Whether you have $20 or $20 million, managing your finances is a critical life skill. Thankfully, there are many biblical principles that can help.
As I nervously punched in my code on the ATM, I held my breath. Is there enough in there? Do I even have $20 in the account? The financial pressure was almost crushing as the ATM machine took its time to tell me if I would walk away with cash in hand—or, as I feared, empty-handed.
Young and newly married, my husband and I were learning how to navigate life and not doing so well!
Financially, we were a mess. We were overwhelmed and headed toward financial disaster if we didn’t get it under control.
The bills start piling up
Have you ever found yourself quoting a commercial from your youth and realized no one knows what you’re talking about? I have a favorite ad from the early 1990s, when overacting was the status quo.
The commercial was about bill consolidation, and it showed an actor sitting at a table with overdue bills scattered all over the place. He lifted his hands (filled with stacks of bills) and said, “Bills! Bills! Bills!”
God wants us to have financial peace of mind. Three decades later, my husband and I still laugh as we reenact this scene in the commercial whenever an unexpected car repair is needed or a larger-than-expected utility bill arrives in our mailbox.
Some things in life never change, and paying bills is one of them. Whether you have $20 to your name or $20 million, managing your finances by living within your means is a critical life skill. Thankfully, there are many scriptural principles we can use for guidance.
In this article, we will focus on five principles that can help when you’re dealing with financial problems or feeling overwhelmed by money issues.
- Ask God for help.
- Get honest about income and cash flow.
- Get honest about expenses.
- Address habits.
- Take the next steps.
1. Ask God for help
While this principle may not seem like an action plan toward financial freedom, it should be our first step. Humbling ourselves before God shows that we are serious about learning to live according to His teachings, even when it comes to money.
Thankfully, God has laws in place when it comes to finances. He wants what is best for us eternally. We can ask Him for enough to live on (Proverbs 30:8-9), peace of mind and contentment (Philippians 4:11-13), and help to learn the lessons of this life.
And we can know that He truly wants us to live abundantly in the long run. In John 10:10, Jesus Christ tells us, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
Unfortunately, financial problems place extra stress on everyday living. This scarcity is a stress that eats away at our joy and peace and limits our ability to be generous to others.
God wants us to have financial peace of mind. We can ask Him in prayer to help us live an abundant life and to open our eyes to where we are not following His financial laws regarding tithes, offerings, providing for the widowed and the fatherless, debt and covetousness.
If you are struggling with financial problems, please read “God, Help Me!”
2. Get honest about income and cash flow
One of the hardest things to do is get honest about your income and cash flow.
For example, we might act as if everything we earn is ours. But we can have a shock if we wait to deduct our taxes and tithes.
If you work for someone, your employer has probably done some of this for you by withholding taxes from your paycheck. If you’re self-employed, though, hopefully you’ve learned the importance of setting aside estimated taxes now, so you aren’t scrambling when that quarterly tax deadline looms.
If setting aside estimated taxes has been a struggle and has contributed to financial problems, there is a remedy. When paying yourself or your employees, get into the habit of setting aside the estimated payroll taxes immediately. Otherwise, you may erroneously think you have more cash to work with than you actually do.
In some cases, consulting a tax professional may be wise.
In Matthew 22:21, Jesus Christ answered a trick question from the Pharisees by showing them they needed to pay taxes to the civil government, as well as tithe to God. And that is the case for us today as well. Neglecting either will contribute to financial hardship down the road.
I’ve heard many stories from friends who had to learn a hard lesson regarding paying tithes. Eventually, after much financial heartache, they learned to trust God by paying tithes immediately after receiving their paycheck.
God says to pay your tithes first, then what is left is yours. (This is the principle we are to live by, even in cases where the government may take from our paycheck before we even receive it.)
You are to “honor the LORD with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase” (Proverbs 3:9). Tithing isn’t an “expense” payment that can be delayed—it’s how we show honor to God for the financial blessings He gives us.
Malachi 3:8 states rather plainly that not paying tithes to God is stealing from Him. But then, in the same chapter, God also shows the blessings that He will shower on the one who is faithful in paying tithes:
“‘And try [test] Me now in this,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it’” (verse 10).
God blesses those who are faithful in tithing and giving offerings to Him.
For more information regarding these two vital subjects, please read “3 Reasons You Should Tithe” and “‘Render Unto Caesar’: What Does God Say About Taxes?”
When we find ourselves with financial difficulties or in a tight spot, we may need to consider alternate sources of income beyond our normal day jobs. This can include having a yard sale, selling unused items via consignment shops, or selling unused or unwanted items online through reputable sites.
In addition, many have worked overtime or picked up a side job to help them get on top of finances.
Such diligence is praised in the Scriptures. For example, the Proverbs 31 woman was known to work willingly with her hands, purchase fields for planting, and make fine linen and clothing to sell to the merchants. She experienced fulfillment, knowing that her merchandise was good and that she and her household were prepared for what lay ahead.
In other words, she knew what was needed for her household and figured out how to address those needs using her talents and abilities.
Being honest about income and cash flow means taking a careful, realistic look at how much money we have available after tithes and taxes. It’s necessary to understand what’s coming in and going out in order to prepare a workable budget.
3. Get honest about expenses
Financial problems occur when expenses exceed your income after tithes and taxes. It’s simple math. Simple isn’t always the most obvious path, yet it is often the straightest path to success.
This is where we must take an honest look at the spending habits of everyone in our household. Grab a piece of paper (or set up a spreadsheet) and write down tithes, housing expenses, utilities, transportation expenses, food expenses, health and wellness expenses, loans, credit cards, pet expenses, entertainment expenses and any additional liabilities such as insurance or taxes.
Add these up and compare them against your income. Are things looking good? What about savings? Offerings? You may be surprised by the amount you spend on discretionary areas like entertainment and eating out.
Jesus Christ’s desire for us to live abundantly doesn’t mean we should live extravagantly. Instead, He wants us to live within our means. Proverbs 21:20 is a guiding principle that says we cannot store up supplies if we continually spend more than we earn. That’s when scarcity and stress occur.
4. Address habits
In order to get expenses under control, we often have to shine a light on our spending habits. Ouch! Habits are our usual way of behaving and the tendencies we have settled into.
Most likely, we already know what some of our bad spending habits are. That can be a great start! Write those habits down on your income vs. expenses sheet.
It can help to think deeply about our spending behaviors and determine what drives us. Are we engaging in retail therapy (shopping) to make ourselves feel better? Is it the busyness of life that drives us to pick up to-go meals? Is there pressure to “look the part” among our coworkers? Do we like to shower our loved ones with gifts?
Write down anything else that may be influencing your spending habits.
The practice of writing it down can help us to look at the “why behind the buy.” We can ask God for help and guidance to deal with our shortcomings—and then make the necessary changes and develop new and better habits.
Again, we can and should ask God for help and guidance in dealing with anxieties and stresses caused by financial issues.
If you struggle with changing habits or anxieties, please read “6 Steps to Overcoming Bad Habits,” “Coping With Life Changes and Transitions” and “3 Principles for Family Financial Planning in Uncertain Times.”
5. Take the next steps
Great job! You’ve made it this far on the quest for financial peace.
To deal with financial problems, now is the time to begin taking these steps:
- Ask God for enough to live on and for help to be content.
- Ask God for help to follow His financial principles and laws outlined in the Bible.
- Honor God with all the firstfruits of your increase.
- If self-employed, set aside your quarterly taxes.
- Consider alternate sources of income.
- Take an honest look at your spending habits.
- Write down all expenses and compare them against income and cash flow.
- Establish a workable budget.
- Live within your means.
- Write down spending habits and analyze the “why behind the buy.”
- Develop better habits.
- Ask God for help and guidance to deal with anxieties and stresses related to your finances.
- As possible, seek ways to help the widows and fatherless and others in need.
Check out the abundance of finance-related articles found in the section “Foundational Principles for Managing Family Finances” on LifeHopeandTruth.com.