Financial Stewardship. Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me."
According to Wikipeia, in 2007, there were 111,162,259 households in the U.S. According to the Barna Group, in 2007, 46,688,148 (42%) of those households regularly attended at least one Christian church service each week, excluding weddings and funerals. With that information, lets take a look at what America would look like if Christians were to eliminate their household debt, consistently give tithes and offerings and invest in savings.
In 2007, the average annual US household income was $50,233.00. The average full-time employed male earned $45,113.00 annually and the average full-time employed female earned $35,102. 00 annually. Since I have a strong conviction that women should be keepers of the home, the following figures will be based on the average annual full-time employed male earnings of $45,113.00. So, let's do some math ...
$45,113.00 x's 10% = $4,511.00 tithe (1/10 of a whole)
$45,113.00 x's 10% = $4,511.00 savings/investments
$45,113.00 - 20% (tithe & savings) = $36,091 living expenses
If every Christian household consistently tithed, then $210,610,235,629.00 ($4,511.00 x's 46,688,148) would be funneled into churches, ANNUALLY, for the spreading of the gospel and social programs. Subsequently, if every Christan household saved and invested 10% of his earnings that would ANNUALLY inject $210,610,235,629.00 into our nation's economic foundation.
What would our nation look like if our churches had $2.6 billion annually? How many urban and world missionaries would that support? How many low-income American families would that feed through "food pantry" or "soup kitchen" programs? How many bundles of school supplies and clothes would that purchase for low-income American school children? How many affordable private Christian schools could be started? How many affordable Christian child care and after school programs could that support? (these programs would give children a Christian, Biblical foundation for their lives) How many young widowed mothers could stop working 2 jobs to support their fatherless children? (the Bible directs Christians to care for widows and orphans - not governments) How many prison and recovery ministries could be established? How many sick and elderly could have the loneliness taken out of their lives by implementing visitation programs? When asking these sorts of questions we also need to remember that the $2.6 billion dollars that should be going into Christian churches is a full $2.6 billion because ALL OF IT, every dime, is exempt from taxes. God has been so generous with us that He's placed us in a nation where churches are considered non-profit organizations which do not pay taxes. Thus, we qualify for a personal tax exemption when we sow 1/10 of His blessing back into His kingdom. Matthew 25: 34-40, "Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when we saw the sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
What would America's economic foundation look like if Christian families saved and invested 10% of their household incomes? In addition to the $700 billion Wall Street bail out, just last week our government decided to purchase an additional $2.5 billion in junk assets (these are worth less than the paper they are printed on) from our banking systems to ease up "cash flow" between lenders. Today's headlines read that our government is now poising itself to begin purchasing money market mutual funds. We need to remember that this is OUR money. I find it ironic that if Christians had saved and invested 10% of their annual incomes in 2008, then we would have put more than $2.6 billion into the US banking system, just in this year alone - that's more than the $2.5 billion the government decided on last week. Am I the only person who finds our nation's economic situation absolutely disgusting? In all reality, we have no one to blame but ourselves. In 2007, full-time employed Christian males earned approximately $2,106,242,420,724.00. However, Christian households spent $463,373,332,559. 00 more than they made - all of it borrowed. We must realize that this figure does not include the compounded annual interest that will be charged on that borrowed amount. Am I the only Christian in America who thinks it's time for all this to stop? It is time for Christian households to repent of their worldly attitudes regarding the financial blessings God has bestowed upon them. Deuteronomy 28 speaks of the blessings of obeying God and the curses of disobedience. God desires to bless us far above all others. Deuteronomy 28: 12-13, "The Lord shall open unto thee his good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in his season, and to bless all the work of thine hand: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow. And the Lord shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath; if that thou harken unto the commandments of the Lord thy God, which I command thee this day, to observe and do them." How do we achieve this awesome financial blessing? By ridding ourselves of the god of materialism. Philippians 4:11 says, "Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content." When will we be content with what God has blessed us with?
I'd like to share a personal testimony. When I was a young adult and not living for the Lord, having enough food to eat was a challenge we faced every day. As the years progressed, I eventually surrendered to the Lord's call and accepted the free gift of salvation. No, our finances did not magically improve overnight. We continued to struggle for several years, until my husband found Dave Ramsey's radio program. He began listening to it daily. Over time, a hunger for a debt free lifestyle began to grow within my husband's heart. He realized that if we were debt free then I would be able to stay at home and care for our children full-time. But more importantly during this time, he and I both began looking outside ourselves and our selfish wants and desires. We began to see that although we had a lower than average American income, we still had far more than 80% of the rest of the world's population. We began focusing on our areas of blessing instead of the areas of want. Over the course of about a year, we learned how to not only be content with our socio-economic station, but to also be thankful for the things we did have. This change in perspective assisted us in changing our financial behaviors. Within 9 months of making a decision to become debt free, we paid off our debt. Once debt free, I quit my job resulting in a more than a 50% reduction in our household income. We were able to support a family of 6 on considerably less than the national average income. Yes, at times it was tough, but we did everything we could to be good stewards of the blessing God had bestowed upon us. We continued to view our financial situation as a blessing. We were a one vehicle family & that vehicle now has more than 320,000 miles on it. We shopped at re-sales stores, we made our Christmas and birthday gifts. We did not have cell phones, internet, cable t.v., etc. We never went out to dinner or movies. Most importantly, we continued to live debt free. As time went by, my husband, who is not a born again Christian, decided, without prompting from me, that we should begin to give to the church the children and I attended. After consistently giving for about two years, week in and week out, no matter how tight our finances may have seemed, my husband was offered a career change that included a significant pay increase. After he had made the transition into his new career, he decided to increase the amount we were giving to the church. Not long after implementing that decision, he was awarded a pay increase.
Luke 6:38, "Give and it shall be given unto you: good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For withal it shall be measured to you again." The greatest testimony from our financial freedom is the joy we find in our family. By gaining control over our money we inadvertently, gained control over our time and the relationships within our family. We can not, nor will we ever be able to, out give God. When we are obedient, thankful and content, God will bless us abundantly.