The St. Helena Seventh-day Adventist Church is serious about helping people in every part of their lives. Aside from the obvious spiritual focus in our little church community, we are interested in helping people physically and emotionally, mentally and fiscally. We hold health classes, cooking schools, prayer vigils and seminars, courses on how to understand prophecy, and financial planning seminars – among other things! We are not a church of huge monetary means, but God always provides for our needs corporately and individually.
Having run several classes utilizing well-honed information from G. Edward Reid and Dave Ramsey as well as other financial seminars, we would like to list here a few points gleaned from these courses.
- Everything belongs to God. If it’s hard to wrap your mind around this concept, start with Luke 12:27 that encourages us to Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don't work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it. The world and all of its people belong to him.” So not only do the cattle on a thousand hills belong to him, you do, also! As a child of the King of the Universe you can expect your Dad to sell off a couple of cows to help you out on occasion. Actually, He has so much in His storehouses already that it is unlikely He would have to touch any part of His herd to smooth out your trials. He told us to give back 10% of our “increase” to Him. This is like a major investment with major dividends payback. It’s an insurance. No, God doesn’t need your money in His storehouse – it’s all His anyway. What He needs is for us to demonstrate that we trust Him even when it seems that we could really use that 10% ourselves here on earth. Don’t worry; He’ll return it to you – sevenfold! Test Him. I'm not kidding - He told you to.
- You have to ask. Being in financial trouble can be embarrassing and difficult to admit. Sometimes attending a class will give you all the tools you need, and other times talking one-on-one with a financial advisor is even better. Are you the person in charge of your household finances – and are you doing a great job? If you looked hypothetically at a person somewhat or exactly like you, in your same position with your similar family, can you honestly say that that person is doing the best possible job with the finances? Are the bills paid on time, is there peace in the house about money, is there food on the table and a bit in the bank for a rainy day? If yes, stick with your program! But. Do you carry credit card debt or loan debt that is beyond what you ever imagined? Just that one little question is enough to make you wonder: are you the right person for the job.
Admitting that you are not the one best suited for managing the household budget is a huge and mature step. Is there someone in your home who would be better at it – but you are reticent to let them take over. Some people believe that giving up control over the checking account will hobble them, confine them, stop them from enjoying life to the fullest. But think of the “what if” in this situation. What if you had no debt, and had a chance to go to Europe or Africa for a month. If you had no debt and a plane fare in the bank … would you go? What if the car you always dreamed of showed up for sale or what if you actually owned your home outright, no mortgage, no rent? So what if the other person in your home or another person in your circle could help you attain all you want to attain – and help you get a little control of your financial picture?
You have to ask for help. First ask God to give you strength and guidance, desire and ability to do this, next talk to your significant other to determine what a next step is. Money issues rank third in leading causes of divorce, just behind incompatibility and infidelity. Twenty-two percent of divorces cite finances as the cause for their homes breaking apart!! Help may come from your partner or a financial advisor. Dave Ramsey’s website has many tools to help, including links to helping you find a financial coach. Security and well-being can be attained even without added income – just rearranging what happens to what you already have.
- Take a Class and Work the Program 100% You may already know all the things there are to know about financial freedom, just as you know all there is to know about food and exercise. Just as you know all about marriage and rearing children. But honestly, if you know that eating chocolate is a pitfall for you, don’t buy it. If you know that you get cranky when you shop with your tired and hungry children, choose a different time to shop. If you know that your money situation is in trouble even partially because you forgot to pay a bill or didn’t have enough to cover expenses, take the class and work the program 100%.
My brother-in-law’s eleven-year marriage ended. Between them, his wife and he brought in about $75,000 annually. They dined out each week, traveled to Europe occasionally, bought a timeshare in Hawaii, and cared for her three children from a previous marriage. He owned a custom-made suit, a Rolex watch, a three-story home and a new car when the marriage broke apart. After dividing the assets and debt, he walked away with only the suit, the timeshare ($500 annual fee) and the new car ($300 monthly fee) as well as his half of their credit card debt. The equity in the house they sold didn't even paid off their joint credit accounts and loans. The Rolex got lost. At the end of their marriage, their net worth was below $0. Their hearts were bruised beyond repair, blaming each other and themselves for the demise of their marriage.
My brother-in-law then met a very frugal woman who preferred to make home made meals, purchase previously owned items (designer clothing and cars) and repair the dishwasher herself. She turned off the lights in rooms they were not using and composted for a garden. She was in school and though she had no great amount of debt, neither did she have any assets to speak of. She challenged my brother-in-law not to squander their means by eating out or buying new clothes that weren’t completely necessary. When my new sister-in-law was finished with school she got a job and between them, she and my brother-in-law brought in just over $80,000 annually. By the time they’d been married eleven years they outright owned a duplex (the rent from one side completely paid for the entire mortgage), had investments and two running cars. They still owned the timeshare with its annual fee (which they used one time for a month in Spain), but otherwise were home free, making a hobby out of investments. Every spare dollar was given to “investment,” which, for them, meant payment towards buying out their home. They eventually sold the duplex and moved into a three-story home, completely paying it off within five years. At eleven years, the same amount of time as the first marriage, having started at negative zero, their net worth was over $1,000,000.
- Make Wise Use of Your Time It’s true that money is time. Timing is important in money management. If you’ve ever been late with payments of any kind, you know that you incur a late fee which can be anywhere from $25 to a percentage of your bill. Frankly, I’d rather take that money and stick it in an account for a rainy day OR to go to Disneyland or Hawaii. Maybe more realistically, put it against a new pair of shoes. If you accidentally wait until just one minute after midnight, the money slips into the hands of the lender’s hands, not mine. To guard against this, put your accounts on minimal automatic payments. You can always pay more, but you surely do not want to pay a late fee as well as building interest.
Be accountable for the time you spend in your leisure. There are some amazing free groups out there that use the tried and true 12 step program. One of them, Underearners.org, has many online tools to help hone your time and propel you to greater financial places.
Do the Budget Even if you cannot count on a certain amount of income, make out a budget to know how much you absolutely have to bring in. I keep a Google Docs spreadsheet to know what auto pays come out of our paycheck each month, including our tithe and offering. When we get paid, I automatically deduct that amount and start paying extras from there, if there is any money available. If there is not any money left over, we just praise God for sustaining us and move forward. There is great comfort in knowing that we will not be getting any late notices or phone calls or fees.
Hang up the Phone -- Better Yet, Don't Answer Write out your philosophy of giving. When you are tempted to help a worthy cause, re-read what you wrote. Where do you really want your donations to go? To a group who claims to help vets? Why not give a basket of goodies to a vet you know. To a police officer organization? Take your precinct some cookies or gift certificates for candy. You know all those sob stories and pleas and askances for money for the amazingly worthy causes? Tell the solicitor that you are gathering all of the information and will make your decision when you are OFF the phone. They will press you and tell you that you need to commit a number. Do not commit on the phone, not even $5. When you are off of the phone, re-read your philosophy of giving and send a check to the Good Samaritan fund you already decided on, or help out your college kids or grand kids with $20 and a note of love and encouragement.
I’m tired of writing right now, so this is it for the moment. I pray for YOUR financial health – God wants us to be great stewards, lamps unto the world. Believe that He is faithful to you and wants to pour out blessings beyond measure.
My sister-in-law once told me this little quote and I love it: I came to God with a cup, asking for Him to fill it. If I’d only known Him better, I would have come running with a bucket!
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