“How Do I Give If I’m In Debt Myself?”– Financial Quandries

December 6, 2007 at 10:37 am 9 comments

A few questions have come up.  If you are interested, and need some help or freedom in this area:  read on.  If not, skip it!  Isn’t blogging a joy?    

There are two things to differentiate:  the tithe, and then the offering.  Two very different things. 

The titheis to be a “first-fruit”.  What’s a first-fruit?  It’s not Juicy Fruit.  It’s not an apple.  Don’t put either of those in the offering plate unless God tells you to specifically.

In the Old Testament, God asked the people to give the first of their crops and harvests to him, the best of what they had.  It was to be given as an offering before they ate any of the restof the harvest.  The firstfruit was given to help establish priority of thanksgiving, the priority of obedience, and to remember God first.  

The tithe today is intended to represent “first-fruit”.  That is why you don’t want to wait until there is a surplus to tithe.  Test God in that.  He will meet the rest.  Some adjustments and priority may need to be made, but that’s where the rule of 90 comes in. 

The Rule of 90:  (I coined that term myself…I love it.  I sounds so official).  I didn’t coin the idea.  The other 90% has to be given to God for the 10% rule to work with grace.   God wants our all in everything.  And the very cool thing is:  He does more with it than we ever could!

Tithing seems to work to align our lives in greater wisdom and less attachment to things.  He teaches us to rely on creativity, ingenuity, and thanksgiving to fill our hearts rather than the pleasure of “stuff”. 

The baseline for the tithe, what God expects from us, is generally defined as 10% of the check (gross or net is up to you to decide.  One person said, “Do you want a gross or a net blessing?“)   Most financial books only consider income.  However, there are also I’ve been compelled to give a tithe on other blessings or provisions God provides me out of the ordinary.  There is a Biblical basis for this.  In the Old Testament, they tithed any provision…even spices. 

We have the children tithe their birthday cash.  This is a personal decision not dictated by scripture, but a tool we’ve chosen to use to teach our kids the priority of giving.  They enjoy it and are sad when they leave it at home.  I’ve seen them cry and ask us to go back home for it.  They like to take part and give something “adult”, giving something of their very own.  It’s amazed us to watch.   

The Offering:

The offering is given above the tithe.  While the tithe is considered the monthly commitment to help support the budget of the local body where we are involved, we think of offerings as other gifts we may give to support special causes inside or outside the church.  It’s “a love offering”…something to help others “just because”.

You might ask, “How do you get ahead enough to do both, I can’t even get my act together enough to tithe yet?”

Start.  I recommend starting with the tithe rather than with the offering because the tithe is what God asks.  Give what you can.  Give an offering if you absolutely cannot tithe, but if God asks us to do it, his requests of us are not burdensome.  He only asks us to do what is good for us.   

Show genuine and long-term interest and discipline in giving and managing income, and he will help you learn more and more until you see the joy in it.  It’s like anything else we learn, it takes time, some stumbling, some falling, and eventually learning to walk with a solid gait so that you don’t even remember the “learning to walk”.  You just know that you walk.  I have to tell you that it’s great to not have to feel convicted or defensive every time the subject comes up.  Try.  

I had jury duty this week and several people had VERY legitimate excuses to not serve where they were asked.  The judge said, “But, can you try?  Do it one time for me and we’ll see how it goes before we excuse you, okay?  Try, and then we’ll make arrangements”.  Perhaps the same applies here.  Before you make excuses, try.  Then make needed adjustments if you have to. 

But, we’re WAY in debt.  Sometimes the ends don’t meet! 

I’d like to suggest that in 90% of the cases, debt is due to extravagance, not need.  It is due to credit card abuse and use, overspending, and frivolity.  That’s the bottom line.  Yes, we pay for mistakes.  One way to keep from doing it again is to begin tithing.  A monthly reminder that we are working toward a goal of managing our money as God intended will help the next time you want to upgrade a car or get more than is necessary.

Let me insert a personal note here.  I’ve never seen anything more beautiful than a family committed to becoming debt free.  They learn to be creative with their time.  They learn to not keep up with the Joneses, they develop an inner beauty that radiates because they are trying to honor the Lord with what they have.  They learn to be content where they are and share out of that, rather than trying to impress.  They are a joy to be around.  I had one friend who regularly invited us over for simple meals of homemade waffles or spaghetti.  To this day it was the best food I’ve ever eaten, and the best company we’ve ever kept.

I’ve had friends who wanted to be out of debt so that they could be even better givers.  They tithed what they could in that process, but they wanted to be freed up– to lose their focus on money and “stuff”.  They may have started at a lower percentage, with the goal of increasing it every quarter until they got to 10%.  Personally, I’d rather know I’m blessing the Lord and give the full 10%, trusting Him, but you start where you are, and it’s easier to do 10 when you’ve begun there.  Start where you are, and get there.  You may have a heart to increase it as the Lord increases you, as some I know.  Giving becomes a surpasses joy, I do know that.

Examples:  I’ve seen four families go through a debt free process.  One family had 3 kids, one 4, one 5, and one was a couple without kids.   There are many ways to start, but a budget is usually involved.  If you a person who struggles with management and numbers, a simple envelop system may work.  You take budget areas and label an envelope with each area according to records of past expenses, or how much you think the family could make it on that area.  (Don’t forget to include long- term expenses like insurance and taxes).  Also, try to build several hundred dollars for a start on an “emergency fund” envelope.  

If the grocery envelop goes empty, you have to pull from another area that month: entertainment, eating out, or clothing.  After a few months, you begin to see where spending problems are, or where adjustments need to be made:  there is motivation to get creative or do better in some areas so that there is some left in other areas.

Larry Burkett’s “How to Manage Your Money” is a great resource for money.  Ron Blue offers good suggestions as well.  Read what you can, try it, and find what works best for you.  Keeping the idea fresh in your mind by reading books helps with restraint, especially in high expenditure times like the holidays where people want to “love” people to death and then stay mad the rest of the year trying to pay off the debt!  Agh!  Break that cycle this year!

Gifts:  How Do I Give and Make the Holidays Work? 

We are not hurting financially at this time.  But, we still try to set up the kids for their future.  How?  We regularly give our kids gently used gifts for Christmas if it’s something they might enjoy.  Things I’ve found along the way and saved for a rainy day.  I’ve always wrapped some “necessities” like warm winter clothing or church clothes so that they know the value of those things and remember to have joy and thanks over them.  They are the priority, why not learn to celebrate that together in a tangible way?  Plus, it makes the tree pretty and helps extend gift giving time without buying so many toys they don’t need.   We all make homemade gifts for each other and buy useful things.  We might defer the purchase of an appliance until the holidays so that we have something new and useful to enjoy at that time. 

It doesn’t have to be something sparkly and new, meant to impress all our friends for us to remember to feel valued and take joy.  Provoking jealousy is a problem…don’t do it.  Guard yourselves if being around those types of people causes you to feel “less than” in your approach during the holidays.  Rejoice for them!  But, don’t let it question your family’s approach if the goal is debt reduction.  Make sure you and your spouse are on the same page.   Don’t surprise a spouse with a “big gift” if you agreed to minimize.  That is a killer of joy.  Rejoice in simplicity. 

Reduce the amount spent on baking.  You’ll live without it.  Most of us won’t miss it a year.  Simplify.  Create other traditions like covered pretzels or working puzzles that don’t cost an arm and a leg.

Rejoice in traditional ornaments and family heirlooms instead of having the latest fad decorations.  An occasional new item is alright, try to find it post season for next year. 

Well, that’s all for today!  I hope you’ve enjoyed these ideas or that they’ve been useful in some way.  If you have questions, feel free to email me.  I’ll try to get to all the questions here and there.  Thanks for asking!

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Entry filed under: Church, Discipline, Learning, Managing Finances, Money, Thankful.

Thursday Ramblings Maggie Replies

9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. cassandra minton  |  December 6, 2007 at 12:54 pm

    I have enjoyed reading your blogs. God has recently been dealing with my husband and I about debt and becoming debt free in 3 years time ( except for our home). I have to admit this seems overwhelming , but I understand the importances. The info from today 12/6 was very good and encourages me. Thanks

  • 2. cassandra minton  |  December 6, 2007 at 12:59 pm

    I may have already left a comment, not sure, not real good with this computer stuff. God has been dealing with my husbband and I about getting out of debt within the next 3 years. It seem overwhelming to be , but I see the importances and now feel more encouraged. Thanks for the info, I am encouraged by it.

  • 3. touchofglory  |  December 6, 2007 at 5:05 pm

    Excellent explanations! Your clarity never ceases to amaze me!

  • 4. Rachel  |  December 6, 2007 at 5:50 pm

    Hi Maggie-
    I have not been blogging much lately but am back! I wanted to make a comment about tithing to add what you wrote. I can tell you from experience (me and my little faith at times) that when we commit to trust God and tithe, He does take care of us. There are times when I will look in my checkbook and it just doesn’t add up. More went out then what came in. Tithing is about trusting God. Period. I worked for years getting debt free and I pay only cash for everything! I made some major lifestyle adjustments and I have given up on material things and I can tell you my life is alot less stressful not keeping up with the Joneses. I make crafts and scarves for my family for Christmas, they know I love them but what could I possibly give them that they can’t get for themselves! I am not a scrooge in any way but I make a choice to let people know that I care about them but I would rather support 2 orphans in Africa year round than give them a Chia pet for Christmas!

  • 5. Kevin Eby  |  December 6, 2007 at 7:28 pm

    Great post Maggie!

    I’ve been teaching a six week class that is based on these five financial principles… you hit four out of the five in this one blog entry.

    – God owns everything
    – Give to God cheerfully
    – Spend less than you make
    – Spend only on good things
    – Teach your children

    Larry Burkett, Bob Warren, Russ Crossen, Ron Blue, George Fooshee, Austin Pryer and Howard Dayton have all influenced the class material I have developed over the years.

  • 6. Misty  |  December 7, 2007 at 9:15 am

    Good stuff here. We don’t go all out for Christmas spending. We haven’t spent as much this year because I haven’t done as much extra work to save up extra cash. That’s how we’ve paid for vacations and Christmas shopping the last couple years, rather than racking up debts. And Bryan and I just bought a few things we wanted for ourselves and we’ll just do stocking stuffers for surprises.

    I’d love to be as creative as my mom was. She made lots of crafty things and could sew and crochet. I just haven’t gotten those genes, I’m afraid. Mostly I just don’t have the patience. And this time in my life, it’s also difficult to get anything extracurricular done around small children–you know how that is. Hopefully in the coming years, I can move toward more creativity in gift giving.

    Still, I get frustrated when we feel financially bogged down and we don’t give like we should. Mostly because of fear–that trust thing is harder than it sounds–and also because I don’t feel like we’re living extravagantly either. I’m sure we could simplify here and there–it’s just going to take a lot of evaluation.

  • 7. Susanne  |  December 7, 2007 at 10:36 am

    Awesome post Maggie!!! I recently heard two sermons (one by Andy Stanley) on this same topic. Thank you for reiterating the principles. I love “The 90 Rule”! KISA and I are currently on a quest to reach financial freedom ourselves…it is SO HARD, but I know that there is NOTHING TO DIFFICULT for God, and as long as we give back the 10 and trust Him with the 90, he will “pour out blessings upon us” the likes of which we have NEVER seen or even DREAMED OF!!

    P.S. Dave Ramsey is cool. Have you ever heard of Joe Sangl?? He is cool, too!!! (www.joesangl.com)

  • 8. Susanne  |  December 7, 2007 at 10:41 am

    SORRY!! That address should be:
    http://www.josephsangl.com/

  • 9. Maggie Replies « M A G N A N I M I T Y  |  December 7, 2007 at 11:00 am

    […] “How Do I Give If I’m In Debt Myself?”– Financial Quandries […]

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