About one month ago I wrote about being intentional with my time, and today I would love to talk about being intentional with finances. This is a tough topic for me to write about! Our family has had highs and lows financially, but in the end the Lord has always carried us through. I accumulated $37,000 in student loan debt while working on bachelors and masters work. (Which is a bad, bad idea ladies. I believe the student loans are a trap, which causes many women to stay in the workplace once they have children while they would rather be home. I praise God that thus far I’ve been able to stay in the home.) Additionally, after my first husband passed away, his mother sued for visitation rights (kind of like a divorced couple…she wanted the court to award her custody of my children one weekend a month, for a month over the summer, on certain holidays, etc.), which lead to a four year court battle and crazy lawyer, mediator, psychologist, guardian ad litem, etc. fees. Basically, a lot of debt. I will spare you the details, but the Lord was so faithful, and during the final hearing the case was dismissed in it’s entirety before my side of the matter took the stand. She appealed several times, all of which were immediately dismissed. Though I still do not understand the why of everything that happened, I know that God does. This is the most difficult thing I’ve endured in my life thus far. I will say that this trial made me a strong advocate for parental rights, which I believe is a good thing.
Basically, to set the stage, we have debt that we would love to get rid of!
Giving to the Lord! A Discussion on Giving and Tithing
Now, first things first. God is to be glorified in all things, and I believe that this holds true to our finances as well. Giving is essential for a Christian believer. I’ve been taught for years that a Christian’s giving should be a 10% tithe at least. I recently read a book written by Christian bloggers about finances that reiterated this fact over and over. However, I know that:
Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. -2 Corinthians 9:7
Giving that 10% was difficult for me to do cheerfully when we have so many other obligations. Also, 2nd Corinthians speaks of “giving what you have decided in your heart,” which isn’t a set amount. I believe that so many Christians are confused about giving in today’s church, as I have been.
Since Macarthur’s Strange Fire conference, my husband has started listening to a pastor out of Texas who spoke there. He was once an associate pastor at Macarthur’s church, and his theology is sound. My husband passed a few messages about giving on to me to listen to, and I would love to share the points here. This has given us so much freedom and a better understanding of what giving for the New Testament Christian should look like. (As a side note, if you firmly believe in tithing, please do not take offense. I believe that this approach of giving is biblical, but I totally respect those who insist on tithing.)
Here are the links to the two-part message on giving. I highly recommend these!
First of all, Old Testament tithing is the equivalent to our paying taxes today.
Let me explain.
There were three main tithes required of the Israelite nation in the Old Testament. The first 10% annual tithe was of the animals and produce (Numbers 18, Leviticus 27) to support the Levites. The Levites performed religious duties and political responsibilities in that culture. The second 10% annual tithe was to fund national religious festivals and worship (Deuteronomy 12). The third 10% tithe was given every three years, and was designated to the poor, needy, stranger and widow (Deuteronomy 14).
The Israelites actually paid a 23.3% annual tax base, not a simple 10%. Along with other tithes such as the seventh year forgiveness of debt and other required giving the Israelites paid approximately a 25% annual income tax.
Our equivalent to this system is found in Romans 13, where we are instructed to pay taxes to our secular government.
In Deuteronomy 16:10, “freewill offerings” are mentioned. These offerings were required, but voluntary as to the amount given. This is the closest Old Testament requirement that resembles what the New Testament requires of us.
We are required to give, but the amount is up to us. We have the freedom to decide what is in our heart to give, and to give it cheerfully. This discovery has been such a blessing to our family! We give to our church, to missionaries, and to aid the poor in our community. Our church doesn’t give to the poor on a regular basis, and since we feel that it is a biblical command to do so, we do this as a family. While some may give 5%, some may give 50%, depending on what the Lord has laid on their hearts.
Working on the Remainder of Our Finances
Credit Cards– We have slowly but surely been paying these down debts, and hopefully within two years there will be a light at the end of the tunnel. I am very excited to say that our largest card (which had $15,000 in debt) will be paid off this week! The debt on these cards were mainly accumulated during the court case I mentioned above.
Student Loans- Unfortunately these have been put on the back burner until credit cards have been paid off. I pay just the minimum each month.
Utilities- We turn our heat as low as we can stand it during the winter, and our air as high as we can stand it during the summer. We have never been uncomfortable.
Clothing and Food– We shop second-hand for clothing as much as possible, and we love shopping at Aldi for food. It is so much cheaper!
Housing and Transportation- We purchased a new (to us) home last year. We feel like it was a good investment, and we now have land that our children can build on one day if they choose to do so. As far as cars go, we used to be that family that purchased a new vehicle every two to three years! We have learned our lesson, and my husband’s truck will be paid off in about six months. We purchased a used 12 passenger van about 2 years ago that we really like.
Extracurricular Activities- We used to travel around the southeast to many different competitions and meets with our children, but now they are strictly involved in activities that keep them close to home. This has saved us a lot of money.
Vacations- While on vacation we used to eat out every meal, but now we make a trip to the grocery store as soon as we arrive. We still usually have 2-3 special meals out.
Above all else, we try to remember that all of our finances are “on loan” to us from God. Am I being a good steward of these finances? I pray that I am. If you have any other questions about giving to the Lord, I urge you to listen to the messages I shared above! I truly only skimmed the surface as to what they share. Finally, be sure to test all things against scripture to verify it’s validity.
How does your family handle finances?
Possibly linking to:
Growing Home, Tending the Home Tuesdays, Raising Homemakers, Deep Roots At Home, Raising Arrows, A Wise Woman Builds Her Home ,Walking Redeemed, A Proverbs 31 Wife, The Modest Mom, A Mama’s Story, Mom’s the Word , Raising Mighty Arrows, Hearts For Home, Time Warp Wife, Graced Simplicity