet, they are very, very different. Unlike the Dead Sea, the Sea of Galilee is pretty, resplendent with rich, colourful marine life. There are lots of plants. And fish too. In fact, the sea of Galilee is home to over twenty different types of fish.
The river Jordan flows through the Sea of Galilee but the Dead Sea has no outlet!
The Dead Sea takes the same water from river Jordan as the Sea of Galilee; and just holds it. It does not give; and hence, there is no life there at all.
The moral… Life is not just about receiving. It is about receiving and giving.
Randy Alcorn in his book, Money Possessions & Eternity describes the purpose of the church this way:
Whereas the Old Testament temple was a storehouse, the New Testament church was a clearinghouse, a conduit of gifts to help the needy and reach the lost.
It is so easy to focus only on ourselves and think that what comes into our hands is meant only for ourselves (for vacations, pleasure or retirement) and not for others. As I reflect on my clogged pipe, I do not want my life to become clogged where nothing is flowing through.
Money is a blessing, but it is also a burden when we’re given more than we need. Giving produced freedom 100 percent of the time – freedom to be a conduit of blessing to others.
Why did my pipe get clogged? I suspect because there is not a sufficient slope for that length of pipe and the water is not flowing as well as it should. Compare that to money flowing to us, the question becomes, “How much is flowing through us?”
Canada Helps did a study of giving levels from 2006 to 2016 and determined that higher income earning families saw the sharpest declines in giving (in these 11 years). It seems that the higher the income, the less the money flows through or there is more likely to be a clog in the line. Here’s what I found interesting from the study:
The lower income families that do make donations have increased the amount of their income spent on donations from 3.3% to 5.5% in the past 11 years. In the meantime, families making $250K or more has consistently given around 2% of their income over the past 11 years.
One of our goals is to increase the percentage of giving each year going forward. The reason, as I reflect on the clogged drain, is to avoid that clog from happening in our personal financial affairs. Author John Piper put it this way:
The issue is not how much a person makes. Big industry and big salaries are a fact of our times, and they are not necessarily evil. The evil is in being deceived into thinking that a $100,000 salary must be accompanied by a $100,000 lifestyle. God has made us to be conduits of his grace.
May I suggest that as your income increases, consider increasing your standard of giving instead of your standard of living. As Randy Alcorn so aptly put it, “Giving is the safety valve that releases the excess pressure of wealth.” Are you releasing the build-up that wealth brings?
Today is one day in the year where people dress up, put on a mask and try to look different. I have done this a few times during the year and it usually brings a smile to the people who see me wearing a mask. They clearly know the face they see is not me. My personality doesn’t change really, but people see a bit of a hidden part of me – the part that enjoys a good laugh.
My wife has dressed up as a Newfoundland fisherman for many years in order to entertain people and not just make them smile, but have them burst into laughter. I am convinced that when she dresses this way for her comedy routine, she changes and becomes a different person. The more I think about it, the more I realize that when she dresses up this way, it actually allows the lighter side of her personality to be exposed. She is fun-loving and loves to lift the spirits of people. One of her favourite Bible verses states that a merry heart is good like a medicine. Truth is, she doesn’t need a mask to do that; it really is who she is.
How often do we put on a mask hoping it transforms and makes us more acceptable to others? News Flash! Transformation happens from the inside out, not by changing our exterior appearance with a mask or funny costume.
What is the evidence of a changed life? I grew up attending Sunday School and a song we often sang was about this little man named Zacchaeus who climbed a tree to see Jesus. All the people complained that Jesus was going to the house of a sinner until Zach defended himself by saying that he had changed, and was not the same person. He declared that he would “give half of his possessions to the poor” and for those he had cheated (which was typical of the tax collectors of that day), he would pay them back “four times as much” (see Luke 19:8).
True transformation is evidenced when the heart becomes more generous to others.
Jesus confirmed this by saying, “Salvation has come to this house” – in other words, true change had come.
What I learned about Zacchaeus in Sunday School was that he climbed a tree, but I have since discovered “why” he climbed the tree. It was about true transformation and a changed life. Maybe it’s time we become more like the little man who climbed the tree. Selfishness had shaped him to be a man who was willing to do people wrong financially for his own gain. When change happened to him, he rose to a different level, not by climbing a tree, but by removing the mask of selfishness and greed. He gained a new perspective on money. When you hold your wealth with open hands as he did, you will begin to experience true riches.
Do we even understand what the word stewardship means? After all, it can have such a vast meaning. The dictionary defines a steward as “a person who looks after someone on a ship, aircraft or train.” It is also defined as an official who supervises a public event, or one who manages or looks after another’s property.
The final definition seems to be the most accurate. Think about it for a moment – what exactly does this mean for each of us? For many, the immediate thought is that we need to be better stewards over the earth. In other words, we must care for the environment.
Let’s make it even more personal than that. Think about what we have all been given daily to manage.
What We Are Given in Equal Measure – Time
We all have the same amount of time, 24 hours in every day. How well are we managing our use of time? If we are completely honest, we must admit that we are at times less productive than we could be because we have not invested our time as well as we would like.
What We Are Given in an Unequal Measure – Talent
I am amazed when I see the different interests and gifts in so many people. For some, the ability seems to be natural and God-given and can often be improved when developed further, like the gift of music, singing or dance. Sadly, rather than develop their talents, some people bury them, believing it’s really nothing special or unique.
What is Buried – Treasure
If you combine what we are given in equal measure (time) and use it to invest in what we have in unequal measure (talent), we will discover what is often buried (treasure or what we are meant to do). There is a quote that comes to mind about finding something you love to do and then you will never work a day in your life. The key is to “find something you love to do,” then your work won’t feel as much like work, but instead, it becomes your passion.
The Heart of a Steward
If the definition of a steward is managing another’s property, then the heart of a steward must be to know who the owner is and what that owner desires. For followers of Christ, God is the owner and life is about managing what we are entrusted with. Think about your life: aren’t you most fulfilled when you give your time to someone else? Isn’t your greatest pleasure felt when your talent is used for the benefit of another, when others are moved as a result of how you used your gifts?
If all we do is use our time and talent for ourselves, we are really missing what it means to be a steward. Time can be wasted, spent or invested. The same can be said for talent and treasure. If you invest it well, the owner is pleased and we are paid or rewarded for our use of each of these.
Our Mistake …
…is thinking that what we possess is ours to do with as we please. If you ask most Christians, “Does God own everything,” most will quickly agree, yet living this out proves to be more of a challenge.
The time we have been given needs to be managed well and the talent should be developed and utilized. When we use our time and talent to invest in others, we will discover true treasure. To invest in others, it also means you actually have to take some time for yourself. Your personal growth and development results in a greater ability to serve. Remember,we are managers, not owners, so things like time, talent and treasure are to be used for the interest of the owner (which benefits others).We make a mistake when we simply spend money, time or use our gifts without considering what the owner desires.
How well are you using the time each day? Do you feel your talent is under-utilized and is there a place that you could use your talent more? When you receive your paycheque, do you view it as your own to do with it as you please, or do you consult the owner before you make spending decisions?
If you have money it can be used to get the things you desire and it seems the more money you have, the more you spend. I have often quoted this:
You make a living by what you get, you make a life by what you give.
So what are you most focused on: Making a living or making a life?
Deep within most Christians, there is a desire to please God, but we typically do not relate pleasing God with money? My initial thought about pleasing God is considering my behaviour, just doing what is good and saying what uplifts others. I desire to please God in every area of my life and especially with my use of money.
In a recent blog, I referenced the key to pleasing God being faith and the Bible makes this so plain: “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” Some might look at this and ask: What does that have to do with how I use money? A great question. Hebrews 11 is often referred to as the faith chapter, which reviews many of the faith heroes and how they invested their lives. They looked to something better, something invisible (requiring faith to see it), something eternal.
The first example given is Abel, who made an offering to God, which was acceptable because it involved faith on his part (see Hebrews 11:4). The point being that he gave first without knowing if there would be a second-born or a third-born. Compare this to his brother Cain; his offering was in the courseof time and was rejected. The difference: Abel’s offering involved faith and Cain’s lacked faith and was rejected by God. It seems that Cain only gave when he saw the supply of his crops, or when he could afford to give (in the course of time). I am challenged when I think about this because it causes me to question my own financial priorities. Do I give in the course of time, when I have enough, or is giving a top priority?
One point that is easily overlooked is that Abel “still speaks through his faith.” In other words, his offering in faith is talking to us if we will listen. What, then, is being said? Could it possibly have anything to do with our use of money today?
Think about how you can use money:
To Live – Probably the greatest priority and where the majority of a person’s or couple’s money goes is toward lifestyle. Often when a raise or bonus comes, an increase in lifestyle is the result!
To Give – in my experience, I have found that giving is probably the last on the list of priorities, especially when a person is starting out, with so many other financial commitments.
Owe (debt) – using debt to purchase a home or car is often a priority, which creates an obligation to repay. In a sense, debt is really an extension of lifestyle (when we don’t have enough money we borrow to get the things we desire). Maintaining a good credit score is important so on-time repayment becomes a definite priority.
Owe (taxes) – Most have taxes withheld from their pay, so in that sense the government makes taxes the top priority.
Grow – Saving money can be a challenge and people often consider a mortgage (debt) a forced savings plan, but saving little by little is one of the secrets to wealth.
Is it possible that Abel is “still speaking” about our priorities in this life and that in order please God, faith must be a priority in all our dealings, especially in our financial dealings? It is imperative that we set priorities around how we use money.
Here’s a question to consider: Are these priorities around money sequential or simultaneous? It would be nice to see them in a neat order of 1-5 and always keep the proper order, but the truth is these uses of money pull us in different directions daily, often shifting these priorities. We want to give more and save more but the amount we have to pay in tax and debt or just our chosen lifestyle hinders us from reaching these goals.
Please take a few moments to consider your financial priorities. Does your faith and pleasing God fit into your spending decisions? Could your financial priorities use some adjustments?
Why is the issue of money so important? Maybe because it is the greatest competitor to God … Jesus said there is no middle ground, “You cannot serve God and money.” It’s one or the other.
The fact is none of us set out with a goal to serve money and most would likely prefer to serve God rather than money. We want money to answer our needs and grant our desires and oddly enough, God is interested in doing the same for us. The choice becomes whether we will look to God as our supply or to our finances. The lines are so easily blurred because as we earn money, we begin to see it as our source.
How, then, can we please God with money? Hebrews 11:6 states very clearly: “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” To be honest, I have never really connected this verse with how I use money, but we need faith in every aspect of life in order to please God. If you jump back to verse 4, it reads, “By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain did.” This verse explains Abel to be “a righteous man, because God approved his gifts.”
The story of Cain and Abel is challenging because they both made an offering to God from the labour of their hands. Cain worked the ground and produced crops while Abel became a shepherd. Cain presented some of the land’s produce and Abel presented some of his flock. Some have said the animal sacrifice was more pleasing because it foreshadowed the Temple sacrificial system as well as Christ’s sacrifice to take away sin. This explanation hardly seems fair though, because they both offered to God from their produce.
Hebrews 11:4 provides the answer: it seems Abel’s offering was “by faith” and Cain’s offering lacked faith and was, therefore, not pleasing to God. If you read the story in Genesis 4, this is actually confirmed. It says of Cain (v.3a), “In the course of time Cain presented …” but regarding Abel it says he presented “some of the firstborn (v. 4). One offering did not require faith because it was offered once there was a sufficient supply. For Cain, there were many crops when he offered; no faith was required because he waited until there was plenty before he offered to God. For Abel, the priority was completely different. He offered to God first, which required faith that more would follow the firstborn. He was trusting God for his provision by offering the first to God. This pleases God.
This is a powerful lesson in financial priorities. What is our top financial priority? Do we give only when we have plenty and can afford to give? The big question is this: Does our giving include faith or does our giving lack faith because we are confident we have enough?
Let’s face it, most of us are not necessarily living by faith because it seems to make more sense to “walk by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). What a journey it is to live and give by faith. It means having sufficient confidence in God that we can set giving as a priority above the other things we can use money for.
How do we acquire faith? Here are the steps:
1. Faith (in regards to money) comes by hearing (biblical principles of finance).
2. Hearing creates thoughts and an understanding in our minds
3. As we mediate on biblical principles, it begins to shape what we believe.
4. Believing leads to a deeper knowing or a conviction (a confident trust).
5. Only then are we able to live by faith, acting and doing based on the convictions that have now been forged within us.
Think about these five biblical financial principles:
1. Spend less than you earn
2. Avoid the use of debt
3. Build liquidity
4. Set long term goals
5. Give Generously
Please watch this video about a kind hearted lady who was saving for a car that she needed. When asked how she was doing with her savings fund, she said she had given it all away. She gave $5000 to a widow that she felt needed the money more than she needed a car. What an amazing story and example of living by faith.
Last week was one of those special weeks where I was privileged to interact with some amazing influencers in the Christian financial services industry. More than ninety financial professionals from 7 of the 10 provinces in Canada came together in Toronto for the Kingdom Advisors Canada Conference.
The majority of these advisors have figured out why they do what they do and surprisingly, it’s not just for the career, the money or the position. It’s because they feel called and that calling is usually defined by some life experience. After the conference, I was intrigued to read an article about one of our speakers, Brad Smith.
The article describes how Brad always saw protecting his clients’ wealth as his primary role. I believe this to be true for most financial advisors but that all changed for Brad after an incident with one of his very first clients.
“Henry was a factory worker, and he had done everything right,” he said. “He’d put his kids through school; by the time he retired, he was financially set to achieve everything we’d planned for. He couldn’t wait to leave the factory behind.”
No one could have imagined what would happen next: not long after his retirement, the man who’d done everything right tried to take his life. After finding out what happened from Henry’s wife, Smith visited him at the hospital and asked what drove him to it.
“Henry said ‘Nobody needs me. Nobody at work needs me, my kids don’t need me,’” he recalled. “’I went to my doctor because I was losing sleep, and he just gave me pills. I took them home, asked myself what it all meant, and downed all of them.’”
Genuinely concerned, Smith and a few of Henry’s loved ones brainstormed to help him find a purpose; he was passionate about hockey, so he decided to coach minor-league hockey teams and ultimately got out of his funk.
The whole affair marked a turning point for Smith. “I realized that if I succeed only in taking care of my client’s money — making sure it’s used well and ensuring a good return on investment — I have failed as an advisor,” he said. “I didn’t want another Henry.”
It seems this is when Brad began to find out his “why” and purpose in his profession as a financial advisor. The typical thinking is that dealing with a financial advisor is about rates of return on an investment portfolio or taking care of a client’s money. No doubt it does include those things, but discovering that his career path was about something far more important had a significant impact on his business and client relationships.
Over time, Smith found a similar pattern with other clients; many who were financially prepared for retirement were actually unprepared in emotional or psychological ways. That prompted them to develop a seven-step program to help clients lead lives of success and significance, a major part of which is to give generously to the benefit of others.
The seven step process that Brad walks his clients through is the “journey to meaningful significance.” Every year the Kingdom Advisors conference recognizes someone whose life demonstrates Christian character, unparalleled professional competency, along with the integration of biblical wisdom into their advice and counsel. Brad journeys with his clients toward a life of significance and in this process has discovered his own life of significance. At the KA Conference in September 2018, Brad became the recipient of the Advisor with Purpose award because he has truly become an advisor with purpose.