A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.
Proverbs 27:12(New Living Translation)
In March, my husband and I will be facilitators for a class on finances which is offered through our church. We participated in this class ourselves back in February 2011, right after I lost my job as a result of a disabling health issue. We have been so blessed by what we learned that we were eager to help others learn how to become better stewards of what God has given them. As a result, this will be the fourth class we have held in our home.
Historically, the Church has done a rather poor job of teaching people how to be good stewards. This is not to mean the Church has been silent when it comes to the topic of money. It certainly has not! Unfortunately, that generally has involved someone, whether it is your pastor, elders or even someone you've never met on television or the radio, telling you that you need to give them money if you want God to bless you.
First of all, God is not going to bless you if you give them money. God will certainly bless you if you freely and joyfully give to Him but if you give to them, well it will be up to them give you the blessing.
Secondly, God does not accept offerings given with ulterior motives. Think about this for a moment. Someone gives you a beautiful and expensive gift. You are overjoyed by their generosity but then you learn that the only reason they gave you a gift was because they wanted to get on your good side so that you in turn will do something for them. How would you react to that discovery? Would it make you feel good or would it make you feel hurt and perhaps even a bit angry? Would you feel like they were trying to take advantage of you?
If you say it would make you feel good, you are a much better person than I am! I would feel like they were trying to take advantage of me and as a result, I would be very hurt and probably a bit angry about what they were attempting to do. Furthermore, I would feel like they had been dishonest. They were pretending to care about me, they were pretending to want to bless me but in reality, all they wanted to do was take advantage of me.
Do you suppose God ever feels that way about us? I believe He does. The Bible speaks about acceptable and unacceptable sacrifices and has some very strong words to say about sacrifices that are not given from the heart. Remember Cain and Abel?
Sometimes the problem is not that we do not want to give. The problem is we have managed what God has given us so poorly that we are over our heads in debt. I know what that is like. In fact, my husband and I have spent the last three years really focusing on getting out of debt.
Remember how I said we first participated in a class on finances right after I'd lost my job in January of 2011? Well, at the time my job represented 60% of our household income. I was eventually was awarded long term disability status but even with that, this was a substantial cut in our household income. Truthfully, like most people in the United States, we were living from paycheck to paycheck most of the time.
In 2011 we were facing a mountain of debt which could have been eliminated with good budgeting had I been able to continue working but... sigh... We considered selling our house which we had purchased a few years earlier to try to cut our loses however, the housing market had plunged in the U.S. and we were now in an "underwater mortage" to the tune of more than $30,000.00. Sigh... this was not a good situation. We had an underwater mortgage and our income was more than $1,000.00 less a month than what we needed just to meet our monthly obligations.
In case you are wondering, our home is below the average market value of homes in my town and at the time I was driving an 11 year old car and my husband was driving a modest four year old car. We are still driving those same cars three years later. We owned no "motorized toys" or anything of that sort yet we still managed to rack up a respectable amount of debt. It is easier to dothan you might think.
So what did we do? Well first of all, we did not ask God for more money. That really was not the root of the problem. We asked God to forgive us for being poor stewards and asked Him to help us to do better. Godlooked down as we tried to learn from others and apply what we had learned to our finances and in His mercy, He helped us. As we went through 2011, we noticed something amazing happen. One way or another, "the gap" was filled each month and we were able to pay each bill for the amount due, on time and we did so without cutting back on giving.
We kept this up for two years. We were able to refinance our home despite still being underwater. My husband's car got paid off, he would get overtime or a freelance job would come up. Something we needed would be on sale. This became a normal way of life for us as we were able to trim our budget more and more. On paper we were still in the red each month but we would do our best to stretch the dollars we had in our hand and God always provided the resources to stretch things all the way.
Then in December 2012, my husband lost his job of more than 27 years. Our income consisted of income from long-term disability payments,unemployment and whatever temporary work my husband could find. One week after my husband lost his job, I received a lump sum of some back pay I was due. It could not have come at a better time and that fact did not escape us.
Our funds were going to be depleted by mid-February. Interestingly enough, that is exactly the same time my husband will get his first check for the new job he got the end of January. God's timing is always perfect.
We're not out of the woods yet but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. That being said, I cannot help but wonder if I could have said the same thing if I had simply asked God for help but not changed my behavior. Far too often we flippantly ask God to help us deal with a situation, whether it be finances or something else, rise up from our knees and continue to indulge in the same foolish and even harmful behavior. Then we moan about how God was unfaithful and did not help us with our problems.
God is more than willing to help us with the problems we encounter in our lives but God also expects His children to behave responsibly. God expects us to handle the money He gives us wisely. He expects us to know how much we can anticipate receiving as well as how much we are spending. He expects us to be accountable by having a budget and if it is "not in the budget" then we simply do not buy it.
If we are challenged by sin when we are in certain places and/or with certain people, then the prudent thing to do is to start avoiding those places and those people as much as possible. Often that can be done but sometimes it cannot. In that case, when you know you are going to be in a difficult situation or with a difficult person, you need to be proactive. You need to talk to God about it first and foremost don't expect Him to suddenly "zap" you and everything is good. Self-control is one of the fruits of the Spirit, therefore, it is highly likely that God will expect you to learn to have self-control. That's why you need to ask God to help you with a "plan" for those situations and once the plan is in place... stick to it.
Are we being prudent or are we being a simpleton?