As Christians, we are called to depend on the Lord for our daily bread. Yet, we are also called to be good stewards and care for our families. It may seem that these goals contradict each other, but as believers we should be careful to balance them. We need to rely on God, yet also do our part.
This post looks at how to establish a firm foundation that does not take away our reliance upon the Lord. Keeping that balance requires consistent evaluation and thought.
Dependence Upon God
Most American Christians do not have a concept of relying on the Lord for our daily bread. We have refrigerators, freezers, storage lockers etc full of things to provide for ourselves. Dependence is a bad word in our society. It signifies weakness, yet that is exactly what God wants. He doesn’t use people who think they have everything figured out and can live independent of Him.
This theme of dependence is repeated numerous times in the Bible. I have outlined a few of them below.
In Biblical times, most people were farmers or herders. Yet God commanded the Israelites to give Him the firstfruits of the harvest in Leviticus 23:10 “When you come into the land that I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest.”
There was no guarantee that their crops would be harvested as weather is unpredictable. Giving God the firstfruits of the harvest, forced the Israelites to be dependent upon God for the rest of the harvest.
Similarly, in Leviticus 25 God commanded the Israelites to farm the land for six years, but then allow the land to rest in the seventh year (a Sabbath). The seventh time of doing this, there would be a second year of rest, called the year of Jubilee.
Imagine being a farmer back then. You take in the harvest in year 6, knowing the food would need to last until the harvest of year 8 (as you would plant in year 8, but wouldn’t harvest until the Fall). That would be a very scary prospect. Yet in Leviticus 25:20-22 God says “And if you say, ‘What shall we eat in the seventh year, if we may not sow or gather in our crop?’ I will command my blessing on you in the sixth year, so that it will produce a crop sufficient for three years. When you sow in the eighth year, you will be eating some of the old crop; you shall eat the old until the ninth year, when its crop arrives.”
God promised Israel that He would provide in the sixth year, requiring the Israelites to rely on God for their provision. The year of Jubilee would require the Israelites to rely on God’s provision for two years.
Unfortunately, Israel did not put this into practice, so they didn’t experience God’s faithfulness to them in this way (2 Chronicles 36:20-21).
Similarly, in the New Testament, when Jesus sent out the disciples he said in Luke 9:3 “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics.” Jesus was using this to teach the disciples to depend upon God for their needs.
What Is My Part?
Notice that in each scenario, the Israelites still had a role to play. They had to farm the land, then harvest the crops. The disciples still had to travel. However, in all these situations God wanted them to trust Him for their provision and not take matters into their own hands.
Likewise, today we still have a role to play. We need to manage what God has entrusted to us for His glory. We need to make wise decisions with the resources that God has entrusted to us.
We tend to overdo our part, planning for every eventuality so that our life can be comfortable and free of worry. By doing so, we are acting no different than the Israelites. We are making comfort and security our idol and relying on God only when we have to.
Balance Is Key
By nature I am a planner. I look at what is coming and try to reduce the chances of bad outcomes. Planning is important and should be done, but if I am stressing over things and taking steps so I don’t need to rely upon God in those circumstances, then I have gone too far.
Striking that balance is not easy, and requires constant evaluation. Here are two things to keep in mind:
- God is the one responsible for providing for you, not you (Matthew 5:25-33). It is not your business acumen or skill that provides for your family, but His grace manifested in your life every day.
- When God blesses you, be quick to give generously for His glory, not your selfish wants. Instead of building bigger barns, giving freely forces you to depend on God.
We need to labor as if it all depends on us, but live as if it is all God. This requires us to be thoughtful about our motives and actions. Do they indicate that I am fully trusting God, or am I taking over His role to provide by covering every potential scenario that could happen?
Establishing A Firm Foundation
As you seek this balance in your life, here are several practical steps you can take:
1. Set A Standard Of Living
The question that is asked frequently is how much should I give? It is a great question, but assumes that you own 100% of the money and possessions. A steward asks a different question, how much should I keep? God is owner of everything, but he has given us the job to manage it for His benefit. As the manager, establishing a “salary” for ourselves is a crucial first step. This ensures that God receives the profit, not us. As our income increases, it can be tempting to spend the extra money on our wants. Determining a “salary” helps keep that in check and focuses us on what matters – managing the assets for God’s glory not our own desires. When we establish a “salary” (and live within those means), we become dependent upon the Lord to provide for our needs. Over time your income may increase due to your experience level, changing jobs, inflation etc. You will need to adjust your “salary” due to inflation, additional children etc. However, the key is to be using less of the resources that God has provided, so the surplus goes to support God’s purposes, not our own.
2. Establish A Budget
If you think of your finances as a leaky boat, a budget helps you identify the leaks and plug them. Leaks are when we spend/overspend in ways that are not helpful. We all have leaks in our financial boats. but we need to do our best to plug them. A budget can be a big help. There are many ways to do this, but if you have never had a budget before, it can be helpful to start tracking your expenses to see where money is going. You can either use an Excel spreadsheet, pencil and paper or some of the free online programs to track every time you spend $1 or more. If you do this for 2-3 months you start to see the patterns and can begin to adjust your spending. There are many apps/budgeting programs that can help you establish a budget. The key is to find the one that works for you. Your goal is to reduce your spending so you can meet your long-term needs and give generously to the Lord’s work.
3. Create An Emergency Fund
Once you have a budget, you can determine your monthly expenses (including your costs that may not be paid monthly). Set aside/save six months of your living expenses. These funds are meant to provide for emergencies, unexpected expenses that are not covered by your budget. For example, if the transmission of the car goes and it will cost $2,500 to repair, you can use the money in the emergency fund to pay it, and then replenish your emergency fund. Where should I put it? If you feel comfortable using an online savings account, that would be the best place. It links directly to your existing checking account, and you can go to the online bank’s website to transfer money (it takes about 2-3 business days). Online banks tend to pay much higher interest, are FDIC insured and you will want to select one that has no fees or minimums. Keeping your emergency fund separate from your normal savings reduces the temptation of spending money out of the emergency fund. Having 2-3 days to think about a purchase can help determine whether it is a good one or not.
4. Minimize Debt
Sadly, our society is built on debt. People constantly overextend themselves financially to get what they want now by taking on debt. The Bible equates debt to slavery (Proverbs 22:7). Debt limits our ability to respond to the Lord’s leading in our lives. If you find yourself in debt, focus on paying it off as quickly as possible. If you are considering going into debt, strongly consider avoiding it. If you do go into debt, be very careful to minimize the amount of debt you will take on and have a plan to get it paid off quickly.
5. Understand Your Employer’s Benefits
If you are working for a company, they may offer benefits that would be helpful to you. Understanding these benefits and how much they cost is extremely important. These benefits can include health insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, retirement plan, cafeteria plans etc. Companies provide these benefits through group plans, allowing them to get better pricing for their employees. Some employers will offer basic life insurance (ie one time your salary) and some form of disability insurance at no cost. They also may give you the option to purchase additional insurance through their plan. Generally, benefits such as life insurance and disability insurance can be less expensive through an employer’s plan. However, these types of policies are age banded – which means the older you get the more you will pay (normally your premium goes up every five years). If you buy policies on your own, you may pay more in the beginning, but your pricing could be fixed, potentially saving you in the long-term. If your employer offers a retirement plan, the cost may be higher/lower and the investment choices may/may not be as good as you can get in a retirement account you set up elsewhere. However, if your employer matches your contributions (ie gives an additional $1 to your account for every $1 you contribute) that can help increase your savings. Regardless of how good/bad your plan is, it is a good idea to contribute up to the amount of the full match if you can afford to do so. If your employer matches the first 3% of your salary at 100%, then you get a 100% return on your money just by contributing. No investment can do that.If you change jobs, your benefits tend not to be portable (though some group insurance plans may allow you to keep your policy at a higher premium). You should evaluate your new employer’s benefits during the hiring process and factor that into your job decision.
6. Consider Life Insurance
If you are young with a family, life insurance can help provide for your family if you die. It is important to strike the right balance of not buying too much or too little. As noted above, your employer may offer life insurance as a benefit. Coordinating your existing employer benefits with any additional coverage is important. One option to consider is buying the amount of life insurance that you will need for the long-term as an individual policy (on your own) and use your benefits through work to increase your coverage for a shorter period of time. For example, if you need $500,000 of life insurance for 30 years, and your employer provides $100,000 of coverage at no cost to you. Then you could buy a 30 year term policy for $400,000 on your own. But while the children are young, you want to carry an additional $250,000 of coverage, then you could purchase that through your employer (if offered). As additional coverage purchased through your employer will increase as you reach certain ages, the cost of the smaller policy will increase over time. But you can cancel it any point when you don’t need it anymore, leaving the larger policy intact. Do not put this on autopilot, review this annually (particularly if you change employers).
7. Get a Will
A Will enables you to establish instructions on what to do with your possessions, and more importantly your children, when you die. This isn’t something that we want to consider, but is important. A Will is not about you, it is about who you leave behind.If you have children, you need a Will. If you don’t have a Will and have minor children, they could end up being raised by unsaved family members, or even put into foster care. Establishing an estate plan requires us to think through things we would rather not, but don’t put off this important step.
Establishing a firm financial foundation is an important part of our stewardship responsibility. Being careful to strike a balance between relying on the Lord and being responsible, requires much thought and regular re-evaluation. When done appropriately, it helps grow our faith in the Lord and better respond to His leading in our lives.
Points To Consider
1. Are you relying on the Lord or on your own plans?
2. What do your finances say about your priorities?
3. When you have a surplus, do you consistently spend it on your wants or give freely to the Lord?