Tag Archives: money

A Brief Post About Financial Stewardship

ps2Last spring, the church we go to was been doing a series on finances (Full disclosure: I’ve only heard two of the sermons in the series).

In all my time of attending church and listening to sermons (about 1997 till today), I’ve rarely heard a sermon that really lays out practical thoughts or ideas about money. It always boils down to being a “heart issue”, that is, it’s basically between you and God and that your heart is in the right place. Even if there is mention of the “tithe 10%” scriptures, it’s never issued as a command or standard in the church. Pastors rarely say “if your a Christian you should be giving away ten percent or more of your income,” and if they do it’s balanced or padded with “heart” talk

What I’m getting at is that it just doesn’t seem like there is much straight talk about finances in the church at all. I would love for a pastor to get up and say, even with qualifiers that it’s a “heart issue”, exactly how much their family’s cost of living is, and why they chose that amount and what financial stewardship looks like in their life. I’m wondering if others have heard sermons at all like that, or even close to that. (The close example I can think of is Ron Sider discussing the graduated tithe his family does at the end of Rich Christian’s in an Age of Hunger).

It reminds me of part of one of the finance sermons I heard last March. It was really good, I love the kind of stuff the pastor says. He went off about how big corporations have ripped off the grassroots origins of Hip Hop and used it just to make money. He’s tearing into how gangsta rap has affected both the urban centers and suburbs and a lot of “wickedness” is going down as those big corporations make money off the rap and the blame is placed on the artist and the urban culture. And then he says this:

“Nobody saying to Sony, “I’m not buying a PS3 because thae same company that makes PS3 is also pimping these kids and having them sign these contracts and making money off the stereotypes of black people. Now, I have a PS2 at home, which makes this kind of a complex statement. Just cause I failed at it don’t mean it’s not right!

Somebody has to set a standard, somebody has to set an example of what this righteousness with resources looks like.”

Now I missed the other sermons after that, and I don’t know him personally, so I’m not sure what he’s decided to do with his PS2. But, I do appreciate him being honest about it. And the point isn’t really to call out the pastor on this, but to say I really wish I’d see two things: 1) That kind of honesty and practical application of faith as it relates to finances/resources and 2) pastors, churches and communities that were going a step further and making collective decisions (or at least discussing them) regarding resources and choices in supporting brands, etc.

Q: Have you heard sermon’s or had mentors that laid out practical thoughts and application of faith regarding finances and resources?

[photo credit]

(P.S. Take the one minute survey to help me pick topics for 2010!)

Guestroom For Jesus

homeless In most cities in the USA, especially in our current economic climate, there are more abandoned housing units then there are homeless. In other words: there is enough housing for everyone. Of course, the red tape and economic structures of our society prevents this solution from becoming a reality. However, I’d like to offer an alternative solution.
By even conservative statistics, there are many more empty “guest bedrooms” in people’s homes then there are homeless out on the streets in every city. Specifically, I’d bet there are enough empty rooms in “Christians” homes, whose very faith calls them to care for those in need, to end homelessness in the USA tomorrow if we wanted to. As an example, there are 3000 homeless in Hennepin County, which has a population of over one million. Assuming an average household of five people, that’s 200,000 homes of which at least 1-2% more then likely have an extra bedroom. Even with this reality, we have plenty of excuses as to why my correlation (Christians with Empty Guest Bedrooms : Homeless Ratio) simply is not appropriate or feasible.

“Many homeless have mental conditions, that would make it unsafe for my family.”
“Most homeless have drug and alcohol problems which would put my families lives in danger.”
“And God calls us to protect our family and be wise” [sidenote: Can someone please show me where in the Bible it say that to “protect” our family is a top priority?]

Lame Excuses!
We have within our means the ability to radically live out the Christian calling of caring for the needy and practicing hospitality, and we are content to cop out with some lame excuse.
Here’s why it’s lame. Keeping your family (and the people on the street) safe is a wonderful thing, really it is. Mental conditions should be treated, drug and alcohol problems should be controlled, nobody should be hurting or threatening anybody; but what does that have to do with opening your home to someone else?

Sure, you are to be validated in your concerns. But, now it’s time to problem solve and find a solution for bringing together your desire for the well-being of all, and your calling to radically follow Christ.
If people (including many Christians) can spend thousands of dollars solving the problems of remodeling their outdated bathroom, or upgrading to a state of the art kitchen, then I think we can also put our minds and money to creating homes that can accommodate those who need a place to stay.

Maybe you put an outside door on the guest room and a regular locked door into the house. Or you remodel the office or the space above the garage to have not only a bedroom but a bathroom and a small kitchenette.  Use your imagination, you could go more elaborate or more practical, but look to solve problems rather then make excuses.

Maybe for some it means downsizing their home till it accommodates the basic needs for their immediate family and they then use the freed up additional wealth and resources to contribute to a community that is meeting the needs of the homeless.

Stop making lame excuses that justify your apathy to following Christ call. Instead have some fun and remodel your house (and in doing so open yourself to following Christ in ways you’ve never considered before)!

Economy Straight Talk

So, the economy stuff has been on my mind lately. Both the big picture of the effect on our nation, and the local picture as it affects our community, neighbors, family, friends, and us. Often though, what I think about is the church.

I realize I often cast pretty radical and extreme visions for what I think the church and/or ‘Christians’ lives should look like. I’ll be the first to claim hypocrisy in my inability to carry it out at times as well. But, I can’t help but look at the current state of our country and feel like we as a faith community have again missed an extreme opportunity to be a radical “set apart” community that the world couldn’t help but recognize.  Instead, our churches are facing the same economic slump as everyone else. For all our “Christian” financial planning and preaching, we, on a whole, have been living beyond our means and far beyond our basic needs, just like everyone else.

I also find it ironic when Christians choose to speak about on the political front. I received no emails of concern or outrage when the government threw together a 1 Trillion dollar bailout in October, but now I’m getting emails left and right. I see two possibilities: 1) after seeing the first ones dollars disappear in thin air we are a bit more skeptical, or 2) it has something to do with the political party of the current administration. Who knows, I just find it ironic when we choose to jump into the political ring. On that related note, I was extremely convicted when I came across my xanga post after the 2004 election (sorry, you’ll have to dig up the link yourself), let’s just say I was as shocked as some of my conservative friends in ’08.

Seeing and hearing about people around me lossing jobs, others being let go, foreclosures and the rest, I can’t help but wonder what is the churches response. Or, what is my response? We are pretty secure in our job and home position, so how do I live out my faith and convictions in these times? What role do I play? I think I have the same tendency as everyone to start stockpiling for safety and thinking only about me and mine. But, I think our faith challenges us to live differently, but I’m not sure myself what that looks like.

Any Ideas?

Skeptical Of Our Genoristy, Always The Cynic

(This will be a brief confession/rant, not in hopes that you’ll join my cynicism but that you’ll instead prove it wrong)

I can’t help but be a little skeptical of the popularity of Advent Conspiracy this year. I’m in support of the type of action they are encouraging people to take, but I still find myself questioning the motives.  It would seem that when times are tough, wallets are slim and the economy is in a recession, we all have personal reasons, as well as altruistic ones, to avoid consumerism this season. It’s a lot easier for me to say “We decided to curb our consumerism and give of our time to others instead this season” rather then “money’s tight and I can’t afford to buy presents this year so I’m looking for a cheaper alternative that will make me feel good.”

The truth is it’s also a time that a lot of people are hurting and in need, so I have to admit its a great time for folks to be making some commitments to service and giving of their time and energy to those in unfortunate circumstances.

Maybe it’s just that I know myself too well, and a tendency to paint every action and decision with some self-sacrificial altruistic motive.  I just hope I’m wrong about other people. Whether it’s their experience in giving this year, or the impect of being squeezed by recession, or some other factor, my prayer is that we as a society, and as a church, continue in putting others before ourselves even when our wallets are full.

YouTubesday: I Could Have Saved One More…

One of the most moving movie scenes ever, that has impacted my day to day life, is this scene from Schindler’s List.

The background (for the couple who haven’t scene it) is Schindler is a German businessman who has saves the lives of over a thousand Jews by employing them in his factories during the Holocaust. The clip is longer, but the first four minutes is the part I’d like you to watch.

Schindler, who did so much and is a hero to many, still has sincere regret about some of his lifestyle choices. Notice the Jews that come around him don’t discount his statements that he could have indeed saved more people by selling his lapel pin or car, but they don’t try and lay the guilt on either; they are grateful for those he did help.

We live in a world that is daily filled with tragic and unnecessary deaths. Thousands die from lack of access to food, basic health care, clean water, preventable diseases. These are deaths I can help prevent by choosing to put my resources towards providing for others needs, but so many times I don’t choose those things.

This is a reality that I struggle with often. I fear I might have the opportunity in this life or the next, to meet the child I sponsor and, like Schindler, I will breakdown and weep at how much more I could have done, how many more I could have helped, had I only been selfless enough to put their needs before mine.

Devotional: Contentment

“If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.”
– 1 Timothy 6:8


One of the greatest struggles for a Christian in the consumerist American culture that we are a part of is to be content. You are daily bombarded on all sides by hundreds of advertisements telling you that you need this product or that. Even within the church, Sunday mornings continue to perpetuate word-of-mouth advertising about the new outfit, restaurant or electronics purchase. Is it even possible to step back from that culture, that has been so ingrained in our minds since an early age, and look plainly at Scripture and attempt to follow it?

Paul, a wise follower of Christ, imparts these wise words to his young ‘son’ in the faith as he warns him of those who would use the faith and ‘godliness’ for financial gain. He warns against the pursuit of money with a clear alternative way of thinking: food and covering is enough. Contentment, something we know very little of in our culture, and yet it is what Christ calls us to. This same greek word is used in I Corinthians, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Certainly a believer in Christ’s saving grace would not respond by saying, “yes, it is sufficient, but I’d also like a little more grace here,” or “it wouldn’t hurt to get a couple of extra graces just to spruce up the place a little would it?” Christ’s grace is enough.

What would it look like for a church congregation to preach this verse and then endeavor to follow it? If you are reading these words and you have food and covering, what does your contentment look like? Here is Paul’s advice to you:


Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” -I Tim 6:17-19

That’s Not a Need… This is a Need.

(bonus points to whoever can tell me what movie quote the title is a rip-off from)

If you were tuned in yesterday, you learned that there is a big difference between NEEDS and WANTS.  I even gave a couple examples yesterday, but I’ll be giving a lot more today. I think it’s extremely important to discuss needs and wants, and to be honest about the difference. Far too often, I hear people use the phrase: “I really needed that…” or “You need to…” And usually they are referring to something that is most certainly not a need.  There are somethings that fall into a difficult to define category between needs and wants and those must be individually discerned, for the most part though, I think we can reach a general consensus about things that are needs, and things that are wants.

I would like for this to be a discussion, feel free to disagree with me, or add to these lists. I’ll make a brief list of things I think are Needs and then a list of things that are Wants, as well as brief explanations for each. These are not exhaustive lists.

(As I was writing this NEEDS list, I felt it need to be clarified what the end goal these ‘Needs’ are for is. I am not merely talking about the basics we need to stay physically alive, I’m trying to focus on what it would take to be a healthy functioning member of society)


  • Shelter- Some form of ‘home,’ though in some places, cultures, and climates a simple tent would suffice, I think it’s fair to expect to live in a four walled structure of some kind in this country.
  • Clothing- The amount is debatable, but one should expect to have proper clothing for their society and climate.
  • Food- You need food to survive, not gourmet, but healthy proper sustenance.
  • Utilities- I think it’s appropriate to have running water and electricity. How much electricity and water is debatable.
  • Transportation- Depending on your job/station in life one might ‘need’ a car, others might only need a bike, others simply public transit, but I do think some form of transportation is important.
  • Communication- Maybe a cellphone, land line, or internet access, but some form of communication with the rest of the world is acceptable.
  • Personal Hygiene- toothpaste, shampoo, etc.
  • Health Care- Medicine, doctor’s visits, etc.
  • Appropriate attire for your profession- For some it’s suits, others a uniform, others just t-shirt and jeans.
  • Child Care items- diapers, bottles, diaper cream, bed, etc.

My Needs categories don’t go much beyond that.  Anything you think needs to be added? Also, within these categories, I’m not saying you need to buy new items, nor are you free to buy the most expensive and fancy of anything that falls in these categories.

WANTS are things we don’t need to survive or function in society. This list could be miles long, but I’ll hit on ones that have come up in our budget choices or conversation with others.


  •  Fast Food, Junk Food, Eating Out
  • Cell Phone plans with lot’s of bonus features
  • Brand name clothes and new outfits
  • Brand new vehicles or houses
  • Technology Gadgets (mp3 players, laptop, DVDs, video games, car adapters, computer mouse, stereo, etc)
  • Books (you could use your library card), movies, entertainment, magazines, etc.

Anything else we should add to the list? Or, do you disagree with some of my category choices? I believe these are things we can discuss and probably come to a reasonable consensus, though on some we might not be able to figure out.

Financial Lesson #1: Discerning your Needs and Wants

In light of the interest in my previous post about budgets, I figured it would be good to resurrect a serious I started a while back on financial lessons. These aren’t complex or fool proof, but they are some steps on how I think about money. I think these will be my Wednesday posts for a while.Financial Lesson #1: Discerning your Needs and Wants

You must sit down (and if you are married, you both need to sit down) and draw up a list of your basic NEEDS (That you spend money on). To make this easy, do not start with what you see in and around your house, start with what you will be purchasing from this point forward. As an example person myself, here is an example.

Jack and Jill sit down and start their list of NEEDS. Immediately the basics come to mind: Food and Shelter. They break shelter down into clothes and rent (including heat, electricity etc). Now to get the money to purchase food they would need an income, thus their jobs. And to keep their job they each need transportation to work and occasionally work appropriate clothing. Jill thought back to here psychology days and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and suggested they did have some ‘emotional’ needs that might be hard to countify. In the end they came up with these needs: FOOD, SHELTER, TRANSPORTATION, MISC (Clothing, soap, etc) and EMOTIONAL.

But, that’s not the end of the lesson. Things get a little more complicated at this point. Does “Food” mean eating out three times a week and coffee at Bongo Java every morning? Are those NEEDS? You must discern on your own what part of your “food” is meeting your basic needs and what part is fulfilling your WANTS. The same goes for clothing. You might NEED button down shirts and dressy shoes for on the job, but you don’t NEED name brand clothing to wear out on the town. Getting to work is a Transportation NEED, driving across town to the outlet mall is not. Does that make some sense?

As you think through your needs, be sure to write down the things you’ve discerned are WANTS in another column (eating out, coffee, shopping trips, new sweaters).

Your Assignment for this week: Spend money as you normally have in the past, but be very concious of how much you are spending on Needs and how much on WANTS. Keep track of actual purchases if you’d like. And see if thinking through these lists actually changes what you spend money on through out the week.

Money Makes the World Go Around: A Budget

I’m going to keep this short and practical. I realize budgets will vary from city to city and based on circumstances, but I think we can have a fairly frank talk about the amount of money we are spending. I’m not saying we’ll settle on a ‘Jesus says you should live by this budget’, but we will hopefully have a honest discussion about things. I’ll just throw this out off the top of my head to get the discussion going:

Monthly Budget 

  • Rent/Utilities/etc- $500
  • Food- $100 (per person)
  • Car (insurance/gas)- $100
  • Miscellaneous- $100
  • Emergency- $100
  • Fun Money- $100

That’s a $1000 budget per month. Now let me try and explain each category in my own opinions.

  • Rent/Utilities/etc- Some might say this can’t be done, but I strongly believe that if your renting you can find a place (you might need to share it!) that will cost you no more then $500 a month, including the utilities. Sharing is usually the way to go, studios are an option, and being a little flexible with the neighborhood might be a good thing. (Mortgages fit in differently in my opinion, more on that another time).
  • Food- I think you can probably do it for less then this (especially if you know how to score free food), but $100 per person ($200 for a couple, I guess) is more then reasonable. Of course, if your eating fair trade, CSA, organic, etc. It might creep above this number, but not much.
  • Car- Obviously there might be a circumstance where you travel for work and must drive your car, on your own, all over the place, and rack up many miles. I understand that, but most of us, if we put in some effort, could reduce our trips, car pool, and find other ways to keep well within this budget.
  • Miscellaneous- This category covers the occasional expenses that come up unexpectedly. If you need more hand soap or detergent, maybe a new pair of slacks for work, or other similar things.
  •  Emergency- This is money I would save up, putting $100 a month in an account somewhere, not exhausting it each month. Then, when you have a medical bill, appointment, car maintenance, etc. This money is there to cover it. That’s $1200 a year for emergency medical and car, is that enough?
  • Fun Money- This is my favorite category for married couples. My wife and I don’t agree on everything we should spend out money on. So, each month we get an ‘allowance’ of fun money that we can each individual spend however we want. We usually get cash, so it doesn’t show up on our bank statement, for the other to scrutinize and agonize over.

And that’s basically our budget. Now there are a few discrepancies I should point out. School tuition was not on there, nor was school loan repayment, it doesn’t account mortgages, nor large medical expenses or vehicle purchases. I think these fit into a different category other than the regular monthly budget, and rather then complicate things we’ll discuss those in another post.