The next section in Elizabeth George's book is how to manage your money. This is always a good issue to as no matter who you are (with the exception of the Queen maybe!!) you need to be able to deal with money. Rightly or wrongly, money seems to be the power that makes the world go round, with people either having too much or too little, but never just enough.
I have been on both sides of the coin. I have been the over-spender and the penny pincher! As a newly married couple, both working full time jobs and with a mortgage that wasn't too much, we set a budget for Christmas presents and my new husband trusted me to buy all the gifts and make sure we didn't overspend. The first present I bought was a Clarins gift basket for my mum, which at £75 took up most of the £100 budget I had for my mum and dad. I couldn't possibly just give my mum the gift basket so I had to spend the other £25 on getting her a couple of other bits and bobs, behind meant I went over budget to buy my dad something. This trend continued for the rest of the presents, until I sat down after Christmas and realised that I had acquired 4 new store cards (from the centre where I worked) and was over £500 in debt. I simply hadn't thought about it at all. I just saw gifts I wanted to buy and bought them. I wanted everyone to think well of us and especially during our first Christmas as a married couple. This was the first mistake I made, but the even bigger mistake I made was that I didn't tell my husband what I had done. For the first six months of that year I tried to pay off between £50-£100 off my cards each month, trying to get it down to a zero so I could throw out my cards. In the end the stress was too much, as I really didn't like lying to my new hubby, and I ended up confessing all to him. He paid off the rest of my debt, helped me to cut up my cards and we made an effort together to be much more careful with our money.
I'm not saying that I have never over-spent again (although never to that extent), but if I do, I know that I need to tell my husband straight away, and that we deal with it together. I wish I had done that to start off with.
Now we live life very differently. My husband and I are missionaries and live by faith. We have a team of wonderful people who support us on a monthly basis by standing order, and we also have wonderful people who give his gifts at various times of the year - mostly when we need it most. I believe truly that God supplies all the needs for me and my family and we have never starved or not had the money to pay our bills or buy clothes, food or oil when we have needed it. My husband also travels 5 or 6 times a year and all his travel has been provided by people who are in tune with God's call and who obeyed and gave to us when He told them to. We don't usually advertise our need, apart from when we ask for people to join our support team, but we always pray about it and God always provides.
"And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus."
I would definitely say that this impacts the way we live considerably. I feel a certain amount of responsibility when we get gifts or support, that we need to spend the money with God's guidance and His purpose for our lives at the forefront. That is not to say that occasionally I don't do silly things like buy romance books, spend money on food that I overeat (esp junk food) or buy clothes and shoes that are considered frivolous to some, but I am so overwhelmed by the fact that people believe in what we do and support us, that I don't lapse very often! I'm only human - and wanted to let you know that it is hard - and that I fail sometimes too - but that I know that as long as I put God first and let Him help me to decided whether or not I actually need another bag or pair of shoes, then it all works out ok!! :)
The fact is that the one thing that we have to get right when it comes to money is making sure that we give to God. There is no point in being the best accountant in the world and looking after every penny as it comes in if you don't give God what is His and do it joyfully. We have a friend who was looking at our finances and insurances etc and told us that our life would be much easier if we didn't give to so many different things, especially to our church. We laughed and simply stated...
"No - our life is easier because we do."
We know that because we put God first in our lives, especially in our finances, that not only will He help us to make the right decisions when we spend, but more importantly we KNOW that He will supply all our needs and bless us abundantly in His will. It doesn't mean we have money to burn, but when your Father owns the cattle on a thousand hills, you know you'll never want for anything!
"Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you."
1 Peter 5:7
It's not always easy, but it is definitely worth the effort. Over the next couple of days we'll be looking at the ten disciplines that Elizabeth George suggest will help us to manage our finances, and at some amazing stories where God has taken our breath away with His goodness and provision.