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.

 

 

DOING and SAYING the Things God Expects Us to Do and Say

1 PETER 4:10-11 AMPLIFIED BIBLE:

[10]  As each of you has received a gift (a particular talent, a gracious divine endowment), employ it for one another as [befits]  good trustees of God’s many-sided grace [FAITHFUL STEWARDS of the extremely diverse powers and gifts granted to Christians by unmerited favor].

[11]  Whoever speaks, [let him do it as one who utters] oracles of God; whoever renders service, [let him do it] as with strength which God furnishes abundantly, so that in all things God may be GLORIFIED through Jesus Christ (the Messiah).  To Him be the glory  and dominion forever and ever (through endless ages).  Amen (so be it).

ELIEZER of DAMASCUS–

Abraham and Eliezer
Abraham and Eliezer

Eliezer certainly wasn’t the most prominent of Bible Characters, and yet, he played a significant role in the life of Abraham where identified as “a steward of Abraham.”

“And Abram said, Lord God, what can You give me, since I am going on [from this world] childless and he who shall be the owner and heir of my house is this [steward] Eliezer of Damascus?”  (Genesis 15:2).

What is a “steward”?

In the OT [Old Testament]; a man who is ‘over a house’.

In the NT [New Testament]; two words translated “steward”:  epitropos (Mt. 20:8; Gal. 4:2). i.e. one to whose care or honor on has been entrusted, a curator, a guardian, and… oikonomos, the Greek word use in 1 Peter 4:10.  i.e. a manager, a superintendent – from oikos (‘house’) and nemo,u (‘to dispense‘ or ‘to manage’). 

The word is used to describe the function of delegated responsibility.

So, with that meaning in mind, ALL things are Christ’s and Christians are His executors or “stewards”–

In the case of Eliezer, he had to manage ALL of Abraham’s ‘stuff’, and boy, Abram had a lot to manage!

“Now Abram was extremely rich

in livestock and in silver and in gold.”

(Gen. 13:2).

ELIEZER, himself, mentions how great the responsibility was in Genesis 24:34-35:  flocks, herds, silver, gold, men servants, maidservants, camels, and asses.  That is a lot of STUFF!

As a STEWARD, his task was making sure that he was prompting Abraham in his best interests.  Over January 2012 062the years, Abraham had found ELIEZER to be faithful and dependable and chose him to carry-out an important errand–to find a woman who believed in the one true God.  He found Rebekah for his son Isaac and the rest is history.

No matter what Abraham placed in Eliezer’s hands, he was found to be faithful and dependable promoting his master’s best interests.  Over the years, Abraham and Eliezer had become more than a master/servant, but in relationship, had become trusted friends.

ELIEZER is an ideal example for us to imitate–

In 1 Peter 4:10, we’re told to be “good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (KJV and NAS).

Now, everything belongs to GOD: “Behold, the heavens and the heaven of heavens belong to the Lord your God, the earth also, with all that is in it and on it”  (Deuteronomy 10:14).

Even though GOD owns all things, He entrusts us with a portion of His possessions.  In His “manifold grace” He grants us ALL that we have and enjoy in this life.  We are then STEWARDS of what GOD gives us!

On what basis are we to be judged as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ stewards?

VERSE 11 tells us that we are good stewards when…we use all that we are given to promote GOD’S best interests–“so that in all things God may be glorified.”

THREE THINGS THAT GOD HAS GIVEN TO EACH ONE OF US TO “GLORIFY”:

1.  SPIRITUAL GIFTS.

The primary focus of 1 Peter 4:10-11, is to use our spiritual gifts Again verse 10: ‘As each one has received a gift (a particular spiritual talent, a gracious divine endowment – Amplified Bible)–“employ it for one another, as good trustees of God’s many-sided grace [‘faithful stewards’].

Look carefully what is said and meditate on the certain truths that are taught in this verse:

FIRST, Peter informs each of us we’ve been given a “special gift”.  There is not a single member of the Church assembly who has not received from GOD a GIFT.

SECONDLY, we are to notice the enablement–to ‘serve one another’ in the assembly.  These GIFTS grant us the ability to meet the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus.  Each GIFT represents a ministry that GOD calls us to perform within the congregation.

THIRDLY, only as we actively “employ” our special gift are we “good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”  ~ adopt, utilize, apply; engage, hire, use, ‘put-to-work’.

THE APOSTLE PAUL’S ADMONISHMENT:

Romans 12:6-8 speaks to us. in regards to being FAITHFUL, in the Use of Our Gifts.

[6]  Having gifts that differ according to the grace given us, let us use them:  [He whose gift is] prophecy, [let him prophesy] according to the proportion of his faith;

[7]  [He whose gift is] practical service, let him give himself to serving; he who teaches, to his teaching;

[8]  He who exhorts (encourages), to his exhortation; he who contributes, let him do it in simplicity and liberality; he who gives aid and superintends, with zeal and singleness of mind; he who does acts of mercy, with genuine cheerfulness and joyful eagerness.

“Unopened Gifts”

I happened to run across this great story late last night by Rosalind Renshaw, date 10/2/91:

How come you’ve left so many gifts unopened on the floor?  They have your name on them, they belong to you, they are yours for the taking–if only you will receive them.  What is that you say?  That they can’t be yours, you have your share already.  They must be someone elses. There must be some mistake?  You’re afraid of what so-and-so will say when they see you unwrapping that gift–you fear their reaction, their envy.  Go open up your package, see what is inside your gift box.  You’ll be amazed at how I knew exactly what to give you–the perfect fit for you right now–in fact, just what you’ve always wanted, but you didn’t know it.  Go on, open it!  You can trust Me.  I am the Master gift-giver.  I never make mistakes or give the wrong size, or color, or fit.  But, please do hurry and open it, to enjoy it and to share it with others, so they can benefit from your gift too.  That’s My whole purpose of giving gifts…not for you to put them back in the box, to keep them safe or even put them in a glass cabinet, to look at and admire.  No, all My gifts are for My children to use, to help their brothers and sisters, not to make anyone else jealous or feel less fortunate.  As I said, I see a number of unopened packages, gift wrapped especially for you.  They are yours!  I’m right here, waiting, longing to see you unwrap them, and to see the look of joy and wonder on your face.

We Each Have Different Gifts Given to Us:

Each GIFT given to the ‘re-birthed’–and this is an important first step.  None is more important than any other and only when each of us actively uses our GIFT can a church body grow as GOD intends.

EPHESIANS 4:15-16 says,

“we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, cause the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”

Are we using our gift(s)?  Are we performing the ministry that GOD has called us to?  We will be judged by how faithful we used our gift(s), as much as how diligently we lived the life of righteousness and worshiped GOD properly?  (Matthew 25:14).

2.  OUR TIME

The second area where we need to be GOOD STEWARDS is the use of the time GOD grants us.

Even though the length of our lives seem so long when we are young, the truth is…LIFE IS SHORT!  I’ve asked myself over the years in my Christian life, “Am I being a good steward of the precious time that GOD continues to give me?”

Paul writes in Ephesians, “Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise,  making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil”  (Eph. 5:15-16 NIV).

Are we, as good stewards, investing time in ACTIVITIES that promote GOD”S interests and glory?

Are we investing time now in the ACTIVITIES that will pay dividends in eternity?

Or, are we wasting valuable time that GOD has graciously given to us, engaging in ACTIVITIES, that have absolutely no spiritual significance?

How much TIME do we devote to self-improvement?

We all have weaknesses in our lives.  We all have faults.  The question becomes, how much TIME and EFFORT do we dedicate to changing our practices and habits?

How much TIME do I use, to make myself a better person, so that my light might shine brighter for GOD?

3.  MONEY!

The third and last area to discuss is our STEWARDSHIP OF MONEY.

It’s so easy for us to forget what we think of as OUR MONEY–what is actually GOD”S money (Ezekiel 16:17; Haggai 2:8).

The income which we have is given to us by our GIFT-GIVER; our GOD, to meet our basic needs but, above all, to promote His interests and glory.

When we steward GOD’S money, what is the appropriate amount to set-aside?

Every Lord’s Day, GOD’S people are encouraged to give–Scripturaly and doctrinally.  The question we need to ask ourselves, is whether or not, as STEWARDS OF GOD’S MONEY, do we contribute or offer an appropriate amount?

When my wife and I were SAVED–born-again in 1972, the issue of “giving” our money to the church, was an issue.  In our minds, there wasn’t room in the budget to “give”…period!  Much less, a tithe!!

The pastor who led us to Christ could point to Scripture about tithing all he wanted, but we just couldn’t and wouldn’t make room to GIVE!

But then the Holy Spirit’s “Light bulb” came on as we matured in Christ Jesus and has stayed on ever since; even during bad economic times in our family when things looked dark–repeated unemployment; low pay; no health insurance for a growing family.

THE TRUTH ON GIVING IN 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 NKJV:

16  Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also:  2 On the first day on the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.”

When we go about determining how much we are to give and frequently focus our attention on “as he may prosper”, then we are tempted to adjust our thinking in giving.

Often we interpret the phrase “net profit”; that is, in accordance to what money we have left over after expenses of other worldly activities.  We GIVE GOD a “cut” of whatever is left over.

However, that’s not what Paul is talking about.  The phrase “as he prospers” is referring to what GOD has prospered us with, before we begin to divide it up!  It is based upon our “gross” earnings before expenses.  In other words, GOD expects His cut first; He wants the first fruits of our labor.

There is the story about a little boy who had two quarters, one for ice cream and one for giving to church on Sunday.  Unfortunately, he accidentally dropped one of the quarters in a storm sewer.  “Well, Lord,” said the boy, “there goes your quarter.”

We are tempted to be just like that little boy in the story.  We get our pay-checks, divvy it up to this and that and when we find we have little or nothing left-over for GOD…we say, ‘Sorry Lord, maybe we can give more next time.’   GOD calls that ROBBERY! (Malachi 3:8-12).

You may be thinking right now, the Scriptures you referenced, about GOD”S money, really doesn’t apply in today’s world.  That’s Old Testament Law! 

THAT THINKING would be incorrect.  The apostle Paul repeats the same message in 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 (AMP):

[6]  [Remember] this: he who sows sparingly and grudgingly will also reap sparingly and grudgingly, and he who sows generously [that blessings may come to someone] will also reap generously and with blessings.  [7] Let each one [give] as he has made his own mind and purposed in his heart, not reluctantly or sorrowfully or under compulsion, for God loves (He takes pleasure in, prizes above other things, and is unwilling to abandon or to do without) a cheerful (joyous, “prompt to do it”) giver [whose heart is in his giving].  [8]  And God is able to make all grace (every favor and earthly blessing) come to you in abundance, so that you may always and under all circumstances and whatever the need be self-sufficient [possessing enough to require no aid or support and furnished in abundance for every good work and charitable donation].

As GOOD STEWARDS; trustees, we put GOD”S interest and glory first…even in the church offering each week.

What a privilege it is to be chosen by GOD to be His stewards.  May we all take our role seriously and glorify our Lord and Savior.