by Ted Cunningham
“I pray God does not bring us out of the recession too quickly. We have more to learn.” I heard those words preached a few years ago from a pastor friend. At first, I was shocked and thought, “How un-American.” However, the longer I meditated on his words, the more I understood what he meant. We’re a nation of consumers, and many of us want our home equity lines of credit re-established so we can plan our next trip to Disney World.
Proverbs 21:20 says, “In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has.” The fool never thinks ahead, and spends everything he makes. Wisdom is found in planning for emergencies. Dave Ramsey proposes that each family keep a minimum emergency fund of $1,000.00. Margin is the space between your load and limit. Financial margin is making sure you have some space between your expenses and income. A little financial “cushion” gives families room to breathe. When the car breaks down or the plumber needs to be called, a family with an emergency fund has the money and avoids unnecessary stress.
Regardless of your income, adjust your lifestyle and expenses to make room for savings. Proverbs 13:11 says, “Dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow.” Don’t live for get-rich-quick schemes, nor plan on fast savings plans. Patience is the key to saving.
Saving requires discipline to not devour all you have or make. We use terms like “paycheck to paycheck,” “barely getting by” and “making ends meet” to describe the one who pays most of their bills with no money for extras. To establish your emergency fund you may need to eat out less, limit data usage on your mobile device, and drive your old car for another few years.
My parents taught me to earn, give, save, and spend and in that order. My dad wasn’t a big spender. He loved to save. When I was 10 years old, I brought home earned income to my dad, and he helped me divide it out into 4 envelopes: Tithe, Missions, Savings, and Spending. I regularly tell our congregation, “Yes the Bible teaches me to give, but it was the influence of my father that impressed giving on my heart.”
“Whoever loves money never has enough;
whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.
This too is meaningless.
As goods increase,
so do those who consume them.
And what benefit are they to the owners
except to feast their eyes on them?” Ecclesiastes 5:10-11
We need to validate the spending motives of our congregation and at the same time encourage them to evaluate why they spend the way they do. Here are 7 spending motives that influence the way you and I spend money:
- Ego Spending– Focusing on yourself while being indifferent to the needs of others.
- Entitled Spending– Confusing privilege for necessity by feeling you deserve or need something. This spender wants in three years what his parents spent thirty years accumulating.
- Emotional Spending– Making purchases to medicate pain, hurt, or loss. This is closely related to emotional eating.
- Envy Spending– Wanting what somebody else has. “Why shouldn’t I get it because they got it, and we’re kind of in the same status, right?”
- Essential Spending– Getting by with the basics. This would define my parents’ and grandparents’ generation.
- Extravagant Spending– Choosing the top-of-the-line best in every category. This is the opposite of essential spending. Sometimes the mid-tier appliance or car will do just fine in meeting our needs.
- Exhausted Spending– When excessive spending fatigues you. It’s usually around the holidays or vacations. You have no energy left because you have no money left.
Pastors often get very specific about giving habits, but rarely get as specific about earning and spending. Share these motives with your congregation, and ask them to look into their hearts and choose the one or two that best describe them. It’s hard to talk about giving without discussing spending. If we change our spending motives and habits we create financial margin to give more.