The Process of Living Within Our Means


I’ve learned over the years that there are certain things that just don’t go well together.  Some of these lessons I learned growing up with a mother who always stressed this point.  And at other times, just by my observation like being a teenage boy and having a girlfriend at Christmas.  Having a wife at Christmas is entirely different.  A donut shop next door to a Planet Fitness.  An aquarium next to a favorite sushi restaurant.  A  believer and hopelessness. And at least in the modern version, the Church talking about “money”.

Although money issues are the number one reason couples get divorced and to be truthful here, it’s the number one reason most people are struggling, afraid, and stresses out in their lives right now.

We seem to get very nervous and even angry at times when the CHURCH addresses money on any topic!  eg. VBS, church expansion, sound system, etc.

I understand that many churches have brought some of this on itself due to past financial misfortunes and failures.  However, I think we’ve also used these past experiences as an excuse to keep the body of Christ from addressing this area of finances because most of us struggle mightily to allow God to speak in this area of our life.

So, since I know that this topic makes the hair on arms stand up and I also know that Jesus addresses FINANCES more than any other topic (twice as much as heaven and hell combined), I’ve titled this Blog “Living Within Our Means”.

Before digging into the Word of God, Luke chapter 14, let me say I’m not taking this passage of scripture out of context.  It’s clear that Jesus makes these statements and is directly talking about Discipleship, and I’ll address this later in the study.

At the same time, I would say you really can’t be a DISCIPLE without dealing with money correctly and that Jesus’ statements do in fact have implications financially as well!

Luke 14:25-32 (NIV Bible)

The Cost of Being a Disciple

[25] Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said:  

26] “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple. 

[27] And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”

[28] “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower.  Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?  [29] For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him,  [30] saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ 

[31] “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king.  Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand?”  [32] If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.”

Jesus asks this question…is there anyone here who plans to build a house (or additions to the house) and doesn’t sit down and count the costs?  Unfortunately, the answer is a resounding yes!

What He is really asking is there anyone here who doesn’t live on a budget?

Jesus is saying to live like that is a crazy way to live and that we become the butt of the joke if we do.

It seems to me that most of our neighbors don’t live on a budget.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average American in 2017 made $59K and accidentally or randomly gave away 6% of their gross income (2.6% to charity).  And, they don’t even realize they do it.  Also, the average American home in 2017 spent over $3008 on eating out!  The result is that when our neighbor lives without a budget we continue to run out of money before we run out of the month.

So Jesus is trying to get us to LEARN TO LIVE two ways:

LIVE ON A BUDGET

The bottom line is that our neighbors don’t like to budget because living on a BUDGET requires discipline!

Jesus is trying to teach us that in order to SUCCEED in our planning, we must count the cost and live within our means.

“Counting the Cost!”  

Where does your money go?  If the answer is “I don’t know, exactly.” then that’s a pretty good indication that your neighbor is using their dollars with no sense.

Without a BUDGET we live by impulse and today’s society makes a practice of living on and capitalizing on impulse.  That’s why one survey shows that the average American spends almost $200 a month on impulse purchases.

I would like to throw out this thought to you.  That one of the biggest issues your neighbor has today isn’t that they lack dollars.  The biggest problem is a simple lack of sense!

Some of your neighbors are in a constant state of fear and worry because they didn’t count the cost until AFTER they built or bought.  Buyers remorse is a result of no pre-planning.

Jesus is trying to teach us to take the time BEFORE we build, add-on, shop, browse, and count the cost!

When my wife and I were newlyweds, my mother, grabbed my brides hand, sat her down at the kitchen table and showed her how to set up a monthly budget.  Neither of us had a clue.  The beauty of a budget forced us to ask two questions long before we were influenced by impulse.

  1. Do I want or need this?
  2. Can I really afford this?

And after 54 years, the questions are still foremost in our budget requirements.

Developing a budget forces us to be honest with ourselves and with each other.

It helps us identifying waste,  It helps us see danger before we are actually in danger.

BUDGETING CAN SEEM SCARY AT FIRST.

It’s scary at first because it forces us to actually think about our money and we tend to fight boundaries.

But boundaries keep us safe!

A BUDGET is a boundary that frees us on the back-end.

It forces us to live on what we make and plan for tomorrow rather than living on tomorrow today.

So here’s an assignment for your neighbor.  Write out an honest and complete budget.  [My wife and I do this at the beginning of every month–place in an envelope–placing incoming bills in the envelope and proceed from there!]  

Live on that BUDGET for one month and see if you don’t have more than you think you have.

LIVE WITH A MARGIN!

Dr. Dave Ramsey, an American businessman and financial guru would call this an “emergency fund”.  Life doesn’t always go as planned.  Most of us don’t count the cost.  We count the leftovers and so we end up disappointed at best and in an emergency at worst.

Jesus said the GOAL is to finish!

To finish you must have extra or resources put back in case it takes more to finish than you thought.  A CUSHION, so to speak.  Without a BUDGET and without MARGIN built-in, we eat our seed!  We put nothing back to ensure that we can have a harvest later.

And since nothing always goes right, we want to get mad at God.  He doesn’t come through when an EMERGENCY we’re facing that could have and should have been avoided simply lived with a margin.

Jesus’ Purpose in these Parables.

Verses 28-30:  Suppose a man decides to build a Tower.  If this man (or men and women) are smart, they’ll sit down and do the math.

Can he afford to build the Tower?  Does he have enough money to finish the project?  Otherwise, he’s going to get it half-finished and leave a monument to his foolishness.

Verses 31-32:  Suppose a king decides to go to war but he’s outnumbered 2 to 1.  Can he afford to go to war?  Or, should he sue for peace?  He’s got to sit down and count the cost.

Why is Jesus telling His disciples these parables?

ILLUS:  Let’s say I suddenly inherited $50 million dollars.  AND…I really like everyone Y’all!  So I’ve decided that from the goodness of my heart that I want to buy each one a brand new car.

“You ALL are getting a brand new car for FREE!”

But once you have that brand new FREE vehicle, you have to pay taxes, buy insurance, pay for maintenance, buy gas and oil to run it and so on.

IT WAS FREE…but there’s a COST involved in keeping it running.

Your SALVATION is free but DISCIPLESHIP is going to cost you something.

You’ve got to take up your cross daily if you’re going to follow Jesus:

Luke 14:27 (AMP)

[27] “Whoever does not persevere and carry his cross and come after (follow) Me cannot be My disciple.”

I’ve heard this message preached for years and as I thought about Jesus’ words in this study, it occurred to me what He was really trying to get across to His disciples [That’s us!].

It’s HIS tower.

It’s HIS war.

A person who’s thinking of following Jesus can be likened to someone who considers building a tower and that disciple not building the tower for himself–he’s building it FOR Jesus.

A person who’s thinking of following Jesus is like a king who considers going to war.  That disciples not going to war for himself–he’s going to war FOR Jesus.

How we look at Jesus depends upon how we answer TWO questions:  “Does Jesus belong to me?  Or do I belong to Him?”

Which is it?

If Jesus belongs to me then He does MY desires.  

  • He’s at my beck and call.
  • He serves me and fulfills my wishes and wants.

But if I belong to Jesus, I do what He wants when He wants us.

MONEY is often uncomfortable to talk about with our neighbors.  And discipleship is often thrown at us in church like a wet rag!  Uncomfortable or not, they are both a reality in the Christian life and hopefully, this study will have shown a bright light on both.  Share your experiences, your thoughts, as the Lord leads you to do so in the comments section of this page.

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CREDITS

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search – Settings: advanced search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); or as specified in the text.

The U.S. Census Bureau, 2017 statistics.

 

 

Calculating the Cost 101

“The foundation supports the full weight of the structure” ; “The house foundation is the system on which the home sits”  (askthebuilder.com).

We are going to look today at what the Bible has for us when we begin the steps of “Calculating the Cost 101“:

“For which of you, wishing to build a farm building (a), does not first sit down and calculate the cost [to see] whether he has sufficient means to finish it.  Otherwise, when he has laid the foundation and unable to complete [the building], all who see it will begin to mock and jeer at him,  Saying, This man began to build and was not able (worth enough) to finish”   (Luke 14:28, 29, 30–Amplified Bible). [ a. James Moulton and George Milligan, The Vocabulary]

COUNTING THE COST

When any of us begin a project, at home, work or church, we count the cost.  We estimate whether or not we can afford to complete it.  Or at least we should do that before we begin.  Jesus gives us the example of building a tower or in the Amplified Bible “a farm building“.

If a man was not to count the cost, went ahead and started building the structure, and had to stop, he would be ridiculed.

LIVING IN THE KINGDOM

When people around you find out you are a Christian, and that’s a good thing, they are going to be watching you.  Just like the builder of this farm-house.  It’s not going to be easy “leaving” your old lifestyle for the things of God.

Let us say you are going to build a block of apartments in your community, rent them to people and make a lot of money.  It’s been your dream, your goal as you begin the project in faith.  You have a good job, you’re confident in arranging finances for the construction.  The bulldozers are lined up and the foundation begins to take form.

What if, in the middle of the project, suddenly you lose your job and you can’t pay the loan back?  Or if you projected a cost, then made a wrong calculation.  It says here in Luke 14:28, before you start something like this, sit down with proper accountants and cost analysts for the projection.  Because if you start putting up half a block of apartments, or a building or even a barn, and you stop building because of bad finances, everyone in the neighborhood is going to laugh at you.  You might say, “So what! I don’t care if they are laughing.”

Jesus was essentially saying that the Christian life in the Kingdom of God is like that.  If you decide to become a Christian, people are going to watch you; if you decide that it is too difficult, and you no longer have the enthusiasm to continue.  Over my Christian life and experiences, I have seen many foundation started without completed structures built upon the concrete footings. That’s not good for non-believers to witness.  God not only wants us to start something, He also wants us to finish it!  Remember Jesus’ disciple warning in Luke 14:27.

“QUALITY” FIRST THEN “QUANTITY”

In The Book of Acts, we see the same foundation of church building principles: “quality first, then quantity

“And day after day they regularly assembled in the temple with united purpose, and in their homes they broke bread [including the Lord’s Supper].  They par-took of their food with gladness and simplicity and generous hearts, constantly praising God and being in favor and goodwill with all people”  (Acts 2:47–Amplified Bible).

There you are church!  Pick out the priorities, the principles of good foundation building in that quoted verse.

“and the Lord kept adding [to their number] daily those who were being saved” (verse 47-b).

STEWARDSHIP IS A “RELATIONAL ISSUE”

Stewardship IS a relational issue between God and us and part of foundation:

“EXCEPT THE Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it”  (Psalm 127:1).

Let us not get so caught up in the building process that we forget whose in charge here; the real Builder of the foundation!  We are but “managers” or “stewards” in the process.

“But the firm foundation of (laid by) God stands, sure and unshaken, bearing this seal (inscription): The Lord knows those who are His, and, Let everyone who names [himself by] the name of the Lord give up all iniquity and stand aloof from it”  (2 Timothy 2:19).

The “of” is not subjective (i.e., consisting of the prophets and apostles), but objectively (i.e., “laid by the apostles, etc.).  So where am I going here?  I want to let you know, the foundation is NOT the church! Christ is the strong foundation on which the church is built upon:

“[Charge them] to do good, to be rich in good works, to be liberal and generous of heart, ready to share [with others],  In this way laying up for themselves [the riches that endure forever as] a good foundation for the future, so that they may grasp that which is life indeed”  (1 Timothy 6:18, 19–Amplified bible).

FINANCIAL PLANNING: BUILDING ON THE FOUNDATION

Having a well-designed budget protects us from making impulsive purchases.  It also protects us from misplaced priorities when there is no goal in mind.  We spend money where the pressure is the greatest.  An individual asks, “What is the biggest need; what is my strongest desire?”  Rather than, “What does the Lord want me to do with my income?”

Luke 14:27 says, “Whoever does not persevere [doesn’t quit] and carry his own cross and come after (follow) Me cannot be My disciple.”

Those who fail to plan often find that they have no funds left to accomplish the Lord’s will.  Believers may miss out on opportunities to help others, support missions and serve God in other ways when their finances are not in order.

FINANCIAL PLANNING PROTECTS US FROM INDEBTEDNESS

Some people get into trouble spending impulsively, running up their credit card balance.  Others occur debt because they fail to plan how to use their God-given resources.  In a typical month, they spend everything they earn!

When my wife and I were being raised in the 1940’s and 1950’s, our parents seldom or never spoke in front us about financial planning.  In Dianne’s house, her parents never spoke in front of her about financial planning; they paid “cash” for everything.  In my house, mom was the ‘budgeteer’, the ‘vacation planner’, the ‘wizzard of expenditures’.  She would explain how our family could afford a vacation that year; she would “Rob Peter to pay Paul”!  And no, that isn’t biblical!  She would later have to pay Peter back, but she knew exactly how to budget for it.  At the time, I thought she was amazing and she was!

A year after I was married in 1964, my mom asked Dianne, “Have you ever planned a budget before?”  Dianne knew that if something cost, you would need the income, the money to pay for it.  But an actual budget or financial plan? Her answer would be,”NO!”

I believe that a household financial plan or budgeted expense should be a mandatory curriculum; “Foundation Building 101” in high school before graduating.  Statistics say finances are the number one cause of divorce in this country.  Married couples argue more over money than any other subject; sex, child-rearing, etc. 

What is a ‘wisely planned budget’?  It sets aside money for future expenses!  Sounds easy doesn’t it?  Then how come people are budgeting in the negative; causing bankruptcy and failed businesses almost daily?

Bankruptcy filings actually declined this year, falling 11 percent for the first nine months of 2011.  However, filings reached more than 1.06 million thru September in 50 states and the District of Columbia.  How does those numbers happen?  Today, neighbors aren’t laughing at the bankruptcy filings but are wondering how they got in such a position.  Were they building on the wrong foundation to start with?  Maybe!

“(10)According to the grace (the special endowment for my task) of God bestowed on me, like a skillful architect and master builder I laid [the] foundation, and now another [man] is building upon it.  But let each [man] be careful how he builds upon it,  (11) For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is [already] laid, which is Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One)”  (1 Corinthians 3:10, 11; 12-14–Amplified Bible).

MOM’S BUDGETING EXAMPLE

My wife and I have been following this example for almost forty-seven years now; no computer, no accountant, just a practical, common sense tip to building on the foundation; calculating the cost

Mom had been taking care of my expenses; cashing my paychecks, paying my bills and giving me what was left, to do what I wanted to do [from the age of 17 to the age of 22].  Mom sat down at the kitchen table one day with my 20-year-old bride, a pencil and a sheet of paper.  Because I got paid every week, she divided the sheet of paper into four quarters.  We are using this Master Budget plan to this day except the paper is divided in half [paid twice per month].

Mom gave Dianne the amount of what I earned each week and what my expenses had been:

1.  Income

2.  Expenses: Rent, gasoline, food, utilities, insurances, etc.

She explained that our future rent should NOT exceed 25 % of our income.  Anything left over after paying the expenses could be considered “extra” spending money.  That was the master plan!

Over our married life, there were times there wasn’t anything “extra” left over; lost income to unemployment, children’s needs, etc., etc….But, we stuck to the budget!  It’s hard not to want extra things in your family but you have to calculate the cost before spending what you don’t have!.  As the saying goes, “Fail to plan, plan to fail!”  Here is another cliché:  “If you throw darts and aim at nothing, you will hit nothing every time!”

The apostle Paul reminds us and encourages us by saying,

“May the God of your hope so fill you with ALL JOY and PEACE in believing [through the experience of your faith] that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound and be overflowing (bubbling over) with hope.    Personally I am satisfied about you, my brethren, that you yourselves are rich in goodness, amply filled with ALL [spiritual] knowledge and competent to admonish and counsel and instruct one another also”  (Romans 15:13-14–Amplified Bible).

Here is your chance to begin calculating the cost of building on a strong foundation; laying up “a good foundation for the future” (2 Timothy 2:19-20; 1 Timothy 6:19). 

Don’t be like the man who is remembered by his mistake of not building on a strong foundation of Christ Jesus:

“This man began to build and was not able (worth enough) to finish”  (Luke 14:30).