Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Buckets, envelopes or expense columns

Which budget management plan best describes your approach to saving, spending and gifting? I have heard others reference their household budget as if it were cash in buckets; Dave Ramsey describes the envelope system, and many others track expenses using programs like Quicken.

The tool or management style you use is less important than the perspective you have of the overall picture of earning and spending. Consider what happens to your budget when a significant change to your earnings takes place.

Whether it is a recession, a pay cut, the loss of a job, or increased expenses for childcare or tuition, how you consider the next step in a time of budget change speaks volumes about your understanding of the resources you have, where they come from, and to whom those resources belong.

In times of reduced income, we like to rationalize away our guilt for cancelled giving. We use explanations like: “I'm giving my time to church, they don't need my money and time,” or “I’m paying tuition now, that's my gift to X Christian School or Y College.”

We might even “spiritualize” our new situation by turning it over to God through the convenient belief that When God blesses me again with a return to previous income levels, I'll start giving again” or, “If this is my new situation in life, then God understands that I can't give to charity anymore.

I've done this dance as well, so I speak from a point of confession. Separating purchases from charity can get a bit cloudy at times. Paying tuition to a nonprofit can feel like giving to charity, especially when we have to sacrifice other purchases to cover the cost.  We join the leadership of our church and consider all the time it takes from family as a sacrifice; therefore we assume our gift is our time.

But God's abundance and resources to me, no matter the amount, do not come with this caveat from Him: “Only when I bless you with enough do you get to enjoy the blessings of giving from the first fruits of my gifts.”
So let's recommit to not holding back. Let's give from the best, not the lefts. Do we really have buckets of separation? Isn't it all God's to begin with? It is not the amount that matters—think of the widow's mite—but the obedience, worship and sacrifice that honor God. God's love for you is not directly correlated with your income. Your love for God motivates your worship, obedience and giving. 

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