Ah, January. The time when many things are new. Goals are set, plans are laid, ideas are pondered, and one’s fervor is in effect again. The hectic pace of the holidays are fading in the rearview mirror, and focus is again realigned, front and center.
Two weeks into the month and your stride is taking shape. This feels good, you think. This year, I’m going the distance. I’m completing everything I set out to achieve. Goals and timelines are revisited to track progress…things look pretty good.
Then, on a day you’re feeling especially accomplished, your credit card statement arrives. How did this happen? you think, frantically revisiting the past month one expense at a time. You fixate on the balance, then the minimum payment, and think, Well, within a couple months of being frugal, I can make this balance ‘reasonable’ again and return to normalcy. Living with a credit card balance is well…normal. Almost everyone has one.
After a slight panic attack, you decide on some ice cream to aid the depression. After a quick brushing off, back on the proverbial horse you go, and you continue with your goals. Concentrating on maintaining forward momentum, credit card statement #2 arrives, catching you by surprise. I never use that card, you think. Why do I have a statement? Oh, that’s right, I bought those gifts for family and friends. Wow…did I really spend that much money? What was I thinking? But it was such a good deal at 40% off!
Now, the anxiety begins to creep in shifting your focus away from your goals. Ok, maybe a pizza and a couple beers will cheer me up, so you oblige. Now it’s the end of January, and three department store credit card statements arrive on the same day. Upon seeing the balances, “Yowsers!” you exclaim! But I had to look good for that party, and oh did I ever! Everyone was complimenting me on my outfit and it felt so good! Oh yeah…I forgot I splurged on those accessories. Did I really need them? Yeah, but everyone commented on how well I was put together. And those shoes…how I love those shoes!
Ladies and Gentlemen, you just fell into the trap. Companies spend hundreds of billions of dollars in advertising to part you from your money in exchange for their products. There is nothing inherently wrong companies doing this. What is wrong, is when a culture of image and debt becomes normal. Don’t believe the lie.
Proverbs 22:7 ESV
The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is slave of the lender.
When in debt, you reside in a state of anxiety. Judgment is affected, which perpetuates bad decision making. Slippery is that slope and it rolls into every aspect of life.
Anxiety is never from God. Remember that. It is a warning sign that something is out of balance. Maybe you don’t carry credit card debt, but you made many impulse buys over the holidays. Now your bank account balance feels the effect, and you need to tap into one or both of your reserve accounts. All the work in the previous year of building up your savings account and emergency fund were negated during the holidays because either there was no spending plan, or if there was, you didn’t stick to it. Being in debt or hastily spending too much of your reserves are both equally as stressful.
I like the NIV translation of Proverbs 13:18: Whoever disregards discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored.
I always tell people I speak to about finances to stop dwelling in the what was, and start living in the what you’re going to do next to get out of the situation in which you’re now in. It is time to course-correct.
First and foremost, prostrate yourself and repent to God. Ask Him for your specific way to course-correct. Spend time creating a spending plan. If you’re married, this is a project for you and your spouse, together. If you’re single, find an accountability partner to help and walk alongside you. Seek out a mentor. Those who have gone through financial reconstruction of any kind love to help and share their wisdom. There are several popular personal finance courses available. Make the small financial and time investment in at least one of them. You can’t get new results by doing things the same way you always have. Put in the work, alter your habits, and shift your priorities. Your future depends on it.
Now, pay attention to the only area of the Bible where God allows us to test Him.
Malachi 3:10 ESV
Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and put down for you a blessing until there is no more need.
As Christians, we are mandated, by God, to tithe, which means giving a tenth portion of our income to His church.
God does not want or need your money. God does, however, want your heart…your full heart. When God has your heart, he also has your mind and focus. Then as we grow closer to Him, we begin to resemble more of the image in which we were created — His image.
We begin to seek His priorities for our life, and slowly abstain from ours. We begin acting in ways we never dreamed of. Things we used to hold onto tightly, we either grasp more loosely or throw away altogether. “But I don’t like this verse,” you say. “I’m not giving away 10% of my money.”
Pastor Mike Adkins always says, “Money is never about money. It’s about trust.” Where or in what, do you put your trust? Besides, God says to test Him. This is the only area where we are allowed to test Him, so take Him up on the offer!
I always say, if your tithe is not the 1st line item in your personal budget, you’ll never have enough to tithe with. Ignore the debate of tithing off of the gross or the net. Don’t get stuck in the little details with God. Do you really want to nickel and dime, Him? Personally, I do not. The Bible has 2,000 verses about money, and with good reason. We attach many strongholds to it. Whether January, May or November, don’t wait. Begin your financial restructure immediately.
I say this with confidence, not only because I see it continually in the lives of many, but because this was my story almost 10 years ago. Tithing is the course correct for getting out of debt, getting into discipline, and ultimately – financial reset.