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Just dropping by ... Financial priorities

Yevet Tenney for Progressive Dairyman Published on 11 March 2018

Budgets have always been my plague. I write down a wonderful plan, but I never follow through. It is always easier to use a credit card than to carry cash in my purse. Credit cards make it easier to browse the aisles of the store and pick out what you want and get to the cash register with more items than you intended to buy, but you don’t worry because you have your credit card.

I always pay off the bills at the end of the month, but I think there’s more to financial responsibility than just paying bills for purchases after the fact. My husband says we’re always one month behind and not really out of debt if we use the credit card. He is right, of course, but I am weak.

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For a while, I used cash. It did stop the impulsive spending, and I felt more in control. I scanned in every receipt, typed it out faithfully in my computer and tallied it up at the end of the month. That method was a ball and chain. As soon as I got busy, it was “throw everything out the window.”

The parable of the talents alludes to the fact stewardship in financial areas is important. God expects us to use the financial blessings we receive to bless the lives of other people, but if I am constantly worrying about every single penny I spend, and accounting for every little receipt, I don’t have time to bless.

I feel like the miser whose only care is to count money. I know it’s important to account for what we receive and spend. How can we know we are progressing if we don’t keep score and make a tally? On the other hand, we are also accountable to God for our time. I don’t think counting money is high on His priority list.

Priorities are important in finances as well as in life. God has a hierarchy of priorities, and I think they are the same in financial matters. The first great commandment is to love God with all of our hearts, our minds and our strength. The second commandment is like the first: Love your neighbor as yourself, and he says to render to Caesar that which is Caesar’s. In other words, we need to take care of our other financial obligations to our country as well as others.

How do we put God first financially?

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Malachi says we have robbed God if we don’t pay our tithes and offerings.

Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.

Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.

Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts.

And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the LORD of hosts. (Malachi 3:8-12 King James Version (KJV)

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There are some heavy-duty blessings attached to paying our tithes and offerings. He will open the windows of Heaven, and the blessings will be so abundant we won’t be able to comprehend them. He will rebuke the devourer for our sakes. That sounds like something worth doing.

The second of God’s financial priorities is taking care of yourself and your neighbor. The commandment is: Love thy neighbor as thyself. In other words, we can’t really love our neighbor unless we love ourselves. God intends for us to provide for our own needs and the needs of our family. A person with a financial ball and chain has no resources or power to help his neighbor.

George Samuel Clason suggests in his book, Richest Man in Babylon, that you save 10 percent of all you earn. Giving yourself 10 percent of your earnings is like paying tithing to yourself. If you think about it, 10 percent doesn’t seem like very much. It is 10 cents on a dollar and a penny on a dime, but if you make $10,000 and save $1,000, that starts to add up. You would always have a nest egg to share with your family or your neighbor in need.

If you keep your priorities in line with God’s commandments, you will pay God first and pay yourself second. It is easy to walk down the aisles of the store and buy things you don’t really need. It seems I always spend what I have in my purse – and more when I use the card. If you have taken out your tithing and your savings, you won’t have that in your budget to spend. It forces you to be more frugal.

My husband and I have always paid 10 percent of our income to build the kingdom, but we haven’t been so wise as to save 10 percent of our income. In the 30 years we’ve been married, we have made in excess of $1 million. We would have had quite a nest egg if we had saved 10 percent of our income. We saved a little, but not near enough. Oh, the wisdom of hindsight.

Rendering to Caesar that which is Caesar’s is God’s financial third priority. The story is found in Matthew 22:

Then the Pharisees left and took counsel how they might entangle him in his word.

And they sent out unto him their disciples with those of Herod, saying, Master, we know that thou art a lover of truth and teachest the way of God with truth and that thou takest care for no man, for thou art no respecter of persons of men.

Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar or not?

But Jesus perceived their wickedness and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?

Show me the coin of the tribute. And they presented unto him a denarius.

And he said unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?

They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then said he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.

We can gather from this short teaching God intends for us to take care of our obligations both to the government and to our creditors. Jesus chastised the men who tried to trick him for insinuating he would not pay his obligations.

Sometimes we get into debt because we have a disaster, and sometimes we get into debt foolishly. Our buy-now-pay-later society makes it easy to get into debt. We feel we must have the greatest and the latest gadget, or we will not be happy. For a few dollars a day, we can have it all.

Before long, we are trapped. Debt becomes our master. We no longer have the power to pay the Lord or ourselves, and our creditors hound us like wolves at the door. The greater the debt, the greater becomes the bondage.

I guess it is a necessary evil to have to track every penny we spend, but it makes it easier to consider God’s priorities before we make the purchase in the first place.

The following questions might help in making those decisions: Is it something that will build God’s kingdom? Will it help to build financial security for the future and family? Is it taking care of my basic needs, or is it feeding my insatiable desire to keep up with the Joneses? Is it something I really need? How long will it benefit my family if I buy it? Will I use future funds, or am I paying for it right now? The answer to these questions will place priorities on purchases and will lead to greater financial success.  end mark

Yevet Crandell Tenney is a Christian columnist who loves American values and traditions. She writes about faith, family and freedom.

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