Let me ask you a question, “Do you consider yourself to be a generous person?” If you are like most people, then you answered “Yes.” Maybe you feel generous because you give regularly to good causes, serve food to the homeless, or at times pay for the person behind you in the drive-thru. Perhaps you feel generous because you faithfully tithe 10% to your local church. All of these are good things to do, but are they good indicators of being a generous person?
The Bible provides some clear criteria for knowing whether you are a generous person and how you can become one. Here are some characteristics of true generosity:
True generosity gives the first to God. When you receive a paycheck or any other source of income, giving to the Lord should be your first and top priority. Proverbs 3:9 says, “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops.” Generous people recognize all they possess belongs to God, and so they give to Him their first and their best.
True generosity gives in proportion to your income. Jesus taught us this when He said, “…from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked” (Luke 12:48). A tithe, or 10% of your income, is a good starting point for determining the amount you give. But Jesus didn’t limit the amount to a particular number. We should give more or less in proportion to how much God blesses us with.
True generosity gives systematically. Generosity is not a feeling or simply giving a few bucks to someone as a random act of kindness. Being generous is a lifestyle. That’s what Paul is getting at when he writes to the church in Corinth, “On the first day of the week, each of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up…” (1 Corinthians 16:2). Generous people give regularly in accordance with what they have decided ahead of time to do.
True generosity gives sacrificially. Jesus’ model for generosity was a widow who gave her last penny. One day Jesus was at the temple watching some wealthy people give their offering, but then a poor widow came to give only two small coins. He told His disciples, “This poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on” (Luke 21:3-4). Generous people understand the amount sacrificed always supersedes amount given.
True generosity gives cheerfully. Generous people want to give as an act of worship in response to who God is and all that He’s done. 2 Corinthians 9:7 says, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” We should not give grudgingly out of guilt or obligation. Generosity is giving thoughtfully, voluntarily and with a joyful spirit.
God does not ask of us anything that He has not first done for us. The most famous verse in the Bible begins, “For God so loved the world that He gave…” (John 3:16). God is the ultimate model for true generosity. You and I are made in the image of God and we are most like Him when we give. Together, let’s take our next step to becoming the generous person God has made us to be.
Take your next step to becoming the generous person God has called you to be by participating in an upcoming Legacy Journey class. Learn how to manage your wealth responsibly and share it to make an impact in the lives of the Kingdom of God for generations to come during this 7-week class.
If you are like most married people, you’ve likely discovered that your spouse spends money a little – or a lot – differently than you do. Opposites attract, so you shouldn’t be surprised when differences around money crop up in your marriage.
In our marriage, I am the spender and Shelley is not. She has to keep me away from the shopping mall while I practically force her to buy something for herself. She never goes anywhere without her coupon folder. I often forget to use a coupon. I actually enjoy analyzing spending trends and building our budget. While Shelley loses interest if our monthly budget reviews take longer than 15-minutes.
Money is one of the primary sources of conflict in marriage. One of the fastest ways to put a strain on your marriage is to not be on the same page with your spouse about money. God intended money to be a blessing that builds up your marriage, not a weapon that tears it down. Follow these 5 tips to build a healthy marriage.
1. Embrace your differences and find a healthy balance.
It’s important to understand and acknowledge each other’s biases towards money. One of you is more of a spender than a saver. One of you likes the idea of a budget, while the other prefers to make money decisions on the fly. One spouse has more of a long-term focus and the other just wants to live in the moment.
Being a natural spender or a natural saver is not right or wrong – just different. Opposite personalities can come together and balance each other in marriage. Identify the unique strengths and weaknesses each of you bring to the marriage around money. The Bible says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up” (Ecclesiastics 4:9-10, NIV). Start working as a team by putting your strengths to work and bring a healthy balance to each other’s weaknesses.
2. Communicate about money.
Marriage is built on communication and you won’t be on the same page about money unless you talk about it. Open up the lines of communication by sharing your fears and insecurities as well as your goals and dreams. Pray together and work to agree on a plan for the money God has entrusted you. When you are agreeing on where your money is going, it will unify the two of you in ways you’ve never experienced before. There will be harmony where there used to be tension.
3. Do a monthly budget together.
See Also: Keys to Budgeting Success
Each month, before the month begins, couples should sit down and spend every dollar on paper, on purpose. It’s okay if one spouse takes the lead, but you both should provide input and agree on where the money goes. Budgeting is an important spiritual discipline that helps married couples put God in charge of their finances. By establishing the routine of a monthly budget meeting, you will be communicating about so much more than dollars and cents.
4. Combine Accounts.
On the day you got married, your “me” became “we.” Jesus said this about marriage, “The two will become one. So they are no longer two, but one.” (Mark 10:8, NLT). Being united in marriage means saying to each other, “What’s mine is yours, and what’s yours is mine.” Working together from a shared account encourages unity around money. It’s no longer my money, or your money; it’s our money. Operating from a combined account establishes the kind of transparency and accountability that is needed in a healthy marriage. Keeping this area of your marriage separate often leads to separation in other areas.
5. Agree on a spending limit to avoid financial infidelity.
If you’re like most people, then you’ve been tempted to hide a purchase from your spouse because of how you thought they might react. In a recent study, 75% of people surveyed said financial infidelity has negatively impacted their marriage. Keep money secrets out of your marriage by proactively agreeing on a spending limit. It might be $30, $75 or $150. When either of you wants to purchase something that costs more than the agreed upon amount, commit to discussing it with your spouse first. You will find this practice will go a long way towards building trust and a stronger relationship.
Put these 5 tips into practice and start making progress with your money and your marriage. Once you get on the same page about money you will experience unity and peace in your marriage like never before.
Find practical ways to communicate with your spouse about money by participating in the next Financial Peace University class. Learn biblical principles for managing money, spending and saving wisely, and eliminating debt during this 9-week class.
In August 2011, Dave Stone wore a 70-pound backpack as he preached about the burden of debt and issued the challenge to be debt free by August 2018. He said, “I’m going to challenge you to spend the next seven days praying about what God can do in the next seven years.” That week Robert and Milessa Barnes and Mike and Denise Amos joined with thousands of others in circling 8/18 on their calendar. With God’s help they began the journey to financial freedom.
In the 2004 Olympics held in Athens, Greece, Matt Emmons competed in the fifty-meter, three-position rifle competition. He went into the final round with a commanding lead and needed only to get near the bull’s eye in order to win the Gold medal. He set his sights on the target and fired. It appeared he had gotten plenty close enough to win. He waited, but no score appeared. The officials huddled before announcing that Emmons had cross-fired – an extremely rare mistake to make in such an elite level of competition. He had hit the wrong target, so they had no choice but to give him a score of zero, dropping him to eighth place.
Many people get to the end of their life only to realize that much of their life was spent focused on the wrong things. How about you? Are you focused on the right target? Most of us live very un-focused lives distracted by the dozens of things we have chosen to cram into our schedules. We lack anything that really centers or guides how we choose to spend our limited time.
The Bible speaks about two different ways to run the race of life:
Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. (1 Corinthians 9:24-26 NLT)
God has a plan and purpose for your life. He has called you to something more significant than what your chaotic and frenzied life reflects. God wants every step of your life to be on purpose.
So how can your life become more focused? And how do you determine what to focus on? Well, there is a powerful tool that will help you answer these important questions. That tool is a Family Mission Statement.
When you have a Family Mission Statement:
- Decisions are easier to make.
- Activities are more enjoyable and life is more satisfying.
- Enables you to fulfill God’s purposes for your family.
- Helps parents intentionally prepare children for the work God has for them in the future.
Without vision, people perish. (Proverbs 29:18 NIV)
When a family gets really clear about the specific mission God has called them to, it brings focus to the activities of their life. They know how to make choices about what to spend time on and what not to spend time on. Having a family mission statement helps you aim at the right target.
9 Steps to Developing a Family Mission Statement:
1. Make it a family project. Involve everybody in the process. When everyone has a voice, then everyone will take ownership of the mission and be involved in the outcome. Some families I know have taken a family retreat over a weekend to knock it out in a couple days. Others will work on it over a several weeks by taking a couple hours on a family night once a week.
2. Start with prayer. Ask God for clear direction and insight into His plan for your family. Pray for unity as you work together on this project.
3. Explore each family member’s greatest strengths and talents. Take the time to identify each family member’s spiritual gifts, passions, natural abilities, personality, and experiences.
4. Identify your family’s core values. Discuss the principles that are most important to each member of your family. What are their most deeply held beliefs? What keeps you up at night? Look for unifying themes and narrow it down to three to five core family values.
5. Talk about how you’d like your family to be remembered years from now. When people think of your family, how would you like them to finish this sentence: “The Carter’s are a family that ____________.”
6. Identify your family’s ministry goals. If you could do anything to influence the world for Christ, what would it be? What group of people are you naturally drawn to? Who do you feel led to pray for?
7. Craft a succinct statement that captures a unified purpose for your family. There are lots of creative ways to do this. You might want to put up some poster board or a marker board and use brightly colored post-it-notes to do some brainstorming exercises. Let everyone play a part and make sure they see their fingerprints on it. If you have young kids, then make sure to make it a fun experience.
8. Display and express your family’s mission in creative ways. You may want to frame it and put it in a prominent location in your home. Make it your mantra and repeat it to each other regularly as a reminder.
9. Find a regular time for your family to pray and evaluate your progress. Maybe once a year set aside time to review and evaluate how your family is doing. Are you staying on mission or drifting? Celebrate some victories and determine some ways to improve.
Being a part of a family on mission brings focus to how you spend your time. You will learn to run every choice for how you spend your time through the filter of your mission. A family on mission is a powerful force!
Participate in the next Free to Live class and discover how to break free from the madness of your busy life and reprioritize around what matters by applying God’s principles to manage your time.
Last year my wife and I made the decision to reduce our summer family vacation budget by twenty-five percent. With a little planning we were able to return to our favorite destination by changing accommodations and eating out at different restaurants. The condo we rented didn’t come with an ocean-view, but it was nicely furnished and only five-hundred yards from the beach. I was quite content getting up early, eating breakfast and enjoying an extended quiet-time on the garden-view patio of our condo. That is, until I saw my Pastor friend’s social media post: “Not a bad place for my Quiet Time” with a picture taken from his ocean view vacation rental. How’s that for a contentment buster? Next thing you know I’m comparing my vacation to his vacation and questioning our new budget.
We live in a culture of constant comparison. We measure ourselves against the people around us to determine our success. A mom looks at Pinterest, and comes away with her greatest fears confirmed: her kids look shabby, her house looks dumpy, and her clothes look frumpy. A dad feels okay with his paid-for 10-year-old carpet-stained mini-van until he gets in the carpool line behind someone driving a brand new luxury SUV. According to your social-media feed, your monotonous boring existence is a poor excuse for living when you compare it to others whose lives are apparently exciting all the time. The temptation to compare yourself to others is lurking around every corner.
Comparison is a game everybody plays, but nobody ever wins. If you are tired of playing the comparison game and struggling with contentment, then maybe it’s time to make a few changes. The Bible has a lot to say about this topic. Here are four practices that will move you towards a life of greater contentment.
1. Be grateful for what you do have.
Instead of focusing on what you don’t have, reflect on what you do have and thank God for it. There is no room for discontentment in a heart filled with gratitude. If you struggle with contentment, then you might consider starting a gratitude journal. Build a running list of the things you are grateful for by adding 2 or 3 entries every day. You will be less likely to compare when you are reminded of all that God has given you.
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thess. 5:18)
2. Give what you have to help others.
Be willing to share what God has given you with others. It’s hard to be preoccupied with what you don’t have, when you are busy serving someone in need. Find ways to give your time, money and talents to make a difference in someone else’s life.
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Luke 6:38)
3. Celebrate the success of others.
Be excited for others when they succeed. Stop thinking, “I wish it were me” and start saying, “I’m happy for you.” There isn’t much room for jealousy and envy in your heart when you are cheering someone on. We are a part of the body of Christ, so we all win when they win. We shouldn’t hesitate to celebrate when others are blessed.
If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. (1 Cor. 12:26)
4. Put your hope in God, not in achievements or material possessions.
Have you ever found yourself thinking, “If I could just get that (job, house, spouse, college degree, etc.), I would be happier”? Usually, you find yourself wanting more after achieving that goal. Placing your hope in “things” will never fully and finally satisfy. No matter how much money you have, what kind of house you own or what job you have, nothing can fulfill you the way Jesus can. He is the only one who can fill that desire in you for something more. God created you in such a way that all your desires will be met in Him alone.
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:12-13)
Comparing yourself to others is a hard habit to break. Next time you find yourself getting trapped again by comparison, turn to God who gives you the strength to be the person He is calling you to be.
Our new class, The Generosity Experience will take you on a six-week journey of learning how to love where you are through acts of kindness and generosity, identifying and serving people who are broke and broken by the messiness of life.
If you are like most people, you cringe when you hear the word budget. And you’ve probably already thought of three reasons you don’t need one. Or maybe you know it’s something you should do, but never get around to actually doing it. No matter what your story is, it’s time to accept the reality that we all need a budget!
Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds. (Proverbs 27:23 NIV)
Budgeting is an essential part of a faithful steward’s life. God has entrusted everyone with resources, and the Bible calls us to carefully manage it (Proverbs 27:23). Budgeting is an important spiritual discipline that puts God in charge of your finances.
If you aren’t already living on a budget, then the process of actually creating a budget might seem overwhelming. And the thought of sticking to a budget may feel like the equivalent of sucking all the fun out of your life. But a budget isn’t about complicating your life. It actually makes your life easier by knowing where your money is going. Don’t think of it as rules for how you can’t spend your money. It’s really giving yourself permission to spend because you’ve planned ahead of time.
So let me answer a few questions and share some keys to budgeting success.
When should you create your budget? Before the beginning of each month you should sit down and make a plan for your money. If you are married, then do this together with your spouse. Turn budgeting into a habit by making it a recurring monthly event on your busy calendar. I suggest doing this 5 to 10 days prior to the first day of the month.
How do you make a budget? Start by figuring out how much money you have to work with for the upcoming month. And be sure to include all sources of income. Include your income, your spouse’s income and any other money you plan to take in (i.e., yard sale earnings).
Next, spend every dollar on paper, on purpose. Give every dollar a name. When you finish planning for the month ahead, you should be able to subtract your expenses from your income to equal zero. Your budget isn’t complete until there is a plan for all of that month’s money.
Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the best part of everything you produce. (Proverbs 3:9 NLT)
The order in which you budget money is important. Give, then save and then spend — in that order. The Bible instructs us to give to God first (Proverbs 3:9). Calculate 10% of your total income for the month and set that aside for your tithe. Saving should be your next priority. Pay yourself and prepare for future needs and wants. If you don’t budget giving and saving first, then you may spend everything and have nothing left. Now you are ready to allocate money to all the other categories where you will spend that month.
What should you do when you get to the bottom of your budget and there is money left over? Well, after you finish your happy dance, make sure you put that money to good use. Maybe add some money to savings for a future expense. Or give yourself some “fun money” that month and satisfy your desire for (planned) spontaneity. However, be prepared to make some cuts when your expenses add up to more than that month’s income. Don’t budget to spend money you won’t have.
Budgeting isn’t a one-time exercise. Each month has a different set of expenses. Some expenses are fixed and remain the same each month. But many budget categories are flexible and will change from month to month. In September we celebrate the birthday of several friends and family, so our budget for gift giving increases. August is back-to-school month and that means planning to buy lots of school supplies. Budgeting apps like EveryDollar by Ramsey Solutions make it easy to create a budget each month and track your spending while on the go.
When you first start living on a budget, expect it will take a few months to get the hang of it. You may forget to plan for an expense or overspend in some category, but don’t get discouraged and give up. Just review your budget and make adjustments. With a little patience and some determination, in a few months, you will have a budget you can rely on and some new positive money habits.
Get more help with budgeting by participating in next Financial Peace University class. Learn biblical principles for managing money, spending and saving wisely, and eliminating debt during this 9-week class.
True Generosity: Characteristics of a Generous Person
May 1, 2017
Marriage and Money: Five Tips for a Healthy Marriage
April 3, 2017
8/18 Debt-Free Challenge: Barnes and Amos Families Share their Story
January 31, 2017
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