I. What is Financial Stewardship?
The Bible uses the term steward many times to explain your relationship to the responsibilities God has given you. In biblical times a steward was a manager or overseer of another man’s money or possessions. Jesus applied this term to all His followers with the encouragement that they be wise in all their decision-making (Luke 12:40-48). Paul described himself and all believers as being entrusted with the Gospel, which implies the responsibility to proclaim this message to the world (1 Thess. 2:4) (1 Cor. 9:17). The elders of the church were also called stewards of the church and responsible to lead and guide the flock of God (Titus 1:7). Every Christian has been entrusted with the gifts of the Spirit to fulfill the work God has called him (or her) to perform. If you work for someone on a job, then you are a steward over the specific responsibility you've been given to perform. If you have employees you are a steward over them. As you take this step of marriage you will eventually have the stewardship over the lives of children. If at some time in the future you are given the power of attorney over your parent’s estate or become their conservator, you will be their steward. Therefore, we are all stewards in one way or another. The most important thing for you to remember about your responsibility as a steward, is that you will one day be called to give account for your stewardship (Luke 16:1-2). The primary issue on that day will be how faithful you've been to whatever stewardship God has given you (Luke 16:10). Therefore, faithful financial stewardship is one aspect of your relationship that must be understood as fundamental to the success of your marriage and family as a whole.
II. Why is Good Financial Stewardship Important for Your Marriage?
Many problems result in marriage from the failure of one or both partners being responsible with their money. Couples overspend, get into debt, fail to do basic accounting and bank statement reconciliation, don’t communicate with each other before making a large purchase, which results in a failure to meet their obligations, which only adds stress to the relationship and disharmony in the home. Many a divorce has occurred as a result of poor financial stewardship. Therefore, these sinful behaviors must stop in your family.
In addition, you have the added potential problem of your heart becoming divided over money. Even though money is morally neutral, it is extremely powerful and can easily divide your heart. A divided heart will bring innumerable problems to your life and marriage. Jesus warned His disciples, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt. 6:24). David also warned, “If riches increase, do not set your heart on them” (Psalm 62:10). Allowing your heart to become divided and becoming set upon riches is a real possibility for any individual or married couple or these warnings would not be found in Scripture. Therefore, you must learn how to be faithful with your finances and keep money as your servant, not your master.
III. How Can You Be A Good Steward With Your Money?
A. Understand the places you must use your money.
1. Fixed bills. Every household has fixed monthly, semi-annual, and annual bills that must be paid on time for the family to function (Mortgage or rent, utilities, taxes, and insurance (Matt. 17:24, Acts 21:24, Rom. 13:6-7).
2. Debts. Most individuals have some amount of debt when they enter into marriage. These debts must also be paid on time to be a faithful steward. “The wicked borrows and does not repay, but the righteous shows mercy and gives” (Ps. 37:21). Wisdom would tell you that for the righteous to be merciful and giving they must stay out of debt as much as possible in order that they may have the resources to give to those in need.
3. Giving. Faithful stewardship also entails giving. There are three types of giving described in Scripture. First, a Tithe is the first 10 % of all your increase and is to be given to the Lord. The Jews brought their tithe to the temple, which allowed the temple to operate (Mal. 3:10). A tithe was first seen being given by Abraham, a man of faith, long before the Law was ever instituted (Gen. 14:20). In addition, Jesus also encouraged the tithe not to be left undone (Matt. 23:23). The second type of giving is called an offering, which describes any giving above your tithe, which could be given to the Lord or to the Lord’s work, such as to a missionary or to an individual for any reason to bless them (Luke 21:4). Under the Law an offering was called the whole burnt offering. Paul saw a difference between an offering and an almsgiving (Acts 24:17). The third type of offering is an almsgiving, which is a special kind of offering given specifically to the poor (1 Cor. 16:1-4) (2 Cor. 8:1-9:15). Giving in any of these ways must be done remembering that God will never be your debtor, He will always give back to you, “pressed down, shaken together, and running over” (Luke 6:38).
4. Savings. Joseph is the best biblical example of a wise man and a good steward who was specifically directed by God to save. He delivered himself and at least two nations from starvation because he obeyed the specific direction to save the grain from the prosperous years of their harvest. This is also the basis of David’s prayer in the Psalms for the sons of Israel: “That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as pillars, sculptured in palace style; that our barns may be full, supplying all kinds of produce; that our sheep may bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our fields; that our oxen may be well-laden; that there be no breaking in or going out; that there be no outcry in our streets. Happy are the people who are in such a state; happy are the people whose God is the LORD” (Ps. 144:12-15)! To have barns full so that there would be no hunger, a man would obviously have to save something in his barn. In addition, Solomon encouraged savings so that we might be able to leave an inheritance to our children and grand-children. “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children, but the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous” (Prov. 13:22).
5. Discretionary spending. Discretionary means that some spending is optional and not required. It’s the extra money that you possess and choose to spend on things for your needs or enjoyment. Note that Paul even acknowledged this aspect of money when he exhorted those who were rich and who would have plenty of money for discretionary spending. “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share” (1 Tim. 6:17-18). Therefore, there is nothing wrong with richly enjoying what God has given you, but be sure you are also rich in good works through your giving.
B. Make a budget.
1. Why establish a budget. A budget is a plan for how you propose to use your finances on a monthly basis. “The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, but those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty” (Prov. 21:5). Notice that Solomon says that a wise and diligent man that has plenty is a man who has a plan. A budget is simply a plan that you follow to pay your bills, keep out of debt, and which allows you to see exactly how much discretionary money you have to spend. When you are too hasty concerning financial decisions you will always struggle with poverty. Another example where Paul encouraged a budgetary plan is in 1 Corinthians 16:1-3. Paul encourages them: “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come. And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem.” Notice that Paul didn't want the Corinthians scrambling around trying to take up this offering for the poor saints in Jerusalem. He told them to store up this offering once a week. Likewise when people don’t have a budget they end up scrambling around trying to figure out how to meet their bills. This is not what God intends for His children.
2. How to establish a budget. First, fill in the work sheet at the end of this study so you can see exactly how much money you have coming in, where you are spending it, and how much discretionary income you have available. Second, to establish a budget, simply determine how much of each check you receive will go to your fixed bills, debt, giving, and savings. What’s left over will be your discretionary funds.
C. Stick to your budget. A budget is a worthless plan and a waste of time to prepare if you won’t stick to it. Ask the Lord for self-discipline to help you be faithful to your plan. As you remain faithful to your budget you will see the Lord’s blessing on your finances and God’s plenty filling your barns.
How to Begin Budgeting
List all available income that you receive monthly.
Salary (husband) _____________
Salary (wife) ________________
Total income _______________
List your monthly expenditures.
Date Amount Date Amount
Fixed Expenses Due Due Balance Variable Expenses Due Due Balance
Rent/House payment Tithe
Rent/House insurance Food
Car payment Utilities
Car insurance Clothing
Car payment Medical care
Car insurance Dental care
Life insurance Entertainment/Recreation
Health insurance Credit card debt
Now determine how much money you must use from each paycheck to meet these obligations.
Total income: ___________________
Fixed expenses: - ___________________
Variable expenses: - ___________________
Remaining amount: ___________________
Divide this remaining amount by the number of paychecks you get per month. This figure will be the amount of money you possess for all discretionary spending.
Now determine how you will separate your discretionary money from that which you’ll need to pay your monthly expenses. You may want to use an envelope system where you take cash from your deposit each week and place this money in individual categorized envelopes to save for your debts, or you may want to write one check each week to a savings account for these debts, or leave all the money needed for your debts in your checking account and pull out your discretionary spending money. This way you’ll always know exactly how much money you have to spend.