Thursday, January 24, 2013

Of Houses & Things, Part 2

Setting Goals & Priorities

When my husband first told me back in 1972 that God was calling him into the ministry, my sense of financial security was threatened--until I realized my goals and priorities had gotten out of whack. I knew we were both called. The first thing I did was to make sure my priorities lined up with God's Word. I wanted His goals to be mine.

First Timothy 6:7 quickly put material things into God's perspective for me: "For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out." Material things are necessary to life for we are physical as well as spiritual beings. Things, however, have no eternal value; they are temporal, temporary--part of this world, which will pass away.

Jesus said, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth,...but lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven,...for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matthew 6:19-21). I can't take it with me, but I can send it on ahead--by using my material things to help others in this life. Proverbs 11:30 declares, "He who wins souls is wise," and I've learned over the years that nothing brings more joy either.

My lifelong goal is to serve the Lord. All my other goals and priorities must, therefore, fall below that one, including the accumulation of temporal goods.

After categorizing my goals as to long and short term, I prioritized them under my primary goal. Once I decided that temporal goods were only important as far as they helped me reach my goals, I could give wholehearted support to God's call on both of our lives. Since then, our goals, not our wants and impulses, serve as guidelines for what we buy.

First, We Tithe

In His Word, God asks us to pay Him a tenth off the top of our total income in recognition that all we are and all we have we receive from Him. He has also promised to supply all our needs (Philippians 4:19). If we say we can't tithe, we are really saying, "God, you can't supply our needs with the 90 percent You've given us for that purpose." We are also denying God's promise in Matthew 6:33 when we put "things" ahead of God. And anything we put ahead of God becomes an idol to us. Idolatry breaks the first commandment. God must come first. Not tithing is symptomatic of a spiritual problem.

God has promised great blessings to those who pay their tithes. In Malachi 3, God describes the effects of not tithing as putting money into pockets or purses with holes in them. God even challenges us to put tithing to the test. We have. We've found we can't afford NOT to tithe!

Have you tested God in the area of tithing? What have you discovered?

Next Post: Part 3: Working from a Budget

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Of Houses and Things

Today I am beginning a series of posts that share many of the things my pastor-husband and I have learned about money management and God's faithfulness to supply our needs. With the state of the economy today, perhaps these thoughts will give you ideas of how to survive financially when you lose a job or your income is reduced or inflation cuts into what you earn.

In 1972, my husband, a career Army officer, was advancing rapidly in rank when he felt God calling him into full-time ministry. But first, he needed to go to seminary. I knew our income would be drastically reduced. I had been enjoying the financial security his job afforded, and we were nearing the point where my dream of buying a house and early American furniture could soon be realized. Having grown up in a missionary's family, I did not see pastoring as the pathway to financial security. If we answered God's call, I felt my dream of owning our own home would probably not be realized for a long time.

Without realizing it, I had been sucked into the world's religion of materialism. Advertising on television and radio, in magazines and newspapers aims to create a "need" for a product, whether real or imagined.

The Lord reminded me of my favorite Scripture verse as a teenager: "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" (Matthew 6:33, NKJV). A look at the context showed me "these things" refer to material needs of food, clothing, shelter. God had certainly proven faithful to supply my needs and more in my years growing up in a ministry family. I could trust Him for my future too.

I can now testify that through our years of seminary, pioneering a church, 35 years of pastoring, and now in retirement, God has been faithful to meet all our needs and then some. To remain debt-free often required much self-discipline and planning, but isn't that what stewardship is all about?

Tomorrow's Blog: Part 2: Setting Goals and Priorities