When I first moved out from home and got my own job, I had only a hazy idea of what financial planning meant. I’d get my monthly paycheck, spend as I saw necessary, and if I came out ahead at the end of the month, I’d be happy. For a while that worked, mostly because my parents had taught me from a young age to be frugal with my money, but also because I wasn’t really thinking about things like saving, investments or even generous giving to those in need.
However, over the last five years, God has begun to challenge me about my attitude toward money. Good stewardship of our resources, as talked about so often in the gospels, is about so much more than auto-tithing a 10th of your salary to your church. God’s calling for each of us is unique, and the clearer the picture we have of His direction, the more our spending and saving habits need to align with it. After all, where our treasure is, there our heart will be also. To that end, we need to be intentional about deciding where we will put our money and then disciplined in making that happen.
What does that look like for me? Well, I started off as a young believer thinking that God wanted a 10th of my income — no more, no less. My parents and pastors told me this was based in the Old Testament. However, as I began to read Scripture, I realized that under the Mosaic Law, the Israelites of old were supposed to give up a whopping 23 percent of their yearly income (plus or minus): 10 percent on a regular basis to the Levites/priests, 10 percent for one massive party in Jerusalem with family and friends (and Levites), and the rest for the poor, oppressed and foreigners among them (Deuteronomy 14:22-29).
But then in the New Testament, things changed. No longer were legalistic percentages needed, but instead, people gave generously from their hearts, sometimes far above that 23-percent figure. I don’t know about you, but selling a field and giving it away as they did in Acts, is a lot more than 25 percent of what I make a month.
Through these revelations, I felt that God wanted me (not necessarily everyone) to put my resources toward five things:
- My immediate needs
- His work/church (and the people doing it — Numbers 18:21, 1 Timothy 5:17-18)
- My family (now and in the future — Proverbs 13:22, 1 Timothy 5:8)
- Others in need (like the sojourners/widows/orphans — read Deuteronomy or Acts)
- Having fun (Ecclesiastes 5:18-20, Deuteronomy 14:22-27)
Then I had to work out how much of my income I was able to give toward each of those things. I live without my family in Hong Kong, so living expenses, especially rent, take up the majority of my income. I divided what was left equally toward tithing, saving, giving and spending.
However, resource planning isn’t just about how to spend your money. For example, I open my house to any friends of friends (i.e., sojourners) who might be passing through, even if we’ve never met (guys only, of course). Also the Bible encourages not to be so focused on maximizing profits from our fields that we forget those less fortunate. There are plenty of other creative ways to bless people with what you have.
Through this snapshot of my life and how I spend my finances, I want to encourage each of you to think through where you put your money. Don’t be like I was when I first started working, taking it as life comes and letting the money flow in and out aimlessly. Instead, ask God how He would call you to use what you have and then diligently do it.
One last tip: There are a ton of apps that are great for keeping track of your expenses and income. Some are more complicated than others, but any with more than 500k users should be of some use. Tracking your expenditures is a great way to keep an eye on your goals and to see where you need to cut back on some over- or under-spending. It takes about three months to really get into the habit, but after two years, I have to say that doing so has really helped me be a better steward of all that God has given me.
How do you divide your money each month? Also, if you have any suggestions for good apps, leave a comment.