| MOSAIC January 2013
Statistically speaking, by the time you are reading this article, most New Year’s resolutions have long been broken. Our good intentions to live below our means and save have most likely been set aside. And yet, somehow we still find the need to search for a scapegoat to blame as to why we cannot budget and save and be generous.
When surveyed on people’s inability to budget and save, one person blamed it on the disappearance of defined pension plans which saved for us without requiring us to think, act or change our lifestyles. Another stated it was hard to save money when there were so « many new attractive goods and services » like iPads and smarter phones. Yet another stated that living beyond our means is too ingrained in our culture for anyone to resist, let alone change. It seems we are all doomed to be enslaved to debt.
But something does have to change if we are to live free from debt and as faithful stewards of all that God has given us. God tells us that we are not only to resist being conformed to the pattern of this world, but we are to be ‘transformed’ by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1-3).
Now if this was just another positive thinking technique it would probably last as long as my New Year’s resolution (which shall never be mentioned again). This is different. It requires a transformation. It requires us to « Refuel; Take Stock and Move Forward » as the generous stewards we were made and called to be.
- Refuel your Budget – Take time to take a deep breath and remind yourself that God himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else… and that only in Him do we live and move and have our being (Acts 17 24-28). As you first remind yourself where everything comes from, include your ability and opportunity to work. And as such, treat your work as part of your worship. John Welsey advised us to « gain all we can » in our knowledge, training, abilities, and opportunities in whatever task God has placed before us – but without harming our selves (by overworking) or our neighbours. When he preached this message to the poor and disenfranchised working class of the 17th century it revolutionized the Christian community.
- Take Stock – Stop thinking about what you don’t have and start giving thanks for what you do have. Life. Breath. Family. Friends. Work. Abilities. The capacity to think and solve problems and create solutions. To plan and save. One of the keys of successful budgeting is to set aside some savings every month so that you can break the cycle of always turning to debt when ‘life’ happens. John Wesley called us to « save all we can ». He was not just referring to setting aside savings in your budget (which is a really good thing). He more wisely taught to stop wasting the resources you already have. Before you go shopping, take stock of what you already have in your cupboard so that you buy what you need and do not waste what you already have. If you have ever had to clean out the stuff that is starting to grow in the bottom drawer of your fridge, you know what I mean!
But this lesson applies to much more than our fridge or our budget. Before you make a purchase, ask yourself do I really need this new iPhone 5? or will my iPhone 4 do everything I need it to do? (For those that know of my issue with iPhone 5 envy, I’m working on it, but keep praying). Learn to take stock of everything – your work, abilities, talents, opportunities, resources and even your community. Don’t waste anything. Look at where God has placed you and what He has given you and then ask how you can best use them to care for those God has placed around you (family, friends, church, community, the poor, the lonely, the lost). Wesley seemed to realize that owning the newest and the best will not make you a better person.
- Move Forward – Now this is the step many miss (especially with their annual resolutions). Having a plan or a budget doesn’t mean anything unless you are actually using it, monitoring and adjusting it as life unfolds. But you also want your efforts in budgeting to mean something. To make a difference. In business, we look for a ‘Return on Investment (ROI)’. But if we look at the Parable of the Talents, we discover that God actually expects a return on His investment with us. He will ask each of us, « what did we do with what He gave us? ». Did we spend it all on our self and family? Or did we take what He has given us and invest it in His Kingdom? On others? On those that He cares about – the poor, the widow and orphan, and on those that do not know him – but need to. John Wesley taught that not only do we need to ‘gain all we can’, and to ‘save all we can’, but we need to ‘give all we can.’ Our generosity becomes ‘grace in action’. It is how we conform to His Image. Investing yourself, along with what God gives you is the only way to see a return on His investment in you. And this ‘Return on Investment’ has eternal rewards.