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March 20, 2011

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I'm all about limiting your attachment to material things, but most people pay for stuff because they "have" to, not because they "want" to. For example, I pay > 30% of my income to state and federal government---does that mean I love politics more than my family? And my housing and grocery bill is larger than those of someone who doesn't have kids--not because I love my house and food more than my kids, but because I pay for them to eat and live somewhere.

I think most of most people's spending is non-optional. Maybe the post should specify "out of your disposable income" or something like that?

"So, what do you think your checkbook, budget, and/or bank statements say about you?"

I hope it says that I (we) am a giving person. That I am putting my treasures ahead of me in eternity were they will never fade away.

Or if you see that the only things they're spending on is stuff like rent, utilities, food, (and all in low amounts) it might say they're just flat-out poor.

My checkbook may indicate that I need to make more $. However, if I did make more $ and had more disposable income, it may read different. My personal spending plan will indicate that I am very responsible with my income but don't have much left over to be a better and bigger giver. It would show private school tuition for my children and indicate that I care about their education and like a previous poster said, that a chunk of my income goes to food, rent, utilities, etc. Things I MUST pay for that are not optional. However, I do see the point but everything is relative.

I thinks bills being paid (if you pay all your bills) goes without saying. But do you pay your tithes FIRST is the question. When I do my monthly budget, tithes come first, then my bills and so on and so forth. My check book probably wouldn't reflect how I give because I usually do so in cash. Even charitable contributions because I like to be a silent giver.

Some people think if I had more I would give more. Or I need to make more money because a bulk of it goes to state and federal government. You are who you are no matter how much your bills accumulate to be. You are a giver or you're not. I don't think there is a middle ground there. The topic alone is a touchy issue because people immediately start to talk about THEIR bills.

I also empathize with different points of view.

My bank statement would say, she buys groceries, cooks, pays her bills (no debt any longer) and gives to her adult children. In addition, I am trying to continue to create a six-month's salary emergency fund. After that, maybe I can take a vacation.

I think that there are many areas of our spiritual life that we can fake with others, but our stewardship (or lack of it) can never be faked.

Money is the way that we work out our values and our belief system, and, I think, it is the reason that Scripture talks about the issue of money more than almost every other one. Jesus knew that how we see and handle money would be the litmus test of what is truly inside of us.

How would Jesus evaluate your life and priorities when you got to heaven if he only had your bank and credit card statements to go from?

Derrik Hubbard, CFP

@Kathy-

Like your post and response. Me personally, yes, my checkbook and spending plan will show that I am a giver monthly. However, it is not a tithe (i.e. 10% of income). Yes, I've been taught tithe first as well and no excuses, I do not. I don't believe that God wants me and my children to go hungry so that I can tithe. Additionally, I do not believe he wants us to continually give out of our lack. However, I certainly respect different points of view.

First off - great post.

Little late to the post here but KH's comment caught my interest. They said, "I think most of most people's spending is non-optional. Maybe the post should specify "out of your disposable income" or something like that?"

I disagree with that comment. Yes we pay taxes,housing,food,etc. but I also don't know that giving has to first come out of "disposable income". I don't write this to boast, otherwise I'd specify my blog's URL and a more descriptive name... My wife and I used to give back to our church out of our disposable income. Perhaps as low as $20 a week at church to as much as, say, $50. We were not giving sacrificially, it was easy and if you looked at our "checkbooks" you'd see that we thought it important to survive (mortgage, tax, food, utilities), enjoy entertainment (internet, cable, going out to movies, doing "stuff") and liked to spend (clothing, junk for the house, going out to eat, etc.) The balance sheets also wouldn't mention a whole lot about saving or being wise with our money.

Something happened to challenge that status quo. Looking back, I don't even know what point it was at, what spurred it on but I know it happened... We decided that we weren't putting God first (in our time or our finances.. You could say in our hearts even). One of the ways we decided to rectify this was to tithe a proper tithe. To offer the first 10% of our gain (that we believed and still believe comes from God anyway, as He provides for our needs, provides me the talents I have that allow me to make the money I make, etc.) back to the Lord as an offering of the first fruits of our labor. That first month was tough. The next month was easier. But you know what happened?

We gained. From that first year of our tithing through now (and perhaps beyond), we have been blessed in many ways.

Materially - Through the act of budgeting to figure out what that initial tithe would be and how to make it work, we have become better with our finances and more able to give beyond our tithe. More able to afford things we "want" and to be ready to help people and charities out of a desire in our heart. Since that first year, I have had success in my work. I have had moves of jobs that meant more money, more responsibility and my wife is now able to stay home and raise our three children as we want to raise them and home school them. We are able to meet our needs and some of our wants, as I have said.

Spiritually - We have grown much in our walk with Christ (and still have far to go). We have been a part of sharing in blessings through our church's missionary actions. We have seen children's programs grow at our church. We have helped local ministries (a crisis pregnancy center that is continually evolving and growing in services offerings and a local Christian radio station that has consistently been adding wattage with miraculous FCC licenses and funding needs met). We have been a part of God's will here on this earth and His increases to us have gone back to His work, which has continued the cycle so far.

When we first started tithing, we couldn't "afford it" out of our disposable income. Not at all, we had to make adjustments but they were adjustments I would make again. Even now, when I do my taxes and see how much we gave away, I can sit back and think (but only for a moment) about what else could have been done with that money (We are still not as great as we should be on the savings and budgeting side.. much better but not as great). I don't want it though, we happily give and will continue to find ways to increase and stretch that giving.

So if you were to look at our statements today, sure you'd see taxes, housing, utilities (though less there.. no TV anymore), food (for a family of 5 now instead of the two of us when we started), eating out (again much less) and even some frivolity. But you'd also see 14+% going to others. I would hope the message would be clear to a forensic accountant - we firmly believe that our citizenship in this time and space of "earth today" is only a dual citizenship, and a secondary one at that. We firmly believe that our true home is Heaven and we want to help enable others to enable others to be there as well. Each year that percentage seems to go up a bit and each year, our stress over money and finances goes down. Coincidence?

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