“I would give to my church, but I’m strapped as it is.”
“I’d love to take that course, but I can’t afford it.”
“I would totally go to that conference, if my church had a scholarship.”
Money (or more specifically the lack of it) keeps us from doing things that God is inviting us into.
Do you know what that’s called?
Using our lack of money as a means to say ‘No’ to God’s invitation is an easy and unfortunately culturally acceptable way to miss out on the life God created for us “before the foundations of the earth”.
What if starting a life of mission-oriented life style was as easy as 30 minutes on the computer?
Too often we take our monthly expenses as a foregone conclusion, we throw our hands up in the air and say “Well, that’s just what things cost.” “Why is life so expensive?”. On the other hand, we could look at our money (and our expenses) as God’s resourcing for a mission he “prepared in advance for us to do.”
A New Way to Approach Budgeting
Without naming names, financial ‘experts’, allege that a budget should be ‘telling your money where to go, before the month even starts.’
That’s a cute sentiment. But how many times have you planned a blown tire, a medical emergency or God’s unction to write a big check a month previous to the event? (yeah, yeah, I know about the emergency fund)
Typical financial advice suggests that you should start with your top-line (your income) and begin allocating all of that money to different buckets, until you are at 0 left over. Personally, I used to use this method and instruct my clients to use this method. The problem with this process for Christ follower’s is it uses an assumption that we need to root out of our culture:
It assumes the money is yours to spend.
The Bible tells us the “Earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” Psalms 24:1 and that “every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of heavenly lights” James 1:17. Jesus told his followers not to take anything with them, and not to worry about where they would get their daily bread.
If we truly follow Jesus, and we believe we have been called by him, we should look at our money (all of it) as His. Which means when we’re budgeting, we need to ask, not: “How can we spend or save this money”, but “how does he want us to deploy HIS money.”
I think it’s helpful to break your money into three categories, Daily Bread, Mission Money, Extra Money. When budgeting I don’t consider my income. I consider what God wants to or has already given me in each of these categories. I start with the most basic (God wants to provide for my basic needs) and then end with the ‘extra’ how does God want to give me MORE than I need (often that’s found in the income I have over and above the sum total of the two previous categories).
This is my sustenance money. It includes four and only four things, in order of importance. Shelter, Food, Transportation and Medical care.
This includes things like, rent and mortgage, insurance, groceries, health insurance, doctor’s visits, vehicle repairs, fuel for commuting etc. These are the basic things that you need to survive in a modern world.
Paul said “the Laborer is worthy of his wages” 1 Timothy 5:18. This as Christ Follower’s is our wage. This is our ‘paycheck’ for following Jesus (regardless of who’s name is on the check).
This is money that aligns or advances God’s invitation for you and your family. For me it starts with 10% of my gross income going to the church. From there it is highly individualized. Right now I’m spending time, looking for individuals who are taking big financial risks to do ministry that I can support and paying down my mortgage aggressively.
For you, it might mean saving money so that you can take a sabbatical, or finishing the basement so you can start fostering kids, or hosting international students. It might mean giving large checks to an organization, or even paying down debt to make room for something God has for you later. It might mean, intentionally lowering your income, by working less, so that you can volunteer more or start a ministry.
The point is, the mission money gets allocated immediately after sustenance. God promises us our daily bread. I like to view my checking account as an expense report for the Kingdom. After every transaction I want to be able to explain the Kingdom purpose behind it.
Too often as Christians, we earmark this money last, with the ‘leftover’ money, that never seems to be there. When we do this we live a life that is incongruent with God’s created purpose for us. Our work feels like drudgery, instead of a means towards our destiny, our bills feel like a burden, instead of an opportunity to maintain a lifestyle pursuing a mission.
This is literally everything else. To include even phone bills, internet, streaming subscriptions, entertainment, vacations, kids sports activities, tuition payments, all eating out. Eating out is ‘entertainment’ NOT food.
I have found that when I think of all these amenities that are so easily taken for granted as ‘extra’.I have a much more grateful heart. When I am thinking, “Man all this stuff for the house is so expensive.” I feel trapped by the stuff, by the recurring bills. But when I think “Hey look how we’re walking in all God has called us to, AND He still has given us extra” (“And all these things shall be added unto you” Matthew 6:33) I can truly see God’s provision in my life.
When we look at our budgeting, whether we believe that all of our money is ours or all of it is God’s is apparent in how we make purchasing decisions. That business you wanted to start? That missions trip you wanted to go on? That girls retreat you passed on? All of it, was in the cards for you, God gave you everything you needed for those things. It may have just got lost in the way the money was budgeted. But, if we stop to align our money with our mission, instead of letting our habits take our money before our minds have a chance, we can live a life that is congruent with who God created us as.
The more I cut back my budget and find ways to save so I have more Mission Money, the more grateful I am for the extra in my life. I recognize that I’m not entitled to anything, but God doesn’t stop at just taking care of me. He continues to bless “pressed down, shaken together, running over.” Luke 6:38
Where do you think God would want you deploying your Mission Money today? Drop a comment below.